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Hot Jobs in a Green Economy

Consumer interest in eco-friendly products and services - from renewable energy to high-tech fuel cells - means satisfying new work opportunities.

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Elizabeth Gehrman
November 18, 2007

SOLAR INSTALLER

SALARY $25,000- $75,000

EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE Minimum of 8,000 hours on-the-job training and 600 hours classroom instruction

GROWTH FORECAST According to Green Careers Journal, solar-industry growth is expected to continue at more than 30 percent a year for the next five years.

Solar power has a sunny future, especially in states that, like Massachusetts, provide rebates to consumers and low-interest loans and grants to providers such as Evergreen Solar in Marlborough, which recently announced plans to build a second factory in Devens. Additionally, installation prices are coming down, and the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative rebates to residents are slated to be raised, says Marty Aikens, business agent for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 103 in Dorchester. "If that happens, this thing just explodes," he says - and people trained to install solar arrays and panels will be in high demand. Aikens encourages IBEW members to learn how to work with solar energy, not just for the job security, but for the satisfaction as well.

"There's no waste product," he says, "no dirty air, no fuel but the sun. That's amazing. It gives you a good feeling when you walk away."

SUSTAINABLE-DESIGN ARCHITECT

SALARY $50,000-$200,000

EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE Bachelor's or master's degree, and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) accreditation

GROWTH FORECAST In 2002, the US Green Building Council reports, 2,400 architects earned LEED accreditation; by this year, that number had jumped to 40,000, as LEED became an industry standard.

In part because architecture has long been considered a field that promises a tough climb to the top, the past few years have seen a shortage of building-design professionals. But according to Jim Batchelor, president and CEO of the Somerville firm Arrowstreet, a green-building boom means that "people are going to have to pay fewer dues before they start making money." Batchelor, whose company won an American Institute of Architects Top 10 Green Projects award this year for the Artists for Humanity EpiCenter in South Boston, says the new emphasis on sustainability will make architecture a "more exciting, challenging, rewarding profession. It has given all of us who are in it a new reason to believe we are contributing to solving important issues that address this country and the world. In addition, of course, to making the world a more beautiful place."

ENVIRONMENTAL LAWYER

SALARY $75,000-$500,000

EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE JD with a specialty in environmental law

GROWTH FORECAST According to Kevin Doyle, president of the Watertown-based workforce-development consulting firm Green Economy, there are at least 14,900 environmental lawyers nationwide today. Jobs in this sector, he says, are expected to grow faster than the average for the whole economy - 18 to 25 percent over the next decade.

Environmental law has been around since the early 1970s - but back then, it mainly consisted of suing people. Today, as concern about global warming and the use of fossil fuels grows, companies, governments, and nonprofits are all clamoring for guidance on topics like land use, pollution control, protection of the natural environment, energy efficiency, and regulation. This, says Marc Mihaly, director of the Environmental Law Center at the Vermont Law School, is "dramatically increasing the demand for lawyers who are also at home with science and economics." Mihaly, who practiced environmental law for 25 years, says that by entering the field, he felt he was "changing the world in a good way. Not just protecting the world, but changing it. It makes you feel like the investment you made in your education is really paying off."

FUEL-CELL ENTREPRENEUR

SALARY $80,000 and up

EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE Typically a bachelor's, master's, or doctorate in science or engineering

GROWTH FORECAST US fuel-cell demand will grow tenfold, to $1.1 billion, in 2008, according to Robert Rose, executive director of the US Fuel Cell Council in Washington, D.C.

Fuel cells are such a new technology that few people even know what they are. But that will soon change since the batterylike components - which convert hydrogen and oxygen into electricity, with only one byproduct: water - are being used increasingly in consumer products, and more and more people will be needed to manufacture, assemble, install, test, maintain, research, and develop them. Who's behind all of these jobs? Entrepreneurs, of course. Radha Jalan, president and owner of Electro-Chem in Woburn, was a homemaker until her husband died in 1992, leaving her to run the then six-year-old company. She says that though the technology is still in its infancy, she has no doubt it will be used more and more to generate and store power in homes and consumer products. Bill Mitchell, a founder of Nuvera Fuel Cells in Billerica, agrees, adding that the work has benefits beyond the potential for wealth and autonomy. "This will have an impact on future generations," he says.

ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEER

SALARY $55,000-$88,000

EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE Bachelor's or master's degree

GROWTH FORECAST The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2014, there will be 31.2 percent more jobs for environmental engineers than there were in 2004.

In the past few decades, as more and more illnesses have been linked to environmental factors, awareness of the potential for danger in everyday life has grown exponentially. "We used to take for granted that products were nonhazardous to humans," says Gene Marckini, president and founder of Boston Environmental and Engineering in Waltham. "We've gotten much more skeptical over the years." As awareness has grown, so has the employment outlook for environmental engineers, who study and monitor the quality of soil, air, and ground water and make recommendations on cleanup. One of the job's perks, says Marckini, is seeing results quickly. "For 30 years, I did more classic engineering for a large corporation," he says. "I enjoyed what I did and all, but now I'm doing things that directly benefit people, and there's a great deal of personal satisfaction in that."

Elizabeth Gehrman is a freelance writer in East Boston. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.

(Correction: Because of a reporting error, the story "Hot Jobs in a Green Economy" in Sunday's Globe Magazine gave an incorrect estimate of the number of environmental lawyers in the country and wrongly attributed the figure to Kevin Doyle, president of the Green Economy consulting firm. There are at least 14,900 environmental lawyers, Doyle said, and growth in the profession is expected to be 18 percent to 25 percent over the next decade.)


(Illustration by Marco Cibola)

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