Practitioners' survey 2016: salaries

10th March 2016

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An analysis of salaries according to sector, level of IEMA membership, region, age and gender, and a look at how many members received pay rises last year.

Salaries by industry and sector

For the first time, practitioners working in consultancies are earning more than those in business and industry. The standout statistic of the 2016 survey is illustrated in Figure 1 below, which shows the median salary for environmental and sustainability professionals by broad economic sector. The median annual salary for consultants is £40,500 compared with £40,000 for their colleagues in business and industry. Whereas the median salary for consultants has increased by £4,120, from £36,380 in the 2015 poll, the rate in business and industry has fallen by £1,000. The annual median for IEMA members working in the public sector is £34,000, unchanged from 2015. Median salaries in academia or research and the third sector have increased – from £35,000 to £37,394 and from £28,250 to £35,000 respectively.

Salaries for environment and sustainability practitioners compare favourably to those of UK workers generally. The provisional 2015 ASHE figures from ONS, published in November, put the median gross annual earnings for full-time employees in the UK at £27,600. Salaries are also broadly in line with comparable occupations. At £38,180, the median annual salary for IEMA members is close to that for health and safety professionals. The results of the latest pay and conditions survey by Health and Safety at Work (HSW) magazine, published in February, show the median annual salary for health and safety managers in 2015 fell in the pay band £37,500–£39,999. Meanwhile, ASHE data for 2015 found that the overall median salary for full-time professional occupations was £37,024: the median for professionals in business, media and public service was £36,979, while those in science, research, engineering and technology were paid £39,971.

Figure 1: Salary by industry

Figure 2 shows the mean and median salaries by industry. As in previous polls, practitioners working in mining and quarrying, including oil extraction, tend to be paid the most, with a median salary of £52,500. This is almost one-third more than for their counterparts working in waste management and remediation (£35,000).

One-third of respondents worked for a consultancy. Analysis of their responses reveals median salaries of £38,500 for practitioners working in planning consultancies; £37,500 in engineering-based consultancies; £36,250 in primarily environment and sustainability consultancies; and £43,500 in management consultancies.

The overall findings for pay in the 2016 survey are evidence that salaries in public sector bodies are generally failing to keep pace with those in the private sector. Public sector pay awards continue to be restricted to an average of up to 1%, whereas pay analysts XpertHR recorded a median basic pay award of 2% in the private sector in the 12 months to the end of October 2015.

Figure 2: Median salary by membership level

Salaries by level of IEMA membership

Qualifications and experience have a major influence on pay: those with more experience and expertise tend to reap the biggest rewards. IEMA membership status is a good proxy for experience and the build-up of skills and knowledge over time. Figure 3 shows the median annual full-time salaries in 2015 by membership level. It illustrates how earnings change as practitioners gain experience and move from Graduate to Fellow (FIEMA), the pinnacle of professional recognition.

For example, Affiliates tend to be practitioners in the early stages of developing their environment and sustainability careers. According to the poll findings, median salaries for this group (£33,000) is less than half that a FIEMA (£68,000) can expect to be paid each year. The pay differential between Fellows and Full members (MIEMA) (£45,000) is just under one-third, reflecting the leadership role that a FIEMA often performs. Full members earn almost 18% more a year than an Associate (AIEMA). The median salary for Associate members is £37,000. Meanwhile, the differential between a MIEMA and an Affiliate is almost 27%.

The salary differential between the IEMA membership levels is evidence that upgrading not only brings deserved professional recognition but typically also a hefty pay increase. Associate membership demonstrates a broad understanding of environmental issues, and Affiliates are likely to secure an 11% increase in pay, for example, if they upgrade by successfully completing the AIEMA entry exam. To qualify for Full membership, the applicant must:

  • be a member of IEMA (Affiliate membership is the minimum requirement);
  • have a relevant master’s degree or can demonstrate the equivalent level of knowledge; and
  • have enough knowledge and practical experience to demonstrate how they meet the standard.

Because the level of knowledge and experience needed to become a Full member is parallel to that required to qualify as a Chartered environmentalist – that is, if an applicant can achieve the MIEMA criteria they should also meet the CEnv standards – successful MIEMA applicants will also be offered CEnv status.

The median salary in 2015 for graduates in the profession (£24,500) is below the average starting salary for graduates generally, which the Association of Graduate Recruiters reported in September had reached £28,000 a year. However, the rate is closer to the median starting salaries reported by the association in the industries many environment and sustainability graduates find employment. These ranged from £26,750 in energy and utility companies and £25,750 in engineering and industrial firms to £25,500 in the construction sector and consultancy, and £23,750 in the public sector.

The median is a good barometer for pay levels across a range, but it does not provide a picture of the scope of potential earnings. The mean data reveals the average salary for a Fellow in 2015 was £70,486; £54,574 for a MIEMA; £40,903 for an AIEMA; £35,576 for an Affiliate; and £27,274 for a graduate. However, a small proportion of practitioners earned a six-figure salary in 2015.

Figure 3: salaries by level of IEMA membership

Salaries by region

Most pay surveys show that people working in London and the South East typically earn more than those working in other parts of the UK. This is not the case in the environment and sustainability profession. The 2016 poll results confirm what was noticeable last year: there is generally a more equitable picture of pay levels for practitioners across the country, indicating that the labour market for environment and sustainability professionals is not as heavily dominated by the capital and the South East as those for many other professional services roles.

Figure 4 shows median basic salaries by UK region, with those working in the North West (£55,040) and Northern Ireland (£49,719 – though this is based on a sample of less than 20) first and second in the regional pay league. Scotland North (£41,000), where the oil and gas industry dominates and which is normally top, is now fourth. The median salary in the South East, meanwhile, is £39,900. The gap between the highest and lowest (South West) paying regions is more than 37%. However, the differential between Scotland West, in third, and the South East in ninth, is just 5%.

Figure 4: Median salary by region

Changes to salaries rises and prospects

Aside from ability to pay, the most common criteria employers use when deciding whether to increase an employee’s pay is individual performance, competences and market rates, according to HR body the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Two-thirds of respondents to the 2016 practitioners’ survey reported receiving a pay rise in 2015, down from 73.5% last year’s poll. A quarter reported no change (21% in 2015), while 9% experienced a decrease (5%).

The latest figures suggest some employers are reluctant to award increases, possibly reflecting sluggish growth in sectors traditionally employing environment and sustainability professionals. A report at the start of the year from Environmental Analyst, which monitors the environmental consultancy sector, revealed lower-than-expected market growth of 1.6% in 2014 and warned that growth last year would remain fairly modest, at little over 2%. Data published in January by ONS shows that, despite relatively strong 2.4% growth in construction over the first two quarters of 2015, activity in the industry fell by 2% in the second half of the year. Growth in the productive sector in the last six months of 2015 was also flat. At the same time, there continues to be limited scope for pay increases in the public sector.

Analysts XpertHR, which reported a median pay increase of 2% across the economy in the 12 months to the end of October 2015, forecast a similar level for 2016. However, it also reported that more private sector firms (11.7%) expect their 2016 pay reviews to result in a freeze. Meanwhile, pay settlements in the public sector will continue to be subdued.

Figure 5: Changes in annual salary in 2015

Salaries by age and gender

Reducing the pay gap between men and women has been a public policy priority for many years. However, although some progress has been made towards gender pay parity, the pace has been slow. Indeed, the ONS reported in November that the gap had changed ‘relatively little’ over the previous four years. Its data showed that, in April 2015, full-time median pay for men was 9.4% higher than women’s, compared with 9.6% in 2014. Nonetheless, the gap last year was the narrowest since the figure was first published in 1997, when it was 17.4%.

By sector, the gender pay gap for full-time employees in the private sector was 17.2% in 2015, compared with 17.6% in 2014, which was also the narrowest since 1997 and continued a long-term downward trend. In the public sector, the gap increased for the second consecutive year in 2015, from 11% to 11.4%.

Nationally, the occupational gender pay gap varied from 4.3% (sales and customer services) to 24.6% (skilled trades). In professional occupations, men earned 11% more than women in April 2015, and 11.2% more in associate, professional and technical occupations. The gap for managers, directors and senior officials was significantly higher, at 18.9%.

Although gender pay inequality in the environment and sustainability profession has been consistently higher than the overall gap reported by government statisticians, it had been narrowing – from 15.8% in 2012 to 12.5% in 2015 (Figure 8). However, this year the downward trajectory has been reversed, and the gap between the median salaries for men and women now stands at 16.7% – £42,000 for men compared with £35,000 for women (Figure 6). Using the mean measure, which tends to better reflect the fact that there will usually be more men at the top of the earnings spectrum, the differential widens to almost 25% between male earnings of £50,278 and £37,797 for women.

Figure 7 shows that median salaries for male and female practitioners are broadly the same when they start their careers. Indeed, women tend to earn marginally more in the first few years after study – £26,000 compared with £25,875, a 0.5% gap in favour of women. Salary levels start to diverge between ages 25 and 29, however, with the gap generally becoming more pronounced the older the worker – from 2% between ages 25 and 29 to 21% in practitioners in their late-50s.

The pattern of widening gender pay inequality among environment and sustainability professionals as they age is repeated across the economy. In line with the IEMA survey findings, the ONS has found that in the 22–29 age group female full-time workers in the UK earn, on average, slightly more than men. The gap is relatively small up to and including those aged 30 to 39, but from age 40 it widens, with men paid substantially more. According to the ONS, for each additional birthday women earn, on average, an extra 1.9%, while men earn 3% more.

Figure 6: salary by gender

Figure 7: Salary by age and gender

Figure 8: the gender pay gap 2012-16
























Pay gap (£)







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Pay gap (£)





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See also:

Practitioners' survey 2016 - the highlights

Practitioners' survey 2016 - qualifications, roles and job satisfaction

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