2001 Salary Survey
Aug 01, 2001
|Average Salary by Location
"I was looking for a job and then I found a job, and heaven knows I'm miserable now."
This year's survey is not unlike previous years'. People are still complaining about being overworked, underpaid and ignored by supervisors and the people in suits. In fact, it appears that people are becoming more cynical as the years go by. Still, there may be a bigger answer to the overall negative comments this year.
Belly Aching About Bush
The biggest change to this year's survey is the implementation of a new federal administration. As reported in the October 2000 issue of Environmental Protection, then presidential candidate George W. Bush was quoted saying "The United States is entering a new era of environmental policy that requires a new philosophy of public stewardship and public responsibility." Bush went on to say, "Economic prosperity and environmental protection must go hand in hand." However, survey participants are beginning to question what kind of impact President Bush's environmental philosophies will have on the field.
In one section of the survey, "Give us your comments about current trends you see impacting environmental professionals' salaries," comments indicated that most environmental professionals envision a sour future full of cutbacks, lay-offs and slashing of salaries.
A West Point, Miss. plant level manager said, "As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expands, regulatory requirements may increase job prospects but may backfire, and then the Republican lead government will mandate reductions in requirements. This may reduce the requirements for environmental professionals." Echoing this comment, a corporate level manager from Charlotte, N.C., said, "The anti-environmental posture of the new Republican administration will reduce the demand, and attendant opportunities and incomes, of those in environmental professions." Chiming in, a Bellevue, Wash., regulatory compliance specialist said, "With the current administration, there seems to be less emphasis on conservation and environmental impacts, therefore the demand for environmental professionals will decrease."
"Bush is killing every environmental issue that could assist one's salary. The EPA would be gone if you leave sic it up to him," said a Lucasville, Ohio, safety worker. Many agreed with this point. "Bush is going to cause a slowdown in environmental initiatives, and salaries will suffer accordingly," said a Wilmington, Mass., scientist.
A few other comments about Bush include:
- "Bush's changes in environmental regulations (arsenic levels in drinking water, and coal-powered plants) may have an impact on salaries due to a decrease in demand for consulting services and governmental regulation," a Phoenix, AZ, project manager said.
- "I see the current Republican administration, both at the federal and at our local state level, as damaging to environmental progress. Politics has become the governing factor, rather than scientific basis. It seems like we are moving backward, rather than forward," an engineer from Topeka, Kan., said.
- "As there was under Reagan, there will be a trend under Bush Junior for business leaders to think that environmental concerns will go away. In this new century, however, nothing could be further from the truth," a Florida corporate level manager said.
- "If Bush has his way, there will not be any environmental laws, jobs or a place for our children to live," said a division level manager from Greene County, Ohio.
Out of more than 600 responses to our salary survey, there was only one semi-positive comment about President Bush's environmental concerns. "The Bush administration may put a bit of a damper on the health, safety and ergonomics end of the consulting spectrum; however, I do not see it negatively impacting the environmental side," said a project manager from Chicago, Ill.
Basically, this quote from a consultant in Tampa, Fla., sums up the opinions of many of the respondents, "Bush's apparent lack of concern for environmental health and safety (EHS) issues worries me." Yes, the countdown to the next election has already begun.
An environmental professional commented in last year's survey "Engineering positions in our area go unfilled for months because all qualified engineers are snapped up by the dotcoms." Another professional said, "So many people are leaving environmental work to work for Internet/high tech companies that we have to compensate more to convince the good people to stay."
However, this year has shown that the oasis of possibility of the Internet is merely a mirage for many companies. In fact, at the 2001 American of Industrial Hygienists Conference and Expo, less than one-fourth of e-commerce companies who attended last year as exhibitors came to this year's trade show.
Now the environmental professional must go back to the tried-and-true standard (i.e., a structured brick-and-mortar workplace) that has driven most companies to succeed. Still, this old-school way is not the most promising for most environmental workers, because they are weighed down not just by their job, but by the additional strain of handling the jobs of many different employees. Many specialists will have to learn to become generalists if they expect to survive in environmental fields.
"I have seen the trend for companies to have no increase in their environmental staff," an Albuquerque, N.M., worker said. "The trend has been for companies to put more responsibility on the existing environmental staff." Furthermore, "There is much combining and minimizing of environmental and safety staff," a regulatory compliance specialist from St. Joseph, Mo., said. In agreement, a Wilmington, Mass., engineer said, "It seems that environmental engineers hold too many hats and are responsible for many jobs which they do not receive full compensation for."
Expanding on the role of a diversified employee, a plant level manager from DePere, Wis., commented, "I started in safety and health, and at a plant level, environmental is often combined into the same position." Another plant level manager from Wilmington, N.C., said, "The trend is toward individuals who are capable of handling environmental & safety responsibilities." Agreeing with this comment, a corporate level manager said, "A person having both environmental and safety knowledge is becoming increasingly more valuable."
In fact, "The economic market appears to be shrinking but regulations continue to grow," a division level staff member from Corpus Christi, Texas said. "Therefore, we will continue to see environmental professionals asked to do more with less resources. Specialists will likely need to become generalists."
An Ideal Reality
What does the future hold for environmental professionals in the latest economy swing? Many surveyed feel (as usual) that salaries are not up to par with job requirements, that an awareness of the environmental worker needs to be better recognized by those handing out paychecks. But these idealist yearnings are undoubtedly offset by the reality that workers who strive to improve our world and protect humanity are most often the ones least recognized monetarily. As the comedian Dennis Miller says, "In a battle between corporate profits and the environment, the environment has about as much chance of coming out on top as Pat Buchanan does of winning a "Soul Train" lifetime achievement award."
A Fremont, Calif., engineer said in the survey, "I see the salaries dropping because of lack of respect for the profession. Most companies do not see environmental compliance as a contributor to business/financial success of the company." A consultant from St. Paul, Minn., said "I think salaries will be stagnant since there is not a lot of growth in this area at this time, and consultant consolidation continues to occur." From Santa Ana, Calif., this comment was made, "Being a woman is still a hardship in this industry. I am sure that other asbestos consultants and environmental auditors make more money and receive more cooperation from some of their clients and employers as well."
A Los Angeles, Calif., regulatory compliance specialist summed up the feelings of many of the survey participants by saying, "Environmental professionals do not earn enough for the work we do. Ours is an important job and we should be compensated justly for it."
While many feel that salaries in the environmental field are decreasing or stagnant, some respondents countered with more upbeat comments. "In the Chicago land area, salaries are holding steady, not going down, at many of the major contracting companies," said a Chicago, Ill., employee. "Raises vary three to 15 percent, and there have been no big layoffs." From Houston, Texas, one worker said, "With the new regulations and state implementation plans, salaries for environmental professionals as well as jobs for environmental professionals will both increase." Finally, a Brewton, Ala., project manager predicted a positive future by saying, "I foresee improvements in compensation in salaries as industries finally comply with environmental regulations."
In the Environmental End
So, whether you are happy, content or disgusted by the emerging trends in the many different environmental fields, you can use our 2001 Salary Survey to compare and contrast your wage with others in your field around the country. We don't promise our results will help you get a raise or an improvement in work conditions. Remember that happiness is never found in doing something you hate. Make a life and not a living, and we're sure that no matter what job you're doing, how much you're recognized or how much you're getting paid, you'll be happy and not swayed by others' opinions.
Click here or an average salary of the top five job titles.
Average Salary by Job Title and Gender
|Corporate level manager
|Corporate level staff
|Divison level manager
|Divison level staff
|Plant Level Manager
|Plant Level Staff
|Regulatory Compliance Specialist
This article originally appeared in the August 2001 issue of Environmental Protection, Vol. 12, No. 8, p. 14.