Green Career Spotlight: Environmental Economist

by Rachel Vilsack

Economists traditionally study how a society distributes resources to produce goods and services. They conduct research, collect and analyze data, monitor economic trends and develop forecasts to inform decision-making. Environmental economists have a similar aim, but instead conduct economic analyses related to environmental protection and use of the natural environment, such as water, air, land, and renewable energy resources. They also evaluate and quantify benefits, costs, incentives, and impacts of alternative options using economic principles and statistical techniques.


Due to the level of complex research and analysis conducted, economists should have strong computer, problem-solving, and quantitative skills. Good communication skills are also important since economists frequently present their research findings, both in verbal and written formats.


Most jobs in the environmental economics field require a college degree, and future job prospects and advancement opportunities are stronger for those who hold a master’s degree or Ph.D.. Some graduate programs now specialize in environmental economics.


Many environmental economists work for government entities, like the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or the U.S. Department of Energy , but others work for private consulting firms.


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Rachel Vilsack ( is the Coordinator of Special Projects for Minnesota’s Labor Market Information Office at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.


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