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Demystifying green jobs

The description gets bandied about, so we explain the sectors and actual job titles.

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By Gerri Willis, CNN personal finance editor

For more information on managing your largest investment, check out Gerri Willis' 'Home Rich,' now in bookstores.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- "Green jobs." You may have heard President Obama use this phrase often. But what does it really mean? It's one of those phrases that isn't really specific -- so we set out to demystify the phrase -- digging down into the sectors of business that people are referring to and actual job titles when they reference green jobs.

Keep in mind that total green jobs are estimated to be 770,000 -- or 0.5% of all jobs -- but it's growing at a fast clip -- 9.1% versus 3.7% for all total jobs, according to research by Pew Charitable Trusts.

1. Sector Winners

The biggest sector -- fueling 65% of green jobs -- is conservation and pollution mitigation. That means recycling, conserving water, and cutting greenhouse gases. People who remove hazardous materials from industrial sites are in this sector, as are scientists who develop products to treat pollutants.

Environmentally friendly production jobs are typically in transportation and manufacturing, like producing hybrid diesel buses and developing traffic monitoring software.

Energy efficiency and clean energy jobs help find new sources of energy or better use existing sources. Jobs include electricians and engineers. Experts expect this sector to enjoy the fastest growth.

2. Job titles

Let's look at a smart grid engineer -- this is somebody who develops a faster network for electricity using digital technology. You could make $50,000 to $100,000 a year depending on your background, but you would need at least a bachelor's degree in engineering to land a job.

Or, you might become a green architect or builder -- designing and constructing buildings that use sustainable materials or renewable energy sources. Earnings are $50,000 to $105,000 a year or $10 to $30 an hour for builders. Both would need LEEDS accreditation or other green certification from their city or National Association of Home Builders.

Energy auditors conduct room by room examinations of structures to determine where there are air leaks. And they prescribe ways to fix them. Various certifications are required. Auditors make $12 to $14 an hour.

3. Training

More training is typically required. But you may not need another diploma. Experts say that green jobs present opportunities to people with lower income. Of the 1.7 million new jobs that will be created, it's estimated that 870,000 will be available to people with high school degrees or less, according to a study by the Political Economy Research Institute.

-- CNN's Jen Haley contributed to this article.

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