Midwest Matters

Green Jobs in the Midwest: How many are there and how do you find them?

Many people are motivated by a desire to work towards solving the largest issue facing our generation: climate change. Job functions of climate-related careers vary widely. People from every background are needed—engineers, advocates, coders. But even as the Inflation Reduction Act pours more money and job opportunities into the field, finding jobs from a core-motivation standpoint can still prove quite difficult.  

Number of Climate Jobs Available Today 

Relative to the rest of America, the Midwest still has a lot of work to do to add green jobs to our workforce. According to PromoLeaf’s Green Jobs Report 2022, nine of the twelve Midwest states have below national average green occupation employment rates, but that’s not to say none are available.  

The Clean Jobs Midwest report found that the number of clean energy jobs in the region has been on the incline, reaching about 714,323 in 2021. “More Midwesterners worked in clean energy than the number of lawyers, accountants and auditors, web developers, and real estate agents in the region combined,” according to the report. 

Availability of clean energy jobs in the Midwest. Courtesy of Clean Jobs Midwest

Green jobs are not limited to clean energy though. According to the United Nations Environment’s (UNEP) definition, green jobs are “positions in agriculture, manufacturing, R&D, administrative, and service activities aimed at substantially preserving or restoring environmental quality.” In the US, these jobs make a salary 31% higher than the national median salary for the US workforce, according to Clean Technica

WorkingNation provides an even broader explanation for what counts as a green job, dividing the labor ecosystem into Core Green Jobs, Green Enable Jobs, Green Enabling Jobs, and Potential Green Jobs. These jobs can be thought of as having varying degrees of relation to environmentalism. Core Green Jobs have a direct impact and connection to making a green impact whereas Potential Green Jobs are those that may not yet require green skills but could benefit from these skills in the near future. Overall, it is important to note that these green jobs are not limited by industry. All sorts of industries—from manufacturing to construction to finance to food—are experiencing green-revolutions. Nor are green jobs are limited to any one skill set. Individuals interested in pursuing a cause-oriented career can come from any background.  Even within industry a wide range of skillsets are needed. In particular WorkingNation found that as of 2021 the most in demand climate-related skills are related to energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other green specializations. These skills may offer significant salary boosts. 

Finding Climate-Related Jobs 

The start to searching for climate-related jobs can be quite intimidating. For people just joining the workforce, it is difficult to tell what type of career would be the most fulfilling. The best course of action for those just joining the workforce is to pursue a job title with a day-to-day you would most enjoy living. For those still unsure, reaching out to individuals who work in jobs you might find interesting is a great place to start. Searching keywords like “sustainability” or “energy” on your university’s LinkedIn’s alumni page is a great way to find people willing to speak with you about their experiences.  

For both young and current professionals, themed job boards can make finding climate-related these jobs a whole lot easier but not all are created equal. As of December 1, Climate Draft has 445 climate-related jobs posted in Midwest locations while Climate Base only has 100.  Idealist, a job board which allows users to search for careers based on issue areas, only has seven climate change-related jobs in the region.   

Choosing which board would be most effective for your job search has more to do with what type of organization you want to work for than what type of work you want to do day to day. Climate Draft and Climate Base both specialize in matching jobseekers with jobs at climate tech companies in functions ranging from engineering to sales to recruitment and more. Idealist similarly has a wide range of jobs functions but lists job postings almost exclusively from nonprofits and advocacy organizations. Other climate-related job boards — like Green Jobs Search and Environmental Career — range widely in listing number and organization type. 

The Future of Midwest Green Jobs 

In the United States as a whole, the Inflation Reduction Act is expected to create more than 9 million green jobs over the next decade.  

As the need for environmental sustainability is realized and incentivized across the country, more and more employers will begin seeking workers with green skills. In the three Midwest states already analyzed for green job growth by WorkingNation, green jobs were expected to grow by 6.5% over the next five years at a minimum. This report was released before the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, making the growth rate likely much higher.