Earnings by highest qualification

25th March 2013

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  • Qualifications



The relationship between environment professionals' rate of pay and their highest level of qualification, as shown by the IEMA practitioners' survey 2013

Survey respondents were asked to state their highest academic qualification. Graduates dominated the sample, with more than eight in 10 (84.3%) of those participating reporting a bachelor’s degree or higher qualification. Just 3.4% of environment professionals hold no formal academic qualifications.

A master’s degree is the most common qualification, held by 43.4% of respondents, followed by a bachelor’s degree (24.5%), post-graduate diploma (12%) and higher national certificate or higher national diploma (HNC/HND) (7.3%). A minority of practitioners (4.4%) hold a PhD.

Survey questions also investigated whether the environment was a key focus of respondents’ first – and, if applicable, second – academic qualifications. In the case of members’ first academic qualification, the environment was a main feature for just over half (51.7%) of respondents.

This percentage increased significantly for respondents’ further qualification, with almost three members in four reporting that the environment was a key focus of their second academic qualification. The finding is not surprising since many respondents may have undertaken additional study to pursue their career in the environmental field.

Figure 4 shows respondents’ total earnings by highest academic qualification. Although those with doctorates are earning the most, there is no clear correlation between level of qualification and median annual earnings.

As the chart shows, the general trend is not necessarily that those with the highest-level qualification enjoy the largest salaries. For example, professionals with HNCs or HNDs have higher median annual earnings than those with a master’s degree, even though the latter is a higher qualification. However, those in the sample with no formal academic qualifications tend to earn the lowest incomes.

The lack of an obvious link between academic achievement and earnings potential should not be taken at face value, however. These findings may, in part, be explained by the fact that the age profile of many members with a bachelor’s or master’s degree is weighted towards the younger end of the spectrum. This means that these professionals are unlikely to have yet reached the higher echelons of the profession where they are in a position to command the largest salaries.

The importance of gaining relevant academic and professional qualifications has steadily increased in the UK, which is why less mature members are more likely to hold them. The ability to demonstrate appropriate academic achievement is key to an environment professional’s career progression.

Figure 5 illustrates the earnings potential of both male and female environmentalists, which tends to rise with age, although the upwards trajectory in pay is more marked for men as they mature than for women.

Annual earnings for male practitioners reach their highest between the ages of 50 and 54 (£46,000) before tailing off as retirement approaches. Pay for female practitioners rises steadily up to the 40–44 age band, when they can expect to earn £40,000.

Read the full 2013 practitioner survey results:

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