Become a Green Builder: Education and Career Roadmap

Mar 05, 2020

Find out how to become a green builder. Explore the education requirements, and learn about the experience you'll need to advance your career in green building.

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94% college-bound high school students
…said it was important to communicate with colleges during the search process. (Source: Noel-Levitz 2012 trend study)

Green Builders

Green builders specialize in the use of materials and technologies that ensure a well-built structure with a reduced impact on the environment. Green building encompasses a number of careers, including architect, engineer, and interior designer, but it's typically the role of the construction manager to choose materials and collaborate with many different workers to ensure that a job is completed correctly. As such, green builders must be knowledgeable about industry technologies. They also need to know how to read contracts and technical drawings.

Career Skills & Info

As green builders work closely with many industry professionals, like architects, building inspectors, civil engineers, and tradespeople, communication skills are key to succeeding in the field. Much of their time is spent on construction sites and they need the time management skills necessary to manage multiple projects at once.

Degree Level Associate's or bachelor's
Degree Field Construction-related field
Certification Certification in green building is preferred
Experience On-the-job training and internships provide the experience needed to work in a managerial position
Key Skills Analytical thinking, decision-making, willing and able to put in overtime hours to ensure deadlines are met
Career Outlook 10%, or faster than average, increase in employment for construction managers from 2018-2028
Salary (2018) $103,110 (average annual salary for construction managers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Let's take a closer look at some of the steps you'll need to follow to pursue a career as a green builder.

Step 1: Undergraduate Degree

According to the BLS, construction managers may enter the field either with an associate's degree combined with experience or a bachelor's degree in a construction-related area. Some community colleges offer associate's degree programs in construction technology and sustainable building that can be used to transfer to a four-year school. Courses in sustainable building focus on reducing the environmental footprint while improving a building's environmental efficiency. They also give students an understanding of energy-efficient materials and technologies.

Aspiring green builders may benefit from pursuing bachelor's degree programs in construction management or a related field, such as construction technology or building science. Four-year programs in construction engineering or construction management can prepare students for careers as construction inspectors or managers. Some bachelor's degree programs even offer specializations in sustainable design, which can help students who want to advance to post-graduate studies in green technology. Courses that cover construction materials, systems design, and project management may introduce them to new green building methods.

Success Tip:

Pursue an internship. Students can get hands-on experience through internships, which may be available through degree programs.

Step 2: Graduate Degree

Many colleges and universities offer master's degree programs in sustainable design that cover topics in architecture, planning, and construction. Courses focus on sustainable principles and technology, systems design, and building performance. Master's degree programs usually take one to two years to complete. They often include a research-based project.

Graduate certificate programs in sustainable design also exist and take one to two years to complete. They're open to graduate students and those with a bachelor's degree. Credits earned in a certificate program may be transferable to master's degree programs. Once enrolled, students can learn about the sustainable concepts found in the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification system.

Success Tip:

Gain experience. According to the BLS, employers may prefer applicants with construction experience. Some professional certifications also require practical field experience. For example, aspiring green builders may benefit from a construction job in an administrative, supervisory, or technical role.

Step 3: Certification

Professional organizations, such as the American Institute of Constructors and Constructor Certification Commission, offer exams for college graduates and experienced construction managers. These can lead to a formal professional designation that demonstrates their knowledge and experience to prospective employers and clients. One option is the Associate Constructor (AC) exam, which covers engineering and management concepts, materials and plan reading, planning and scheduling, bidding, budgeting, safety issues, and project layout.

Construction managers can also pursue certification specific to green building. Sierra Green Building Association provides an overview of different certifications and organizations for green builders to consider. Green Advantage is one such organization that administers certification in green building. When taking the Certified Practitioner exam, applicants should be knowledgeable about green building and sustainability, land and site use, energy, indoor environmental quality, materials, and water. Construction managers have the option of pursuing prep training prior to sitting for the exam.

Success Tip:

Continue education. Many certifications must be renewed every few years to ensure that green builders are staying on top of developments in the industry. Re-certification may include taking an exam. A good way to prepare for re-certification is to take continuing education classes, which are offered through a variety of professional organizations and certifying bodies.

We've covered a lot of material in this lesson, so let's review. Aspiring green builders usually need at least an associate's or a bachelor's degree in a construction-related area, experience, and a professional certification to work in the industry. As of May 2018, construction managers in general earned an average yearly salary of $103,110.

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