Environmental Sustainability Career Information and Options

Oct 10, 2019

An environmental sustainability career requires significant formal education. Learn about the work experience, education, job duties and certification needed for a job in sustainability.

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Environmental sustainability has many different employment options available to those interested in this type of work. From director to manager to coordinator, management levels within this field require experience and education.

Essential Information

People who are interested in pursuing a career in the field of environmental sustainability usually need to have at least a bachelor's degree and some related work experience. Applicable degree fields include environmental sustainability, environmental management, management or engineering, among others.

Careers Sustainability Director Sustainability Manager Sustainability Coordinator
Required Education Bachelor's degree, Master of Business Administration or related field Bachelor's degree in engineering or environmental sciences Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements Managerial experience, certification with the Institute of Certified Professional Managers Experience in sustainability or energy efficiency Specialized industry training
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 6% for all top executives 7% for all general and operations managers 7% for all general and operations managers
Median Annual Salary (2019)** $101,480 $72,989 $48,603

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Payscale.com

Career Options

Possible job titles for a career in environmental sustainability include sustainability director, sustainability manager and sustainability coordinator. Jobs for environmental sustainability management positions require experience in the field as well an understanding of public administration and policy. In addition, you should enjoy working both in an office and outside.

Sustainability Director

Someone generally fills the role of a sustainability director at the top executive level with at least a bachelor's degree in a related field and a significant amount of experience, and in some cases, relevant professional certifications. A sustainability director may be hired by a number of different kinds of organizations. Job duties include leading an organization's overarching effort to minimize its environmental impact and coordinating the efforts of stakeholders like internal departments or external vendors. Tasks can include identifying goals, developing action plans, assessing progress and reporting on results.

PayScale.com reported in September 2019 that sustainability directors who earned salaries in the 10th-90th percentile range made $65,000-$153,000, with a median of $101,480. Common employers included organizations, agencies or companies in government, postsecondary education, telecommunications, and construction and information technology services fields.

Sustainability Manager

Sustainability managers are responsible for working with staff and vendors to develop, implement, coordinate and monitor programs that maximize efficiency and cost-savings and minimize an organization's impact on the environment. Principles of sustainability may be applied to product packaging, manufacturing processes, energy use, building efficiency and logistics. Tasks can include staying informed of sustainability-related trends, best practices, standards or legislative developments, environmental sustainability program design and development, program assessment and staff training.

Educational requirements may vary among employers. A bachelor's degree is often a minimum qualification; however, the preference for a candidate's career field can vary, from engineering to environmental sciences or a related field, depending on the industry. Employers generally require 2-4 years of relevant experience in sustainability or energy efficiency plus strong communication, organizational and interpersonal skills.

According to a September 2019 PayScale.com report, sustainability managers who earned a salary that fell between the 10th and 90th percentiles could earn $48,000-$112,000. The annual median salary for a sustainability manager is $72,989.

Sustainability Coordinator

A sustainability coordinator facilitates an organization's efforts to lower its impact on the environment, such as reduce carbon footprints and increase building efficiency. While job duties can vary significantly among employers, sustainability coordinators typically work collaboratively with others, such as managers, vendors and outside organizations or agencies to manage multiple priorities related to improving natural resource management, reducing environmental impact and reducing operating costs. Educational requirements can vary by employer but generally require a bachelor's degree. Some employers may prefer specialized industry-related training or experience.

People who worked as sustainability coordinators in September 2019 and took home a salary within the 10th-90th percentile range earned $36,000-$68,000 with an annual median salary of $48,603. Sustainability coordinators find jobs at colleges and universities, local government, healthcare, engineering consulting and architecture.

At the top executive level, a sustainability director has a better salary but requires an undergraduate and graduate degree, plenty of experience and often additional certifications. Sustainability managers and coordinators have less responsibility, receive less pay, and require only an undergraduate degree paired with work experience. All of these positions focus on a company's activities to lower its environmental impact and maximize its efficiency.

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