What's the best way to train for a green career?
Like all career options, the path to a successful green career can take many forms. Your education goals should be based on research you've done to understand the skills and knowledge needed for a green career and the education options available.
A green program may prepare students specifically or exclusively for a green job or include a course, specialization, or emphasis in a green skill, knowledge area, or technology.
Explore green programs at Minnesota State schools to get started on a variety of green careers including environmental science, plumbing technology, solar photovoltaic technician, wildlife biology, wind energy mechanic and more.
Certifications are credentials that show an employer that you have mastered a specific skill, technology, or knowledge area. They aren't always required, but in many cases they can help you become more competitive for a particular job, or more effective once you've landed a job.
There's no single certification that's required across all green jobs. However, several certifications are becoming more recognized and desirable in Minnesota.
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)
LEED certification is perhaps the most common certification for green jobs in Minnesota. LEED was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to encourage, guide, and identify facilities that are sustainably built or operated. "LEED certification" often refers to a status given to facilities themselves. It shows that buildings have been built according to USGBC sustainability guidelines. Individuals can also become accredited based on their knowledge of LEED guidelines and green best practices.
Many green workers require special certification to demonstrate that they can safely handle or manage hazardous materials. Hazardous materials certifications are often required for remediation/brownfield project managers, environmental compliance managers, and environmental health and safety engineers. The Institute of Hazardous Materials Management offers multiple certifiations for hazardous waste management.
Six Sigma (and similar methods) aim to reduce errors and inefficiencies in a production or business process using problem-solving and statistical analysis. Six Sigma is the most common of these methods in Minnesota. Because of the importance of waste reduction and energy-efficient operations in manufacturing, employers often seek candidates with this certification. There are many types of Six Sigma certifications, including specific guidelines for different industries and the introduction of lean production strategies.
Project management isn't specific to green, but many green occupations require workers to oversee projects from start to finish. These projects may range from designing and producing a new green product to cleaning up contaminated sites.
Project management certification may be beneficial for many green occupations, from engineering specialties to green construction managers. A number of Minnesota State schools offer project management training courses.
Green jobs are often based heavily on core knowledge areas like math, science, engineering, and technology. Focusing your education on the core areas is the first step towards a green job. Other, more specialized knowledge and experience in the following areas may help you get an edge on the competition.
- Energy efficiency. Understand the value and principles of energy conservation.
- Waste management. Understand and identify different types of waste, how it can be minimized and reduced, and how hazardous wastes should be managed and handled.
- Pollution monitoring and control. Understand techniques to monitor and control pollution. It often requires scientific or engineering knowledge to interpret chemical, biological, and physical measurements and design solutions for the prevention, mitigation, or remediation of environmental pollution.
- Environmental policies. Have knowledge of environmental policies, regulations, and permitting processes (either firm-specific policies or industry or government standards).
- Natural resource conservation and management. Learn about management principles for implementing or maintaining conservation practices or processes. This often requires scientific or technical knowledge (for example, of local agriculture, fisheries, wildlife, and land use) and sometimes knowledge of community planning techniques to evaluate best practices and successfully adapt them to different ecological, social, and economic systems.
- Quality assurance and management. Understand principles and techniques used to optimize quality and resource use. For example: conserving natural resources and minimizing waste during all steps of an operational process (manufacturing, engineering, logistics, etc.). Environmental Management Systems (EMS) are examples of quality management systems focused on environmental sustainability.
- Commercialization of green products. Knowledge of innovative green technologies, industry trends, and customer needs to identify opportunities for introducing, promoting, and distributing new green products and services.
- Computer modeling programs and tools. Understand and use modeling software applications, including hydrologic/hydraulic models, geological models, energy models, and 3D graphical modeling applications such as BIM (Building Information Modeling).
- Spatial analysis and management of geospatial data. Understand and use Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and other mapping and data management applications for environmental design and natural resource management.
There's no one single tool or technology you must master to qualify for a green job, but there are many that are commonly used in green work. Below are some of the common tools and technologies used in green jobs.
Renewable Energy Generation
Jobs in renewable energy involve designing, building, or maintaining energy-related products, such as wind turbines or photovoltaic solar cells.
Electrical engineers who work on these types of products use a wide variety of tools, including:
- Computer-aided design (CAD) programs to design new goods
- Computer programming languages such as C or C++
- An array of measurement and observation tools, such as oscilloscopes and spectrometers
Wind turbine technicians are popular jobs in this category, and they regularly use:
- Common hand tools such as cordless drills, wrenches, wire cutters, and hammers
- Safety harnesses and other necessary equipment for scaling the large wind towers
Since green manufacturing includes a wide variety of occupations, there are many tools and technologies used in this cluster.
- Design and engineering jobs use computer-aided design (CAD) and related programs, as they are necessary for the creation of new green products. Most design engineers use CAD for some aspect of their job.
- Project managers use project management software (such as Microsoft Project) and other software that helps manage manufacturing activities.
- Green production workers use heavy industrial machinery to produce environmentally-friendly goods.
Conservation workers commonly use:
- Computer-aided design (CAD) programs to study their options and create designs for new environmental conservation project areas or for researching existing plots
- Geographic information system (GIS) technology for mapping and gathering data on conservation areas such as forests and rivers
- Testing and monitoring tools, such as sampling kits, to keep track of the toxins present in the air, soil, and water.
Recycling & Pollution Reduction
Jobs in recycling and pollution reduction work on removing waste and pollutants from nature or preventing them from entering ecosystems in the first place. People in these jobs often use:
- Scientific testing and monitoring equipment, including sampling kits and microscopes
- Mass spectrometers and gas chromatographs, which are used to determine the chemicals present in a sample of air, soil, or water.
Jobs in this category that focus on reducing waste often use:
- Computer database software and other organizing tools that help manage processes and ensure the efficient use of material resources
Building-Related Energy Efficiency
These workers help design, build, and maintain efficient facilities, and they commonly use:
- Building information modeling (BIM) and computer-aided design (CAD) software programs for the design of new buildings
- Energy modeling and analysis software, including Equest and VisualDOE, to evaluate potential energy efficiency solutions for existing or proposed facilities
- Tools like blower doors, combustion analyzers, and even simple thermometers to measure how much energy is being used in an existing facility