Earnings by highest qualification

17th March 2014

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Adrian Britton Fitzpatrick

The relationship between environment professionals' rate of pay and their highest level of qualification, as shown by the IEMA practitioners' survey 2014

The survey examined the level of academic attainment among practitioners. Respondents were asked to state their highest academic qualification. Overall, the sample of environment and sustainability practitioners display the profile of a well-qualified group of professionals. Only a small minority (2.9%) hold no formal academic qualifications, while a master’s degree is the most prevalent qualification – held by 44.3% of survey respondents.

One participant in four (24.1%) has a bachelor’s degree and 12.3% hold a post-graduate diploma, while 6.7% has a higher national certificate or higher national diploma (HNC/HND). A minority of practitioners (5.5%) hold a PhD, the highest level of academic attainment.

The survey also investigated the extent to which the environment and related topics formed the primary focus of practitioners’ first and second qualifications. Less than one-third of respondents (30.6%) reported that the environment or earth sciences formed the topic area of their first academic qualification, while 14.1% selected environment management and/or assessment as the main topic area.

Although fewer respondents hold a second academic qualification (1,499 compared with 2,037 who hold a first academic qualification), the environment is more likely to form the primary focus of their second qualification. For example, environment management and/or assessment forms the basis of nearly half (48.3%) of practitioners’ second qualifications. This finding reflects the tendency for most professionals to become more focused in their specialist area of expertise as their career progresses.

Members with doctorates top the league table of highest earners by qualification, with a median annual salary of £46,000. Nevertheless, members with higher level qualifications do not necessarily enjoy the highest salaries (see figure 2). For example, practitioners with no formal academic qualifications earn the same median pay as those with a master’s degree (£38,000).

The disparity between the level of academic attainment and size of income may be explained by the fact that those with a BA/BSc or master’s degree are often younger. These professionals are likely to be in the early or intermediate stages of their career and have yet to secure the senior level positions that have higher levels of pay.

Read the full survey results:

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