2017 Best Cities for a Green Career

State capitals and centers of technology are among the best places in the country for people looking for an environmentally focused, green job.

GoodCall® analysts reviewed data from 192 U.S. cities to determine the 2017 Best Cities for a Green Career.

Rankings were based on the number of jobs posted online per capita, cost of living, amenities per capita, and a comparison of the average salary of environmental jobs to the average salary for the area.

Five of the top 10 cities were state capitals, and all but one had fewer than 300,000 residents.

These cities tend to be places where workers with a focus on the environment can make more money and where cost of living is lower, so that larger paycheck will also go further. Analysts included the metric on amenities per capita to weed out less desirable cities that might pay well or have lots of job openings but with few restaurants or things to do.

Those at the top also tended to be small cities; only four cities in the top 30 had more than 300,000 residents and none in the top 10 had fewer than 100,000.

The available jobs were found based on a search of Indeed.com. Analysts searched for jobs that included “Environmental” in the title and included these words in the description: conservation, science, scientist, geology, geologist, hydrology, or solar.

Salaries were averaged for various environmental positions and expressed as a comparison to the overall average in each area.

The Top 10 Best Cities for a Green Career

  1. Baton Rouge, La.

The Louisiana capital ranks well on the GoodCall list on several metrics. Those employed in green jobs on average make $74,300 – about 70% more than the general population in Baton Rouge. That’s the third-highest rate among cities studied. Baton Rouge also ranked in the top 10% for its available jobs, including at GHD and Stantec, two of the largest environmental engineering firms in the country. Turner Specialty Services, another large firm, is based there. Cost of living in Baton Rouge is also affordable, nearly 13% below the national average.

  1. Cincinnati, Ohio

Of the cities studied, Cincinnati was among the top 10 for available jobs in the field. The city had 20 jobs available on Indeed – about 6.7 jobs per 100,000 residents. Green job workers make about 56% more than the average for the city, which goes even further, since cost of living there is 14% lower than the national average. CH2M, one of the world’s largest environmental firms, has an office in Cincinnati, and the city is home to Environmental Quality Management Inc.

  1. Green Bay, Wis.

Green Bay had the second-highest number of green jobs per capita of all of the cities studied, at 9.5 jobs per 100,000 residents. Those in the industry also make about 45% more than the area’s average of $42,420, and cost of living for the city is almost 13% below the national average. The city of about 105,000 people had jobs in the industry including environmental engineers and corporate environmental program managers. Major consulting firms GEI Consultants, GAI Consultants, and GHD all have offices in Green Bay.

  1. Pittsburgh, Pa.

Pittsburgh has long been known as a city of industry, and that’s expanded these days into environmentally friendly jobs as well. The city of 305,000 people had 3.3 available jobs per 100,000 residents, and those jobs were for roles such as environmental scientist and environmental permitting and compliance engineer. Pittsburgh is home to Civil & Environmental Consultants Inc. and Michael Baker International. The largest environmental firm in the world, AECOM, has three offices in Pittsburgh.

  1. Boise, Idaho

Green jobs in Boise pay an average of $66,635, which is an astounding 58% higher than the overall average in the city. Large firms like MWH, Suez, and CH2M were hiring for positions such as environmental engineer, communications specialist, and environmental scientist – and Boise ranked in the top 15% of cities studied for available jobs per capita. The capital city is also a hub of technology, including major employers Hewlett-Packard and Micron Technology. Though cost of living is slightly above the national average (about 2% higher), residents enjoy more than 700 amenities for dining and entertainment.

  1. Richmond, Va.

Richmond had one of the highest rates of green job availability in the country. The Virginia capital had more than 7 jobs per 100,000 residents, which was sixth highest among cities studied. Salary is also relatively high; the average of $68,800 is almost 44% higher than the average for the area. Environmental firm C. Overaa & Co. is based there, and major firms CH2M, KCI Technologies, and HEPACO also have offices in the city.

  1. Lansing, Mich.

With one of the lowest cost of living rates in the country (about 22% below the national average), Lansing stands out as a top city for green jobs. Those employed in environmental jobs make an average of $65,400, which is 42% higher than the average for the area. Many of the jobs available in the industry in capital city were through the State of Michigan and educational positions at Michigan State University and other schools. Lansing had about 4.8 jobs per 100,000 residents.

  1. Anchorage, Alaska

Average salary for green jobs in Anchorage is significantly higher than average – about $91,800. But cost of living is also higher, so take that into consideration. However, green job workers still make about 61% more than the average for the city, which is an incredibly high rate. Anchorage also stands out for its available jobs; it had about 5 green jobs available per 100,000 people. Potential employers include engineering giant CH2M, Bering Straits Native Corporation, and Bethel Environmental Solutions.

  1. Greensboro, N.C.

The green job industry in Greensboro is dominated by both education, at North Carolina A&T University, and agribusiness. The average salary for environmental employees is about 44% higher than the local average, and it goes a good bit further in a city with cost of living 10.5% below the national average. The city had 2.8 green jobs available per 100,000 residents, including postings for environmental risk assessor and assistant professor of environmental health and safety.

  1. Columbia, S.C.

Green jobs are abundant in Columbia. The city had 8.2 jobs per 100,000 residents, which is the third-highest rate among the cities studied. Open positions included environmental planner and coordinator of environmental sustainability. Environmental firm M.B. Kahn Construction Co. is based in Columbia, and Stantec, ECS Limited, and the University of South Carolina all had green jobs available. Salary in the area is a little lower than some other cities, but it averages about 32% higher than the area’s average. Plus, cost of living is almost 10% below the national average.


See the full rankings here.



Rankings were determined based on the following metrics:

  • Available jobs per capita: Jobs counted were posted on Indeed.com with the word “Environmental” in the title and also including the words conservation, science, scientist, geology, geologist, hydrology, or solar in the description. This made up 40% of the score.
  • Comparative salary: This was calculated based on the average salary as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2015 for several environmental jobs (environmental engineers, environmental engineering technicians, environmental science and protection technicians, and forest and conservation technicians). Data was for metropolitan statistical areas, metropolitan divisions and nonmetropolitan areas. This made up 30% of the GoodCall score.
  • Cost of living: This came from the Sperling’s Best Places for cost of living by city in 2016. The number represents the cost as a percent of the national average. Cost of living accounted for 20%.
  • Amenities: This was a combination of accommodation and food services as well as arts, entertainment, and recreation venues from the 2012 Geographic Area Series from the Census Bureau by economic area. Where economic area wasn’t available, county-level data was used. The data was expressed per capita. Amenities made up 10% of the score.


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