Sustainability Pays Well — For Men

You can make pretty good money as a sustainability professional, but your odds appear better if you’re a man. That’s one finding in a survey of 366 U.S.-based sustainability professionals conducted by UC San Diego Extension and “Sustainability: The Journal of Record.”

The article reporting the findings didn’t explicitly define a “sustainability professional,” but researchers said they received responses from 366 people who work on “a variety of issues within the sustainability field, with environmental issues, corporate responsibility, and energy savings leading as areas of primary responsibility.” It included workers at corporations, nonprofits and government agencies.

image via Environmental Defense Fund

Among the respondents, a hefty 43 percent earned more than $75,000 a year. Just one-third of those high earners, however, were women.

Not surprisingly, the highest earners tended to be experienced workers, with 70 percent of the $75,000-and-over crowd claiming 20 or more years in the sustainability field. The highest earners also tended to have a lot of education — 58 percent of law-degree holders and 48 percent of the Ph.D.s said they earned more than $100,000. And yet education provided no guarantee of a high wage: 39 percent of those with only some or no college education made under $50,000, yet 37 percent of responding MBAs were also mired at that low end.

As for the immediate future, the news from the survey was not uplifting. The study reported that “perhaps reflective of the poorly performing,” two-thirds of the respondents said they were unlikely to bring on new professional staff in the coming year.

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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