Practitioners' survey 2016 - qualifications, roles and job satisfaction

10th March 2016

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  • Skills ,
  • CPD ,
  • Qualifications ,
  • Training ,
  • Knowledge Centre


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Survey results on qualifications, roles and job satisfaction provide a snapshot of a profession.

The IEMA skills map outlines the broad roles that environment and sustainability professionals perform in organisations, from graduate or entry level to those in operational or specialist roles (practitioner level) and from managers to those in leadership positions. Figure 9 shows that 59% of survey respondents are in a management or leadership role, while 36% are at practitioner level, with just 5% in the early stages of their careers.

The poll provides further evidence that more IEMA members are moving into senior positions. Over the past 12 months, almost one in five (18%) respondents report moving to a more senior role, either in the same organisation or at another one (Figure 11).

IEMA members tend to be highly qualified. Half have a master’s degree – a minimum requirement for full membership unless the candidate can demonstrate the equivalent level of knowledge (Figure 10). The poll reveals that around one-third of respondents continue immediately with further academic study after completing one course, with 32% reporting no break between qualifications. One-third have a break of between one and three years. More than one in five take a longer break, however, with 22% gaining a second academic qualification seven or more years after their first. When taking a second degree, there is a shift away from traditional environment-related courses, such as environment and earth sciences, and geography, planning and development, to those focused on environment management or assessment.

The first degree of 44% of respondents was in environment and earth sciences, and geography, planning and development, but just 19% studied these for their second. By contrast, 45% stated that their second academic qualification was in environment management or assessment, compared with 14% who studied either as a first degree. These figures suggest that many practitioners are keen to develop more general environmental management knowledge to further their careers.

Job satisfaction tends to make staff more motivated and productive. A poll of 1,000 workers by the Institute of Leadership and Management in 2013 found that ‘job enjoyment’ was the top motivator, cited by 59%. By contrast, just 13% said a bonus would be motivating. The 2016 IEMA practitioners’ survey reveals that most environment and sustainability professionals are satisfied at work. Asked to rank their level of job satisfaction on a scale from one (very dissatisfied) to six (very satisfied), 43% rated it five (satisfied) or six. A further 39% rated it four (mostly satisfied). Just 6% of respondents were either very dissatisfied (1%) or dissatisfied (5%). Twelve per cent were indifferent.

Figure 9: Seniority of role

Figure 10: Level of highest academic qualification gained

Figure 11: Change in role in 2015

Professional development

The codes of practice governing the different IEMA membership levels require the development and maintenance of standards of professional competence and knowledge through a combination of training, learning and practical experience, and through the support of others. To maintain their membership, MIEMA with Chartered environmentalist status, Fellows and members on the specialist auditor and environmental impact assessment practitioner register are also required to submit continuing professional development (CPD) log sheets to IEMA yearly, normally when they renew their membership.

The practitioner survey results show that 91% of respondents undertook some form of CPD in 2015. CPD is not limited to formal training. The most popular form of professional development in 2015 was participating in IEMA webinars, followed by attending a CPD workshop or training course, reading the environmentalist and attending an IEMA-approved/certificated training course (Figure 12).

Figure 12: Professional development activities

Half of respondents report that the main motivation for undertaking professional development is to develop knowledge and skills in their current role. More than a quarter (27%) participate in training and attending events and conferences as part of what they describe as a continuing process. In 64% of cases, the development is paid for by the practitioner’s employer, either directly (29%) or through the employer reimbursing the employee the full amount (35%).

Research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in 2015 revealed that employers broadly align staff learning and development (L&D) with business strategy. The HR body’s annual learning and development survey found that L&D is extremely aligned with the needs of the business in a quarter of organisations, with a further two-fifths reporting that they are broadly aligned, with some discrepancies. The survey also showed that most employers evaluate L&D initiatives – more than one-third (37%) of organisations limited their evaluations to the satisfaction of those taking part, while slightly less (30%) quantified the impact of the business, such as on efficiency.

The financial outlay on CPD by employers of IEMA members appears to be well worth it, with practitioners reporting that development activities have directly benefited their organisation (Figure 13). More than one-third (35.5%) said their CPD had directly helped boost their organisation’s environmental performance. One-third reported that their development had enabled them to help upskill colleagues by running training events internally or through mentoring. Twenty-nine per cent of respondents said their CPD had enhanced the reputation of their organisation, while 22% said it had boosted the sustainability performance of the business.

Figure 13: Organisational benefits of CPD

More than one in five (21%) said the training and development had led to direct financial savings for their organisation. Some 90% of this group said the CPD had led to interventions that reduced their organisation’s overheads; 7% said taxation had been reduced because of actions spurred by their development; and 4% reported that the CPD had resulted in reduced insurance premiums (Figure 14).

Figure 14: Firms' financial benefits of CPD

The savings were not wholly financial, however. Figure 13 also shows the training and development activities of IEMA members resulted in reduced energy use (20%), less pollution (16%) and a cut in general emissions (16%). It also helped organisations reduce carbon emissions (14% of cases) and water consumption (10%). Around 15% of respondents said their CPD enabled them to return to their organisations and produce a compelling case for investment.

See also:

Practitioners' survey 2016 - the highlights

Practitioners' survey 2016: salaries


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