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Sierra magazine
Cool Schools: The Third Annual List

You Got Your Environmental Studies Degree. Now What?

For recent college graduates, the employment market still looks bleak. The recession has eliminated more than 5 million U.S. jobs, and young people with little experience, few professional connections, and limited resources find their job search harder than ever.

There may be a green light at the end of the tunnel, however. A tenth of the Obama administration's $78 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has been slated for green programs. Much of that money will reach start-ups developing new technologies, says Patrick Chidsey, a senior career counselor at the University of Washington at Seattle.

The Solar Energy Industries Association predicts that the stimulus package will create 67,000 solar jobs this year. Employment growth is also expected in environmental consulting and other related private realms.

That's not to say, however, that new grads will be flooded with offers of ecofriendly jobs. The economic downturn has significantly intensified the race for entry-level opportunities, as overqualified candidates apply for any position available. "The competition for jobs at places like the EPA is stiff, and the application process lengthy," Chidsey says.

Some experts also caution against placing too much optimism in the stimulus package's employment-generating effects. It's too early to say how successful the bill will be at creating jobs, says Suzanne Helbig, a University of California at Berkeley career counselor. "It's going to be a while before a lot of organizations see that money." —Lea Hartog

Illustration by Nate Williams

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