Green Education for Green Jobs

Author: 
David A. Kates

Community colleges like Coconino and Yavapai in Arizona and San Juan in New Mexico offer degrees in solar design and installation and energy-efficient building.

Graduates in these fields are just about guaranteed jobs. For instance, the nation will likely need more than 5,000 solar installers by 2015. [Check out RenewableEnergyWorld.com]

Yet career advisers like Marie Kerpan, who founded Green Careers eight years ago, have mixed feelings about sustainability education, especially for green job seekers transitioning from other careers.

    [Photo credit: Center for American Progress ]

“If they have a lot of fabulous experience that’s completely relevant, then I don’t see the need to go back to school,” Kerpan said. “If they don’t have a lot of credentials and they don’t have a lot of experience that’s relevant, then school can be a good idea.”


Top-tier universities like Stanford, Yale and the University of Michigan offer joint master’s degrees in their business and environmental schools. Students take traditional business and earth systems courses.

(The Aspen Institute’s “Beyond Grey Pinstripes” survey found that the number of business schools offering green courses nearly doubled between 2001 and 2007, from 34 percent to 63 percent.)

Along with these more conventional programs are “green M.B.A.” degrees from Bainbridge Graduate Institute, Dominican University of California and Presidio School of Management, which integrate sustainable topics into all of their courses.

(Hunter Lovins founded Presidio in 2003 to teach students how to “factor the environment into their spreadsheets.”)

The eco-M.B.A. programs promote a “triple bottom line”: people, planet and profit. [See Newsweek article]

Marie Kerpan, who teaches at Dominican, thinks green M.B.A. programs are much more sustainable than mainstream business schools because they teach how the profit motive can be used for societal good.

“The traditional values of the business world are one of the hugest problems that we’re facing, in that it’s all about growth regardless of the consequences and increasing shareholder wealth at all costs--and we just can’t go on like that,” Kerpan said.

Eco-M.B.A. and joint master’s graduates are well prepared for the emerging field of corporate social responsibility (CSR), which advises companies on improving their environmental, human and labor rights record.


Ellen Weinreb Corporate Social Responsibility Recruiting and Net Impact found that the number of CSR jobs has jumped 37 percent per year in the last few years, with the greatest growth in clean technology, consumer products and public relations.

And here’s another factor in the decision to go back to school: more education generally means a higher salary.

In the University of Wisconsin Engineering Career Service survey, the starting salary for someone with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering was $55,400. A master’s degree boosted the salary to $79,500, and a Ph.D. sent the engineer’s salary to $98,000. The trend in other fields is similar. [See Careers in Renewable Energy]

 
 

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