HEFEI - Chinese college graduates in environmental engineering have seen their job prospects improve as frequent bouts of serious smog have prompted more effective steps to tackle air pollution.
In the fourth quarter of last year, environmental protection posts entered the top ten hot categories in the job market for the first time, said an official with the talent market service center of Hefei, capital of Anhui Province.
The latest statistics showed environmental protection and quality safety jobs in the city reached 1,457 in the fourth quarter in Hefei, an increase of 84.7 percent from the third quarter, according to the center.
The employment rate of 2013 university graduates who majored in environment or ecology sciences was also higher than the average, according to data from the Education Department of neighboring Jiangsu Province.
Graduates majoring in environment and ecology had an employment rate of 94 percent, compared with 89.5 percent on average for college graduates in the province, said the department.
China has been making enormous efforts to address pollution after decades of rapid economic growth.
In September, the central government issued the Air Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan to control PM2.5, or airborne particles with a diameter of less than 2.5 microns, and reduce the number of smoggy days. It includes limits on pollutant emissions, optimization of energy use and upgrades to technology.
As companies face more pressure in environmental protection, talented graduates in environmental engineering have become popular.
"In 2013, the number of employers who came to our university for graduates in environmental protection and pollution treatment increased a lot compared with previous years," said Lan Yaming, an employment official at Nanjing University.
Environmental sciences have been developing rapidly in recent years, which can be seen from the high employment of graduates and enthusiasm of students, said Lan.
"The worsening smog problem may push the trend further," Lan said.
Companies are in greater need of environmental talent, from construction services to pollution treatment, said Wang Ting, a clerk with an environment supervision company in Anhui.
"Environmental engineering used to be unpopular, but the situation will be improved," said Wang, who graduated last year from Anhui University with a major in resources and environmental engineering.
A document issued by the State Council in August set a goal to raise total output value of environmental protection industries to 4.5 trillion yuan (737 billion US dollars) by 2015.
Around 30 million people are working in China's energy-saving and environmental protection industries, Xie Zhenhua, deputy minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, said in November.
Frequent gray days have shocked citizens, but Wang predicts they will bring "sunny days" to environmental protection industries and more opportunities for graduates.