Top 10 Cities With Green Jobs for New Grads

Green-collar jobs

Photo: REDPIXEL.PL/Shutterstock

Eighty percent of young professionals are interested in securing a green-collar job or working in an industry that has a positive impact on the environment, according to MonsterTRAK.com, a job site geared toward recent graduates. Luckily, green jobs are growing, and industries like renewable energy and energy efficiency currently provide 8.5 million jobs in the United States, according to the American Solar Energy Society.

However, tough economic times mean recent grads are facing an extremely challenging and highly competitive job market across the country. If you just graduated and you’re looking to obtain that green dream job, check out these 10 top cities for green-collar jobs.

San Francisco

Photo: Phitha Tanpairoj/Shutterstock

California has the most green jobs in the country, primarily because of San Francisco. The city has more than 42,000 green-collar jobs, and it recently passed $100 million worth of bonds to create sustainable jobs and businesses.

About 7,000 of San Francisco's green jobs are in the energy generation segement, with most of these in solar-related fields, but the city is also home to environmental consulting jobs, green tech jobs and emissions monitoring and control jobs. Aspiring LEED-certified architects should also consider a move to the city, where 20 big construction projects have recently applied for LEED certification. Professionals in the field earn an average salary of $58,700.

Denver

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images.

Colorado has been riding the green jobs wave for years, and Denver, which is home to Vestas Wind Systems, solar firms and companies focused on clean energy technologies, is leading the state. In 2007, there were 1,778 green businesses in Colorado that accounted for more than 17,000 jobs, and job growth in the clean energy industry has increased more than 18 percent between 1998 and 2007.

Local institutions like the National Renewable Energy Laboratory continue to advance green technology and green-collar job opportunities, and NREL funding has almost doubled under the Obama administration. In fact, investments in green jobs have helped Denver maintain an unemployment rate below the national average and generally outperform the U.S. economy.

Denver is also home to the Ecotech Institute, which offers two-year degrees and certification tracks. Students who want to continue their education and advance their green expertise can consider Ecotech to study everything from renewable energy technology to sustainable interior design.

CareerBuilder.com recently included Denver on its list of cities for new grads, noting that rent is affordable at $799.

New York City

Photo: By Atanas Bezov/Shutterstock

New York City recently launched PlaNYC, a comprehensive sustainability plan for the city’s future with 127 initiatives for greening the city. The plan includes $1 billion for building retrofits to increase energy efficiency and cut greenhouse gases by 30 percent.

The Big Apple is also ranked third among the top U.S. metro areas for job creation, according to Clean Edge, a clean energy research firm, and in 2007 alone, the city added 3,323 green businesses and 34,363 new jobs. In fact, more than $209 million in venture capital was invested in New York's clean energy economy between 2006 and 2008.

CareerBuilder.com recently included New York on its list of top cities for new grads, noting that average rent is $1,366.

Portland

Travel Portland.

Portland created almost 20,00 clean-energy jobs in 2007 — more than any other city in the country — and more than 1 percent of Oregon's 1.9 million jobs are related to the clean energy economy, the highest percentage in the nation. The state ranks third in providing environmentally friendly manufacturing jobs.

Like many other cities on this list, Portland is experiencing high unemployment, but the state is fighting joblessnes with sustainability. About half of the city's power now comes from renewable energy sources. In addition, part of a $50 million greening initiative is being spent to plant 88,000 trees and 43 acres of rooftop projects. Plus, Portland is consistently rated the most sustainable city in America. It boasts 200 miles of walking and bicycling trails, free light rail, free parking for electric cars and 50 LEED-certified buildings.

Los Angeles

Photo: By IM_photo/Shutterstock

Green jobs continue to grow in Los Angeles, where energy generation jobs recently increased by 35 percent and energy efficiency jobs by 77 percent. In fact, green jobs increased by 36 percent in California between 1995 and 2008, compared with overall job growth of only 13 percent.

Much of the green-collar job growth in the City of Angels is a result of the Green Building Retrofit Ordinance passed in 2009. The legislation requres that all city-owned buildings larger than 7,500 square feet or built before 1978 be retrofitted to LEED silver certification standards. The ordinance also created a green jobs training program to help combat unemployment.

CareerBuilder.com recently included Los Angeles on its list of cities for new grads, noting that average rent is $1,319.

Sacramento, Calif.

Sacramento CVB.

Sacramento, Calif., experienced the greatest growth in green-collar jobs between 1995 and 2008 — more than any other U.S. city. Sacramento and its neighboring cities boasted an 87 percent overall green job growth with a 157 percent increase in air and environment jobs and a 141 percent increase in renewable energy generation jobs.

The Sacramento Area Regional Technology Alliance recently identified more than $130 million in clean tech grants that were awarded to organizations in the area in 2009, and $905,000 has already been awarded to Sacramento State University this year for the creation of a new workforce development program to enhance the region's growing smart grid system. Mayor Kevin Johnson also recently said that more green jobs will come to the city as a number of positions have been created in the government and green tech sector.

Boston

Photo: Dave Ouellette [CC BY-SA 2.0]/Flickr

Boston, including the suburbs of Worcester, Lawrence, Lowell and Brockton, was recently ranked fourth in a Clean Edge survey of the top U.S. metro areas for clean-tech job creation. Not surprisingly, the city has many cutting-edge green companies. Boston Power is led by Christina Lampe-Onnerud, who helped create a better lithium-ion battery for laptops and is now moving into the electric car market. Plus, A123 has several high-profile customers and is pioneering new green technologies.

Boston is also home to a large concentration of colleges, including MIT, Harvard, Boston University and Emerson, so the metro area is a great hub for green technology. And the city is greening itself in many ways to make it more sustainable. Its third largest fuel source is wind power, most of its municipal vehicles are either electric or run on biofuel, and all new bulding construction must abide by LEED standards — so the city is going to need some LEED-certified architects.

CareerBuilder.com recently included Boston on its list of top cities for new grads, noting that average rent is $1,275.

Detroit

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images.

With the nation's highest unemployment rate at 15 percent and 1 million fewer jobs by the end of the year, Michigan may seem like one of the worst states to look for work. However, things are looking up for Detroit. Recent Department of Energy grants are funding factories, jumpstarting hybrid and electric car technology and creating jobs that tap into the vast pool of skilled auto industry talent in the area.

In fact, Detroit was listed number seven on a list of clean energy jobs compiled by the Pew Charitable Trust. Even companies not based in Michigan, such as California's Fisker Automotive and Ford battery car supplier Magna International, have opened branches near the metro area. A mechanical engineer with a bachelor's degree working on green autos can expect to make an average annual salary of $64,000.

Phoenix

Photo: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Although Arizona is one of the states most affected by the housing crunch and the foreclosure crisis, Phoenix is becoming a hotspot for green jobs. In 2009, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon unveiled a 17-point Green Phoenix plan to create new green-collar jobs and make the city the first carbon-neutral city in the nation.

Phoenix was recently awarded a $25 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to launch Energize Phoenix, a project that will reduce electricty consumption and generate 1,900 to 2,700 new jobs, most of them green jobs. The city council also voted to award the city's largest ever solar project to Tessera Solar, which will create more than 300 new jobs and provide power to 50,000 homes by the end of 2012. The city itself is already fairly green, boasting a virtually pollution-free METRO Light Rail, a LEED-certified convention center and more than 80 sustainability programs in water, energy and natural resource conservation.

CareerBuilder.com recently included Phoenix on its list of cities for new grads, noting that rent is affordable at $699.

Houston

Photo: By travelview/Shutterstock

Houston may encompass two of the most polluted counties in the nation and lead the country in carbon dioxide emissions, but the city generates thousands of green energy jobs. Clean Edge included the Texas city in its list of metropolitan areas that are "current hotbeds of clean-tech job activity." In 2008, Global Insight ranked Houston third for green jobs, and in 2009, Scientific American ranked the city 10th in its list of energy leaders.

Experts have said that one reason the wind power sector has grown so rapidly in Texas is that the state's oil industry has plenty of experience in constructing huge projects like wind farms.