Opportunities for bioenergy and biofuels workers are available throughout the United States, although certain areas of the country may offer better opportunities than others. For example, the majority of ethanol production takes place in the Midwest. Top states for ethanol production include Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Minnesota, and Indiana. Scientists, biologists, and researchers work for universities, laboratories, and research institutes, as well as government agencies and private firms. According to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), there are about 80,480 environmental scientists employed in the United States. Most environmental scientists work for state and local governments, testing laboratories, or consulting firms. About 24 percent work for management, scientific, and technical consulting services; 12 percent work for engineering services, and 6 percent for the federal government.
The DOL reports that about 42,640 biological scientists are employed in the United States. (This number does not include the many who hold biology faculty positions in colleges and universities, as these are categorized as postsecondary teaching jobs.) Federal, state, and local governments employ a large percentage of all biological scientists. The U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Interior, and Defense and the National Institutes of Health are the main employers of federal biological scientists. The remainder work in scientific research and testing laboratories, the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industry, or colleges and universities.
Agricultural and food scientists hold about 30,490 positions. They work for federal, state, and local agencies; agricultural service companies; commercial research and development laboratories, seed companies; wholesale distributors; and food products companies.
Agricultural and food science technicians hold about 21,290 jobs, and biological technicians hold about 77,450 jobs. Government agencies and scientific and technical service firms are their main employers.
There are approximately 53,070 environmental engineers, 1,630 agricultural engineers, and 32,060 chemical engineers employed in the United States. Many work in manufacturing industries and in the professional, scientific, and technical services sector. And of the 181,310 industrial production managers employed in the United States, most work in manufacturing industries.
Internships, part-time jobs, and volunteer gigs are great ways to explore the bioenergy and biofuels field and see if this type of work suits you. Visit the Web sites of professional associations in the areas that interest you and see if there are opportunities to volunteer and get involved. You can also find useful information about the renewable and clean energy industry by visiting the U.S. Department of Energy's Clean Energy Jobs section at https://www.energy.gov/eere/education/education-homepage.
Scientists and biologists can advance to more senior-management positions, such as department directors or regional supervisors. Plant and product managers with years of experience and proven track records can advance to regional manager, vice president, or a similar position of higher authority. Some workers may decide to freelance as consultants or start their own companies. Others can advance by teaching in colleges and universities, speaking at conferences held by industry associations, and writing papers and books on their area of specialty. Obtaining certification may not be required for some positions, but it can be attractive to prospective employers as it demonstrates knowledge in that subject. Getting a master's degree or Ph.D. can also help boost a candidate's chances for employment in certain areas of the bioenergy and biofuels field.
Tips for Entry
Read publications such as Biofuels Digest (http://biofuelsdigest.com) to learn more about trends in the industry and potential employers.
Visit the following Web sites for job listings:
Visit https://www.bio-link.org/resources/where for a list of biotechnology employers by state.
Attend the Renewable Fuels Association’s annual National Ethanol Conference and other industry events to network and interview for jobs.