Environmental Managers and their Earning Power

Here's a glimpse of some preliminary results in the 2010 Environmental Protection Salary Survey.

Last year, environmental managers earned anywhere from $30,000 at a manufacturing facility in Salina, Kan., to $115,000 in a consulting firm based in Rockville, Md., according to the 2010 Environmental Protection Salary Survey.

The results show that the median gross pay for this job title was $80,000 and the average was $74,419. About 50 people said they work under the title "environmental manager." The top manufacturing pay under this job title was $110,000 in Pittsburgh.

More than 34 percent of the total respondents (335) said they work in the manufacturing industry. Nearly 19 percent said they work in government, followed by almost 14 percent who said they work in consulting. The other top titles were engineer, other, environmental health & safety manager, regulatory compliance specialist, and consultant.

The highest earnings reported for an environmental manager with an associate's degree was $98,865 at a power utility in Gainesville, Fla., while another with a high school diploma or GED was paid $62,100 at a manufacturing facility in Moline, Ill. A person who had a doctorate reported that he or she received about $80,000 from a mining company in Hot Springs, Ark.

Certification did not seem to be an obstacle for earning good wages. Environmental managers in transportation and state government did not hold any certifications but still earned $80,000 and $90,000, respectively. The former is between 30-39 years old, has a bachelor's degree and between 11 and 15 years in the field. The latter is the same age but works in Renton, Wash., has a master's degree, and 16-20 years of experience.

The economy still may be affecting job satisfaction. Cuts in benefits included insurance (36 percent), bonus (30 percent), and salary (27 percent), but 34 percent also reported no cuts in any benefits. Those who had experienced cuts said that they were not restored (84 percent) in the last six months.

One proud respondent noted, "Protection is one of the cornerstones of the environmental profession," yet some (about 25 percent) expressed frustration over regulatory compliance challenges. The adjectives of choice for regulations were "inane," "stupid," and "too damn many." A consultant working in Edison, N.J., described the problem like this: "Overly prescriptive remediation regulations that require responsible parties to search for molecules rather than focus on more risk reduction for their limited remediation dollars." From the other side of the issue, a government regulator working in Tallahassee, Fla., said "Financial issues are causing major layoffs which, in turn, lead to non-compliance issues. What do you do as a regulator? Do you fine them? That is counterproductive. Make them do more? How do they pay for it?"

Indeed. The second most cited challenge in the survey was funding.

Environmental Protection asked a few respondents for their opinions on regulatory compliance. An environmental coordinator at a research and development company working to make biofuel from microalgae said her primary responsibility is compliance. "I have dealt primarily with state agencies and, in almost all cases have found that regulators depend on businesses to self monitor their activities. It is my opinion that enforcement is entirely inadequate. Having an intimate understanding of the regulations, it is readily apparent to me that other businesses in similar fields or in a similar geographical region are in blatant states of non-compliance. Many have been violating environmental laws for over 20 years and there is no indication of either the state taking any future action nor of the business beginning any type of 'self regulating' activity," she said.

Two other respondents who agreed to answer additional questions said that they did not think regulators were doing a good job of enforcing the rules. An environmental health and safety manager for a manufacturer said he rarely sees regulators (how can you enforce the rules if you are not monitoring them?), while a gentleman with the same title said regulators are inconsistent with each other and with the regulations. These two were diametrically opposed to each other when asked if the costs of compliance are worth the benefits. The EHS professional at the manufacturing site said "I don't think it is that expensive to comply or go beyond requirements." The second one said, "Even if the monetary fines are not too expensive, the bad publicity and employee moral problems are worth avoiding. Also, some of our most important customers require compliance."

A third gentleman found exception to a specific type of regulation: "Anytime a regulation helps protect the environment ─ that is worth the benefits. If a regulation concerns global warming, it is not worth it."

The survey, which has been active for about four months, has not attracted near last year's response of about 1,200. One of this year's respondents explained why she participated in the 2010 survey: "I subscribe to the EP electronic newsletter and was prompted to take the survey while reading an article here. My hope was that in partaking in the survey, I would be able to help make a case for increasing available demographics about my profession," she said.

In order to provide more value, the survey will remain open until April 1. Click here to participate.

About the Author

L.K. Williams is the Environmental Group Editor of 1105 Media.