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Job Outlook for Sustainability Professionals 2010

Jobs in sustainability are growing with 35% of surveyed companies reporting plans to hire in 2011,

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43% of sustainability professionals make $75,000 or more per year, according to a 2010 survey.

The sustainability careers survey was conducted by the University of California San Diego Extension in collaboration with Sustainability: The Journal of Record. The majority of respondents (62 percent) said that their job does have promotion potential, and most would recommend sustainability as a career to their children.

The results were jointly published in the October issue of Sustainability: The Journal of Record and the fall issue of Prospectus, the magazine of UC San Diego Extension.

In all, 366 U.S.-based sustainability professionals in workplaces that include corporations, nonprofits, and government responded to the survey, which was conducted in the fall of 2009 and winter of 2010.

"High-end salaries aren't just limited to those working in large cities, where the cost of living is likely to be higher than that in more remote areas," said Lori Tripoli, editor of Sustainability: The Journal of Record. "Interestingly, almost as many of those at the upper end of the salary echelon work in suburbs as in large cities with populations of one million or more."

Not surprisingly, more professionals in the top income tiers ($75,000-plus per year) have advanced degrees. Twenty percent of respondents earn salaries between $100,000 and $149,999. Results indicate that men outearn women in the sustainability field, with 65 percent of males making $75,000 or more per year, compared to 33 percent of the females.

"Although some perceive sustainability as a 'youthful' profession given its relatively recent emergence as a career track and its emphasis on improving the planet for future generations, respondents were in all age ranges," said Henry DeVries, assistant dean for UC San Diego Extension. "That said, about two out of three respondents in our study had less than three years of sustainability experience."

Twenty-one percent of respondents reported that sustainability issues are the primary focus of their jobs, and 28 percent indicated that their sustainability work is an important, though not central, part of their jobs. Respondents report working on a variety of issues within the sustainability field, with leading areas of primary responsibility including:

  • environmental issues
  • corporate social responsibility
  • energy savings

The majority (54%) of respondents supervise or manage at least one worker, and, for those with direct reports, most oversee a mix of professionals and support staff.

Green Priciples in Design and Decision-making

"Green" principles are increasingly being incorporated into design and decision-making, respondents said, with 86 percent reporting that this is happening more often than in the past.

Most believe that their employers are committed to sustainability, and think that sustainability is not merely a passing fad.

Perhaps reflective of the poorly performing economy, 66% of respondents reported they did not plan to hire any new professional staff in the coming year -- but 34% do, although most of these new hires (39 percent) will be making less than $75,000 per year.

Alternative Technologies Have Significance

Even as sustainability staff itself might not be bolstered, 35% reported that it's likely their employer will hire, within the next 12 months, someone dedicated to alternative technologies.

The full study is available for free at

About UC San Diego Extension (

As the continuing education and public programs arm of the university, UC San Diego Extension educates approximately 55,500 enrollees a year, which translates to over 26,000 students in more than 4,900 courses.

UC San Diego Extension is recognized nationally and internationally for linking the public to expert professionals and the knowledge resources of the University of California.

Through UCSD-TV, 1 million San Diego homes enjoy daily access to an abundance of useful ideas, creative minds and provocative thinkers. Although a part of the university since 1966, Extension receives no state support and relies on the funding generated from fees, contracts, grants, sponsors and donors for its annual budget of approximately $35 million.

Sustainability: The Journal of Record meets the needs of the rapidly growing community of professionals in academia, industry, policy, and government who have the responsibility and commitment to advancing one of the major imperatives of this young century. The Journal provides the information and resources to foster collaboration, between sustainability managers, educators, corporate executives, administrators, policymakers, economists, and technology innovators who have the mandate to address and move forward the imperatives of the preservation and sustainability of global resources.

RESOURCE: Sustainability: The Journal of Record (

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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