Job: Climate-change specialist
The role: To inform business decision makers on how climate change may affect their operations, and how to adapt. For example, organizations that utilize natural resources may hire a climate-change specialist to analyze which materials are likely to become more scarce in the near future as a result of climate change, or how sea-level rise might affect coastal real estate markets.
"They would analyze weather models – potentially coming from the government or potentially developed themselves. There's a lot of prep work, a lot of in-depth planning, secondary research, primary research and then taking the data and making analyses and creating prediction models," said Kevin Nilsen, the president and chief executive officer of Environmental Careers Organization (ECO) Canada, a not-for-profit environmental human-resources organization.
Mr. Nilsen explains that the role is part weather forecaster, part adviser, part project-development manager, part research publisher and part stakeholder-relations manager. The climate-change specialist's primary responsibility is to ultimately inform business leaders how to adapt their business in order to respond to a changing climate.
Salary: According to research conducted by ECO Canada, the salary for climate change specialists starts between $45,000 and $50,000 a year, with senior roles earning an average of $90,000 to $100,000 annually. Climate-change specialists with a university degree earn an average of $47,000 a year, while those with a postgraduate degree and some career experience earn between $58,000 and $72,000 a year on average.
Mr. Nilsen, however, predicts that opportunities and salaries will increase as more industries identify the need for climate-change specialists.
Education: While there are no licensing requirements or mandatory educational programs, climate-change specialists often hold at least a bachelor's degree and more commonly a master's degree in either a scientific or policy-related field.
"These are highly educated positions with backgrounds in environmental science, climate science, atmospheric sciences, meteorology, engineering and physics," Mr. Nilsen said. "Some also come in with social sciences backgrounds in policy and urban planning, because some jobs are more on the policy and advising side – either impacting policy at the government level or interpreting how that policy needs to be followed on the compliance side."
Job prospects: According to Mr. Nilsen, the need for climate-change specialists is growing rapidly across the country because of two key factors: government subsidies and economics.
"Because it's such a major focus of the government, with that target of net-zero [building] emissions [by 2030], there's lots of subsidies in this area, which is why a tremendous amount of jobs will be created as a result," he said.
Challenges: Because it is still a relatively new and unregulated field, climate-change specialists often struggle to demonstrate the value of their work, and employers often confuse their roles with that of corporate-social-responsibility departments and clean-energy advocates.
"There are many people that dabble in the climate-change area with different agendas, and the real value is yet to be fully demonstrated, which will come with time and maybe certification," Mr. Nilsen said.
Why they do it: Climate-change specialists work in a relatively new field with significant opportunity for growth.
"You're at the forefront of something that is going to be very, very important and is increasingly important as we go along," Mr. Nilsen said. "Getting in now and learning the ropes early on will lead to a very meaningful career, and specialists in this area will be highly sought after as the impacts of climate change continue to increase."
Misconceptions: Climate-change specialists are often mistaken for environmental advocates, when in fact the role is very scientific and more focused on business outcomes than footprint reduction.
"This is not someone who's trying to be on the barricade arguing how people need to change their lifestyles," Mr. Nilsen said. "This is a highly scientific role trying to understand patterns, predict outcomes and guide decision making."