What are Green Transportation and Fuel Careers?
Green transportation and fuel careers are paths that involve the design, manufacturing, and sale of sustainable automotive or other transportation solutions. These careers can include fields such as biochemistry, battery technology, electrical or mechanical engineering, and even supply chain logisticians. No matter which corner of the field you find yourself in, these careers can help the nation and world solve tomorrows great problems.
Green Career Paths
Steps to Enter Green Transportation and Fuel Careers
This field is incredibly diversified. In fact, it is one that is reinventing whole industries. Thus, if you are drawn to this area, you will first need to determine where you specifically fit. What sorts of natural talents and abilities do you have to offer green transportation and fuels and what are your interests? You might have a proclivity for chemistry and thus wish to delve into testing and developing new fuels from plant matter or recycled plastics, for instance. Others might be interested in MagLev trains as a solution for our transportation woes and enter a mechanical engineering program.
No matter what part of the field you focus on, you will need to earn a degree, possibly even a master's degree, if you wish to excel to the level you desire. While your school may not have programs that focus on green transportation or fuels, you can always focus your schooling toward these areas. That is, your projects and internships can include sustainable solutions for transportation problems.
Step 1: Discover Your Passion
Step 2: Earn an Undergraduate Degree
Step 3: Gain Experience
Step 4: Earn a Master's Degree
Step 1: Discover Your Passion
Since this field is broad, there are many different paths to pursue. You could take a scientific or engineering approach to the problems faced in the fuels and transportation industries or you could tackle its issues from a policy or public relations perspective. Others might be determined to apply their business and entrepreneurial acumen to the problem, and profit from the rich rewards to come from this burgeoning field.
Step 2: Earn an Undergraduate Degree
For your first degree you can choose either a two- or four-year degree. When you decide on a school, make sure that they have the special focus you desire. Note that if you wish to pursue a scientific or engineering path, you may have to achieve a bachelor’s degree before you're able to land the job you want. However, even two-year diplomas can help you work as a technician for chemists or engineers. If you wish to focus on the business or policy side, seek opportunities to include transportation and fuel issues into your research papers. Note that this might require special permission from your professors, but they should be amenable to facilitating intellectual curiosity.
Step 3: Gain Experience
During your undergraduate years, try to land summer jobs or internships with firms or even government agencies that cater to your career goals. Note that, even if you are unable to work with others who are focused on green solutions, you can still learn a lot how the existing infrastructures operate. For instance, you could work with the government on transportation issues. There, you'll gain insights that can help you integrate green options later in your career.
After you graduate from your undergraduate program, you'll start working in the field. Try to focus your job search on the ones that match both you skills and your long-term aspirations. For your first job, it can be helpful to work with a large organization that can offers a wide range of resources and opportunities.
Step 4: Earn a Master's Degree
To take your career to its highest high, you will need a master's degree. It's recommended that you wait to pursue a graduate degree until you've worked in your field for five or more years. That will allow you the time it takes to find your strengths and weaknesses. You will also have the time to discuss options and observe admirable people whom you wish to emulate.
Your options for graduate school will likely be many, but there’s bound to be a specific program that suits your needs. You should also consider dual MBA programs. With one of these, you could advance your scientific or policy studies while also learning more about organizational management. When you can attach an MBA to your existing expertise, your chances of landing a C-level job increase exponentially.
What Do Professionals in Green Transportation or Fuel Do?
Professionals in green transportation and/or fuel can do a lot of different things. Some will take the path of the scientist or engineer. Others choose to work on the political or business side of the field. It takes a vast and diversified workforce to bring new transportation and fuel technologies to market.
If you are driven to the science or engineering path, your days will likely be spent testing new ideas or conceiving new solutions. Engineers can spend months and even years designing new trains, electric motors, or energy delivery systems. Scientists might work on the chemistry of fuel and spend their days in the laboratory, testing new fuel sources and their emissions output. Still others may work tirelessly until they discover a new battery technology, a process that is ongoing even now.
For those who pursue the policy or management side of the industry, your days may be spent in offices, working on budgets or devising public relations campaigns for your firm. Since there is still much to discover and develop in the industry, you could also work on finding financing from public and private sources. If you choose this path, you will need to put together spreadsheets and do a lot of traveling to present your company to investors.
Skills to Acquire
Your skill set will be quite different depending on the specific track you take. That is, if you decide to work on creating new fuels or batteries or even new sustainable modes of transportation, you will need technical expertise to suit your goals. Some will pursue chemistry, others will become mechanical engineers, while others may apply their programming or software development skills to the task of improving our transportation infrastructure.
- Computer Science:
No matter what mechanical technologies help humans move from point A to point B, they will all need software to govern their systems. Thus, you might develop skills in computer programming and learn more about the Internet of Things in order to aid in creation of new systems.
New fuel technology is a huge part of the green transportation picture. You'll need top laboratory skills to refine old fuels or develop new fuel solutions.
- Analytical Ability:
Every aspect of the green transportation picture will need workers who are able to analyze problems and implement effective solutions. This means that keen analytical abilities are required. Scientists will need quantitative analytical skills to determine the efficacy of their propositions while others may rely more on verbal, critical thinking skills to support and promote new transportation solutions.
Nearly every professional needs strong communication skills in order to thrive. You may be a top scientist, but your discoveries could go unnoticed if your presentations aren't effective. Verbal and interpersonal communication are also a vital part of any day of work, as you need to understand your colleagues, just as they must be able to understand you.
There are many ways to approach this field. The traditional routes through academia may work for the vast majority, but that might not be your path. This might be especially true if you are drawn to the engineering or scientific aspects of transportation and fuels.
You don't necessarily need to have a degree to experiment with new types of electrical motor or even new fuels. You could learn computer assisted design (CAD) software and devise engineering solutions that you can sell to engineering firms or which you might submit for a patent. Many inventors don't have formal training, but instead rely on their personal obsessions and independent research. After all, for years farmers have made their own bio-fuel from agricultural waste.
Others can enter the field by starting out in an entry-level position and then working their way up. If you have strong business sense, you can go very far indeed. However, you might find that you can only rise so high without a degree. Nevertheless, with enough knowledge and experience you could start your own consultancy. Once you land your first big client, more will soon find a path to your doorway.
Career & Salary
Where Might You Work?
Your career in green transportation and fuel can take you into many different environments. If you pursue mass transit as a solution to our environmental and increasingly overcrowded conditions, you will probably work in mid- to large-size cities. At least part of your job will entail site visits to test for feasibility.
On the other hand, you might work on creating new machines to transport people across town or across the country. The companies involved in such work are often private firms, and your job could be anything from a public policy expert to a software engineer. Thus, you might spend time in an office writing policy papers or public relations materials or creating code to operate the car, truck, or train with maximum efficiency.
You could also work with a government agency. Again, the available jobs in this sector are numerous. The government conducts research into new fuel and transportation and it also employs people to solve various issues related to transportation. You could work as a city planner charged with designing the most efficient mass transit system or a system of bike lanes for people-powered transit.
Potential Career Paths
Implementing a national infrastructure that is based on green transportation and sustainable fuel options is a huge job. Thus, it takes an array of professions to bring to life the necessary changes. When all these professionals work toward the same general goals, each individual's effort will be multiplied by colleagues from other disciplines.
- Mechanical Engineer:
Green transportation requires green motors. Thus, if you pursue mechanical engineering you can help create the engines that will literally drive the green transportation revolution.
- Automotive Designer:
New propulsion technologies will certainly have an impact on automotive design. In fact, there may be entirely new solutions for individual transportation as time goes on. As a designer you can help create tomorrows traditional automobiles or you might devise wholly new transportation modes that are not only green but which account for our ever-denser cities.
- Train Designer:
When we think of green transportation, we often think of the Magnetic-Levitation (MagLev) trains that are well-known in Europe and Asia. When the time comes, the United States will need to answer the call and design trains that facilitate mass-transit both for inner and intracity transportation.
Chemistry is at the heart of burgeoning green technologies. Chemists are needed to formulate new fuels that can be used in existing motors, but which also might work in as-yet-unforeseen engines. Chemists are also needed to work on improving battery life.
Physicists are hard at work devising new ways to approach energy creation, transmission, and conversion. For instance, physicists in China have developed a device that creates temperatures that are said to be greater than those on the sun. Physicists also work with thermodynamics to create better solar panels, some of which may adorn the roofs of our cars.
Agriculture may seem rather low-tech given the other professions at work on green transportation, but farmers are just as vital to the future as they were to the past. This is partially because farmers are a vital source for biofuels.
- Agricultural Processing:
While farmers produce the raw materials for future auto materials and fuels, the processing plants for these materials play an equally vital role in green transportation. Industrial engineers and others need to create and maintain devices that convert vegetable matter from the fields into the transportation systems of tomorrow.
- City Planner:
As green transportation options are realized, city planners will be needed to address how they can be implemented. Cities will need to be redesigned to accommodate more mass transportation, new types of personal transportation, not to mention the growing push to facilitate bicycle use.
- Public Policy Analyst:
Policy analysts are needed to facilitate how we address new transportation technologies. That is, city, state, and federal laws and budgets must adapt to our changing climate, political if not literal. Policy analysts can take the scientific data and translate it into political, social change.
The need for workers in the green transportation and fuels sector is on the rise. Every day the news reports a new electric car solution, or a story related to recharging stations. We also see new developments in battery technologies or ultra-light and super durable auto parts made from plants.
Jobs such as Laboratory Technician are slated for faster than average growth, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This would imply that laboratory managers and the scientists who head them may also see an increase. Technicians are projected to post an 11% increase in their numbers through 2028.
Other corners of the green transportation sector are also bound to see strong growth. New transportation technologies will need new computer hardware solutions and the engineers who produce them are projected to increase their numbers by 9% through 2028. That's an average rate of growth, however green technology is likely to be in the upper tier of that average.
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Advancing from Here
If you pursue the green transportation and fuels sector your career will have plenty of room for upward mobility. There is much yet to be discovered and existing technologies will require a career's worth of refinement and optimization. No matter which sub-sector of this category you pursue, you should find ample opportunity to advance. Higher degrees can launch you into management or to even greater scientific advances. Though we have already come a long way in terms of sustainable transportation, we have a long way to go. Your career will only be limited by the bounds of your imagination.