College Majors Prepare Students for Green Careers

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As businesses put more of an emphasis on going green and sustainable, and green construction becomes the norm, colleges and universities are stepping up by preparing students with skills applicable to green career paths. In fact, rwaccording to a 2009 report by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, there were over 100 majors and/or focuses in sustainability added to college programs of study, and that number has likely grown since.


Here are some popular college majors that help prepare students for environmentally friendly careers…

Construction Management – The green construction industry has been expanding and offers a multitude of career opportunities for college students. For instance, services like environmental remediation (which deals with the removal of pollution or contaminants from environmental media such as soil, groundwater, sediment, or surface water) are offered from companies like RW Collins in Chicago. Managing a construction project from start to finish can be a lucrative skill, but being able to do so in a “green” way can help students in this field stand out from their peers.

Environmental ScienceThis green degree has a direct tie with not only environmental concerns, but also corporate responsibility and profits. As such, colleges and universities are working hard to meet this demand. One such school, Cornell University , offers a program of study that teaches students to “solve real-world environmental problems, manage social-ecological systems in a sustainable manner, and affect decisions involving environmental policy, resource management, and biodiversity conservation.”

Sustainability – Consider this: 72 percent of executives in a 2009 McGraw-Hill Construction survey  say sustainability efforts help lower their firm’s operating costs. In other words, as Columbia University’s Earth Institute  puts it: “It has never been more important to educate a new generation of students who are dedicated to the fundamental links among the natural sciences and the social practices and who understand the values and beliefs that influence decision making.”

Environmental Resource Management – Sometimes referred to as ERM, this major produces graduates who can solve environmental and resource management issues and conduct ecological research working for either government or private organizations. For anyone who’s interested in protecting the environment and conserving natural resources, this major will be the first step in contributing to a greener world.

Environmental Engineering – According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for environmental engineers is favorable through 2020, with an expected growth rate of 22 percent. Environmental engineering majors will learn how to find solutions to environmental problems utilizing scientific and engineering principles.

Renewable Energy – From solar to wind, the renewable energy industry needs skilled workers who understand green technologies, and can help discover and integrate alternative energy solutions.

Beyond these environmental-driven majors, there are many other areas of studies that could easily be given a green focus. For instance, horticulture majors who approach the field in an eco-friendly way can meet the demands of environmentally conscious clients. Marine biology is another example in which it’s vital to understand the effect of pollution on the ecosystem, and how marine life has adapted. Even urban planners and food scientists are well served if they enter the field with an eco-friendly perspective.

All in all, the green industry continues to grow, so taking on a green major in college can be a great way to ensure a long and fruitful career. For more information on green degrees and colleges that put an emphasis on environmental coursework, check out The Princeton Review’s Guide to 322 Green Colleges.

About the author: Dawn Papandrea is a Staten Island, NY-based writer specializing in education, careers, parenting, and personal finance. Her work has appeared in publications including Family Circle, Parents,,, and more. She has a master’s degree in journalism and mass communications from New York University. Connect with her on Twitter and Google+.

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Teaching Your Students to Go Green written by Sandy Moore

Phrases like “sustainability” and “Eco-friendly” are all abuzz these  days, particularly in the academic communities which are the lynchpins for their development. But unfortunately, at times, the value and importance of these words is lost in abstraction. Greenwashing, which has canvassed the entirety of our advertising and PR industries, has led many consumers to believe that these terms can be tossed around and fastened to any good or service that doesn’t directly puncture a hole in the ozone layer.


The truth is, sustainability and Eco-friendliness are much stronger concepts than the public discourse would indicate. And the best way to establish that in your classroom is by alerting your students to their relevance and imminence.


Start small – give your students a thought experiment. Tell them to envision their adult years with hotter summers, more expensive food and a draining water supply. It’s not concrete, but if you can tie it into a lesson plan to get the wheels turning then it might be a good idea.


If you’ve got younger students, hand each a bag to collect bottles and other recyclables. And try rewarding them for proving their earth friendly habits! At the end of a month-long period, reward students for the amount they’ve collected, and try to organize a way to celebrate their green achievements.


If you’re catering to an older audience, try bringing some environmental literature into the rubric. Books like Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring are some of the most famous pieces of nature writing, and they’re not too dense for general discussion. By integrating them into your classwork, students will get timeless, well-respected insight into the issues of conservation and preservation.

No matter how old your students are, you can always make a personal effort to set a green precedent by using Eco-friendly products and school supplies. Soy crayons, biodegradable pens and recycled notebooks are all readily available if you’re willing to go the extra mile and order them online or dig a little deeper at your local supply stores. They’re available in large quantities, too, if you want to treat your students to a little something around the holidays.


While all these suggestions are actionable for the immediate future, they’re not the only places to look in regards to green education. Keep up with the latest in the field of sustainability, and appropriate the successes according to your classroom model. With some extra attentiveness, you’ll be able to infuse greener mindset among students for years to come.


Guest Post written by Sandy Moore, who is a fellow blogger at Pennsylvania Energy 

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