Dear Umbra,

I am a high school junior this school year. I am currently researching what college to attend. One major decision in your school choice should be choosing a college that is strong in the field of your study. I am interested in college majors that will translate into green jobs. I know about jobs such as sustainable architecture as well as a few others but I was wondering if you could give a thorough list!

Tim
Olney, Ill.

Dearest Tim,

Picking a college can feel like a big, mysterious deal. I hope you have good help at school and at home, and some people who will talk frankly with you about the college experience. An internet advice columnist is no substitute for live, in-person help with the arduous process of applying to colleges and thinking deep thoughts about your future.

Seek and ye shall find.

Photo: iStockphoto

I’ve talked about environmental careers in previous columns, and given pointers to various green career websites, and then readers added their own suggestions. A couple of points I made back then still apply. One, you should choose something you love to do, because if you’re miserable you’ll just do a green job badly. Number two quickly follows: almost any degree or job experience can lead to a green job, since greenitude permeates life now. Build the knowledge and skills that you enjoy and about which you feel passionate, and keep leaning toward green studies and work, and you should be set no matter what you choose to study. Who knows what new green work will have grown into existence by the time you graduate?

Let’s keep those ideas in mind while we start to scare up a tangible list of actual green jobs and the college majors behind them. Grab a pencil and start a list — actually, a chart — of people you know or can track down who have eco-jobs. Column one is the person’s name if known, two is their college major, three is their current job, four is how to contact them with questions about their career, the rest of the columns are for notes or doodling. We’ll start the chart together here, and you will continue to do your own listmaking using the techniques shown below.

Grist itself illustrates sample ways of finding out about majors that translate into green jobs. First, check out the list of 15 green colleges. Then there is an entire green job column, Remake a Living, which you can troll through to find job titles and get an idea of what experience is needed. And InterActivist was a regular Grist feature in which a green professional was interviewed about his or her job; usually one of the questions was, “What long and winding road led to your current position?” Check out the archives — sometimes the subjects talk about their college experience, sometimes they don’t.

The second sample way of finding majors that lead to certain careers is very similar to the InterActivist way: asking people directly what long and winding road led to their current position. Willing Gristmillers, please oblige Tim and all the other career curious by divulging your current job and past college career. Briefly.

The next sample way of finding out is to read staff bios on organizational websites. On the Grist site, under About Grist, you can learn what most of the Grist staffers did in college and where they went to school. Two points here: one, it takes a lot of different types of expertise to run any organization, so although Grist is an environmental publication, they don’t just employ writers or people who studied environmentalism. They also employ finance professionals and web developers and the like. The same will be true of other green companies. Two, not all organizations oblige with this type of full disclosure, but look around.

To help start your chart, Tim, I’ll list the people I can think of who are in eco-careers and their college major (in parens) if I know it. Environmental consulting firm (Geology); graphic design for green organizations (Art); founded Grist (Environmental Studies); climate-change analysis (Engineering); organic farming (English, Art History, Environmental Studies, Agriculture); small farm advocacy (Forest Management, Anthropology, Rural Sociology); environmental law (OK, law school is not a college major, but it does introduce the idea that grad school may be your green ticket); green building (Geology); herpetology (Biology); environmental restoration (Wildlife Biology). I don’t know any green architects, looks like. Come on, Gristmillers, help Tim out.

Alma materly,
Umbra