Green Transportation Careers


Employment Prospects


Approximately 241,000 people work in the development of hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid, electric, hydrogen, and fuel cell vehicles, according to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute. Vehicle manufacturing workers can find jobs with both domestic automakers, such as the Big Three (Ford, General Motors, Chrysler), and with foreign automakers like Mitsubishi and Honda, which both have large assembly plants in the United States. Assembly plants are generally located in or near large cities, especially in the Northeast and Midwest where heavy manufacturing is concentrated. Parts production plants vary in size, from a few dozen workers to several hundred. Employees of these plants may all work on one small part or on several parts that make up one component of an automobile or other type of vehicle. Parts production plants are located in smaller towns as well as in urban areas.

The top 10 states (in descending order) that employ the highest number of auto workers in clean, efficient technologies are Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Texas, Alabama, California, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

There were more than 300 clean efficient vehicle component suppliers in 43 states and the District of Columbia, according to Supplying Ingenuity: U.S. Suppliers of Clean, Fuel-Efficient Vehicle Technologies, a 2011 report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation, and United Auto Workers. These companies employed more than 151,000 workers directly and hundreds of thousands of other workers indirectly. Some traditional parts suppliers also manufacture clean efficient vehicle components. Major components manufacturers include GM Components Holdings, Bosch, Siemens, Curtiss-Wright, Nexteer Automotive, BorgWarner, Denso, and Aisin.

Vehicle service technicians are employed by vehicle dealers and independent vehicle repair shops and gasoline service stations.

The majority of transportation planners work for local governments. Others work for state agencies, the federal government, and in the private sector (for companies involved with green transportation consulting and architectural and engineering companies).

Starting Out

Many engineers, scientists, technicians, and planners obtain their first jobs in the field as a result of contacts made through internships, volunteerships, or part-time positions. Others learn about job openings via networking events, career fairs, and their college’s career services office. Professional associations also are good sources of information about potential employers; many offer job listings at their Web sites or in their journals.

Automotive manufacturing plants accept applications year-round and keep them on file. Applicants generally complete an initial application and may be placed on a hiring list. Others get started by working as temporary or part-time workers at the plant and using their experience and contacts to obtain full-time, permanent positions. Some plants work with career placement offices of vocational schools and technical associations to find qualified workers. Others may recruit workers at job fairs. Also, as with many large factories, people who have a relative or know someone who works at the plant usually have a better chance of getting hired. Their contact may put in a good word with a supervisor or advise them when an opening occurs.

Automotive service technicians can land jobs with the help of contacts made during their postsecondary training, through the career services office’s of their technical schools, or by applying for jobs directly to auto repair shops or facilities. 

Advancement Prospects

Advancement prospects vary by profession. Engineers and scientists, for example, advance by working on more prestigious projects or for larger employers. They also can become managers (by earning at least a master’s degree) or college professors (doctorate). Others open their own consulting firms. By earning a bachelor’s degree in engineering, technicians can advance to become engineers. With experience and further education, manufacturing line workers can become supervisors or industrial production managers. Experienced transportation planners advance by moving to larger city or county planning boards, where they become responsible for larger and more complicated projects, make policy decisions, or become responsible for funding new developments. Other planners may become consultants to communities that cannot afford a full-time planner. Some planners also serve as city managers, cabinet secretaries, and presidents of consulting firms. Secretaries and other clerical workers advance by receiving pay raises and managerial duties. With experience and additional education, they can become managers.

Tips for Entry

Use social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to stay up to date on industry developments and learn about job openings.

Visit the following Web sites for job listings:


Attend industry conventions to network and interview for jobs.

Join professional associations to access training and networking resources, industry publications, and employment opportunities.

Become certified in order to show employers that you have met the highest standards established by your industry.