Earnings by highest qualification

22nd March 2011

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  • CPD ,
  • Qualifications



The relationship between environment professionals' rate of pay and highest level of qualification, as shown by the IEMA pay and benefit's survey 2011

Survey respondents were asked to state their highest academic qualification. Graduates dominated the sample; more than four out of five respondents had a bachelor’s degree or higher qualification. The most common qualification is a master’s degree (41.8% of respondents), followed by bachelor’s degree (24.2%), postgraduate diploma (11.7%) and higher national certificate or higher national diploma (HNC/HND) (8.2%). Only 5.2% of respondents said they had no formal qualifications.

Figure 4 shows respondents’ total earnings by highest academic qualification. Although those with doctorates are earning the most, there is no clear relationship between level of qualification and average earnings. For example, those in our sample with postgraduate diplomas have higher median earnings than those with a master’s degree, even though the latter is a higher qualification. A similar earnings drop is evident between HNC/HND and those with a bachelor’s degree.

Some of what appears to be the reverse differential between level of qualification and earnings in our results may be explained by the fact that the profile for those with a bachelor’s or a master’s is weighted towards the younger end, whereas there is a more even age distribution among the other qualifications. For those with bachelor’s and master’s degrees as their highest qualification, 53.3% and 52.2% respectively are below the age of 34. This compares with 8.7% for those with HNC/HNDs and 22.5% for those with postgraduate diplomas.

Figure 5 indicates that total earnings rise with age up to 40 years old, after which the relationship plateaus for men and dips for women before making a slight recovery. So the younger profile of respondents with bachelor’s and master’s degrees reflects the lower wages at this age. Analysis of respondents’ years of experience against their qualifications does not reveal such a clear relationship as that shown by age.

Those with a doctorate do tend to have more years’ experience, which we would expect to be associated with higher earnings and greater age. However, for the other qualifications – HNC/HND, bachelor’s degrees, postgraduate diplomas and master’s degrees – the experience profiles do not show significant variation or much of a trend. This may suggest that those taking HNC/HNDs and postgraduate diplomas are moving into environmental posts later in life and engaging in further study to make this change. It also suggests that employers are willing to pay for experience over higher academic qualifications, although qualifications do still have an influence.

Read the full survey results:

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