As interest in green careers continues to grow, so do the number of green degree programs being offered by colleges around the country. In fact, USA Today reports that more than 100 green certificate, minor and major programs were added to curricula around the country during this past year, with the focus of these programs being primarily on energy and sustainability. This is quite a significant jump when considering the fact that the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education reports that there were only three programs added in 2005.
According to Paul Rowland, who is the executive director of the association, the reasons for the increase include an increase in student interest coupled with an increasing demand for qualified individuals among employers.
“There’s a great perception that there’s a sweet spot with energy to do good and do well, and it appears to be the place of job growth,” says Rob Melnick, who is the executive dean of the Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University, in the USA Today article.
The USA Today article reports that the institute started its undergraduate program in sustainability studies, which has places an emphasis on solar, about one and a half years ago. Today, the program has approximately 600 students who have all declared sustainability as their major.
Other schools have seen a similar surge in demand. Illinois State University, which is located in Normal, Illinois, currently has approximately 21,000 enrolled students with 65 students enrolled in the renewable energy program that was just started in 2008. According to Richard Boser, who is the chair of the Department of Technology, the program has “more students wanting in than we can handle.” Furthermore, nearby employers such are anxiously awaiting the graduation of the students, who they hope to hire some day.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology just started to offer a minor in energy studies this past September and, according to a student survey conducted by the school, 43% of its freshman and sophomores consider themselves to be either very or extremely interested in participating in the program. Furthermore, the schools student energy club currently has 1,700 members, which is quite a jump from a few years ago when the club had only several hundred members.
Finally, the University of California-Berkeley has also seen a significant interest in its introductory energy class. Just ten years ago, the program only attracted around 40 students. Today, the class has about 270 students enrolled.
Thanks to the Obama administration’s continued push toward developing and implementing green technology, interest in the field will likely continue to grow over the next several years. With the administration estimating that jobs within the field will grow by about 52% from 2000 through 2016 – compared to a growth of 14% in all other occupations – is one good reason to consider pursuing a career in this rewarding field.