Best-Paying Jobs in Energy for a Green Future
| Last Updated September 28, 2021
Climate change is a reality that we can't ignore. To combat the effects of global warming, one thing is clear: the energy industry needs change. Thankfully, many of the best-paying jobs in energy are filled by professionals focused solely on expanding renewable options and minimizing the need for fossil fuels.
Jobs in the renewable energy industry are seeing a greater increase than those in the oil and gas industry. However, some of the highest-paying energy jobs are still in oil and gas, and many key players in this industry are beginning and continuing to make efforts to "green" their technology.
This growing and evolving area of the workforce spans business, technology, construction, manufacturing, skilled trades, and a lot more. This means you have an exciting opportunity to pick the area of the energy industry that appeals to you most. Plus, with so many companies making significant changes to leave less of a carbon footprint, many traditional jobs can also be considered green jobs.
Below you'll find some of the best-paying jobs in the sector that will be looking to recruit people like you soon. Most of the careers listed require four years or less of schooling and are projected to continue growing over the next decade. The world needs people like you who are motivated to change the future for the better. Act today by learning about these promising green jobs!
9 Highest-Paying Energy Jobs Worth Considering
Salary information is based on 2020 data from the OES program unless indicated otherwise.
1. Architectural Manager
Median salary: $149,530
Buildings of the future will need to be as environmentally friendly as possible and designed to make the best use of the energy sources that we have available. As an architectural manager, you would design these buildings and manage the teams of people who build them.
A modern architectural manager ensures that buildings are energy efficient, using the best materials for conserving power. This may mean looking at ways to build self-sustaining buildings in the future with the ability to provide their own water and energy.
This is currently one of the best-paying jobs in the energy industry. You will need to start as an architect or engineer, but once you rise to the manager level, you could receive a median salary of around $150,000 a year. If you make it into the top 10%, you can even aspire to a paycheck of over $200,000.
2. Petroleum Engineer
Median salary: $137,330
Education required: Bachelor's degree in engineering, specializing in petroleum
Petroleum engineers spend their time designing ways to extract gas and oil from the earth. However, as the climate changes and we start to move away from fossil fuels, this may be a role that eventually declines. For now, though, it is a prevalent and well-paying career for anyone with an engineering degree. Ideally, it is better to specialize in petroleum engineering, but if you study mechanical or civil engineering, you may still find a role in this field.
As a petroleum engineer, you would work closely with geoscientists to understand rock formations. Then you develop and design the best ways to drill down and extract the resources. This work may require you to work at onshore and offshore sites.
3. Aerospace Engineer
Median salary: $118,610
Education required: Bachelor's degree in engineering or a related area
Aerospace engineers generally design and build new models of airplanes, spaceships, and satellites. But with the growing need to introduce new energy production to our planet, their highly sought-after skills are being used to build wind turbines.
With their understanding of wind resistance and efficiency, aerospace engineers can design newer and improved models of wind turbines. These new models can generate more energy for longer and provide power sources to major cities or remote, inaccessible settlements.
As an aerospace engineer, you could be on the cutting edge of wind energy technologies and transform how we capture and store different types of renewable energy.
4. Solar Project Developer
Median salary: $105,060
Solar farms and energy plants will be a large part of our climate change initiatives. As a solar project manager, you will be responsible for developing these farms and hiring specialists for the photovoltaic jobs they will create.
You will need to understand the technicalities of building a photovoltaic plant, which a degree in engineering will help with. You may also begin as a solar energy technician installing and building the technology required to capture energy from the sun.
This job will require someone with a range of skills, particularly in project and people management, which is why it is one of the higher-paying renewable energy jobs.
5. Wind Farm Site Manager
Median salary: Typically over $100,000
The role of a wind farm site manager is to manage the daily operations of a collection of wind turbines. This means managing the staff and technicians who work on-site. It also means ensuring the safety and well-being of all your team and the maintenance of the equipment on the farm.
You will need to have a good understanding of how a wind turbine works. You will likely work your way up into this position from a position as a senior technician. Another route may be through business management, bringing the experience of working in management in other areas of the field.
6. Atmospheric Scientist
Median salary: $99,740
Education required: Bachelor's degree in atmospheric science or a closely related subject
As our changing climate becomes more of a critical issue for us in our everyday lives, so will tracking and understanding our daily weather patterns. An atmospheric scientist studies our climate and the weather it creates. They use this information for research and for helping provide accurate future climate predictions.
This is a role with a lot of growth potential in the future, as understanding our climate will be a crucial initiative with governments and enterprises alike. Most work will be done in laboratories and weather stations, but there may be a need to go out into the field to gather live results.
There is excellent potential for growth in this industry in the future, especially within the private sector.
7. Materials Engineer
Median salary: $95,640
Education required: Bachelor's degree in materials science and engineering, or in another engineering-related area
A materials engineer discovers new substances that we will use in the future. This could be for our clothes or storage and energy conservation purposes. They develop, create, and test new materials and means of production.
Typically, you will work out of research laboratories or development facilities. There is more growth for this industry in the private sector as companies will want your skills to develop new products.
A materials scientist can seek out potential internships with research companies offering an attractive avenue into the field.
Median salary: $93,500
Education required: Bachelor's or master's degree in geosciences; potential to start with a bachelor's in environmental science or engineering depending on employer
As a geoscientist leaving university, you will be faced with an important choice; join the fossil fuel energy companies where your earning potential will be greater, or enter a public enterprise and work in environmental regulation.
With the energy companies, you will be advising on how best to extract materials from the earth. However, in the public sector, you will be making the regulations to help keep the extraction process under control and within strict limitations.
For the most part, you will be in the field surveying sites for their natural resources and informing others on how best to access them. You will spend the rest of the time in a laboratory assessing your research and writing reports.
9. Civil Engineer
Median salary: $88,570
Education required: Bachelor's degree in civil engineering or a related area like construction
Civil engineering is one of the popular engineering pathways, but it can also lead to one of the highest-paid energy jobs. As a civil engineer you could have many different responsibilities, including designing, building, and overseeing infrastructure projects.
Many of these projects will be in the energy sector, supervising large-scale construction projects like wind farms, solar energy plants, hydroelectric dams, or even new nuclear plants.
A bachelor's degree will get you started in this career, but to achieve the higher salaries, you will need to earn a master's in civil engineering.
Why the Energy Industry is Worth Joining: 3 Fast Facts
- The energy efficiency and traditional energy sectors exceeded all other industries for job creation in 2019, according to the 2020 U.S. Energy & Employment Report (USEER).
- The government could make it easier to get hands-on training. The Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Technology Transitions (OTT) launched its Entrepreneurship Program in June 2021. This program matches students with mentors and specific types of technology from the DOE National Labs for a 10-week internship that will prepare them to work in their chosen sector. There is a focus on entrepreneurial thinking, improving marketability, and finding opportunities in the current market for your technologies.
- Almost every industry is affected by climate change and the efforts to slow it down. So the variety of green jobs available now and in the future is massive, which means more chances to choose what you like for work while also doing your part to better the environment.
Join the Energy Jobs Momentum
Energy jobs will continue to expand into the future as our world rapidly becomes more dependent on renewable energy. And some of the best-paying jobs in energy will help guide us through this period of change. One of those future experts could be you! So start now by searching for environmental schools near you using your zip code.