2008 Salary Survey: Basic Training and Then Some

Sep 29, 2008

For continued success on the job, training ranked higher than new technologies, 84 percent to 53 percent, respectively, in Environmental Protection’s Annual Salary Survey. Twenty-three percent of respondents said that knowing international regulations was a requirement for meeting today's challenges, which placed global concerns third in the ranking.

In the summer of 2008, 1,245 respondents completed the online survey.

Click here to see how the numbers shook out. (pdf)

Training is critical in the ever-evolving environmental field. A few years ago, you probably wouldn't have considered sustainability part of your job description, but now the term has taken hold of all our facilities (and faculties). Trends such as these as well as movements to do more with less (i.e. have the manager actually work three jobs instead of one), have increased responsibilities across the board.

What do you do?
Sixty-seven percent of the salary survey respondents said that their job incorporates work that traditionally was not their responsibility.

To see if the workplace is keeping pace with new work duties, we asked respondents if their titles fit. Some said yes; others no.

"I have a title that describes my position -- Energy Efficiency Strategist," said one. "I do all the EHS, the ISO management, shipping regulations, Lean Manufacturing, and quality management. There is no title for everything I do," said another.

So, for those who answered no, we asked what their titles should be and got some interesting feedback:

• Overseer of Environmental Services

• Global SHE or HSE or EHS Manager (permutations of safety, health, and environment; some added security, sustainability, and emergency response to the mix)

• Recycling and HES Advocate

• Environmental Technician for Operational Compliance

• Wear Steel Toe Boots

• Greenwasher

• QRESH Coordinator (Quality, Risk, Environmental, Safety & Health)

• Environmental Programs & Storm Debris Manager

An engineer at a Lincoln, Neb., water treatment facility had a realistic perspective on the title discussion. "Various engineering-type of titles -- associate, senior, EHS-Env, Health, Safety, or SSE-Security, Safety, Env, etc. -- could be applicable, but then engineers are usually looked at to be "jack-of-all-trades" type of individuals," the respondent said.

Is the grass greener over there?
These Jacks and Janes whose jobs aren't as satisfying as they would like may want to consider going green. With not too much difficulty, professionals can connect with training for green-collar jobs in transportation fuels, home building and remodeling, greenhouse gas and climate change assessment, and renewable energy. Who's going to maintain those liquefied natural gas trucks? Who's going to meet the LEED specs? Who will run the cap-and-trade program or determine the feasibility of wind power in the community? Maybe you.

It's already happening. The National Association of Home Builders, which has developed a Certified Green Professional designation, certified more than 1,000 individuals this summer. On the climate change side is Jonathan E. Schrag, executive director of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. How's that for a title? His work supports the first carbon dioxide cap-and-trade program in the United States. He got the job because he knows the issues and has worked with states in other capacities.

Only 10 percent of salary survey respondents changed employers, and they spent three months or less (55 percent) finding a new position. Of those who said the job search was hard (36 percent), most attributed the difficulty to workforce competition or unacceptable pay and benefits (34 percent each).

An unemployed project manager from Cleveland, Ohio, said that the automotive industry in the Great Lakes area was "decimated" and an "uncertain economy led businesses to freeze hiring."

Another respondent who works as an engineer in manufacturing (Baltimore, Md.) said, "People are looking for deep niche experience, and they are willing to wait until they find it."

A regulatory compliance specialist working in manufacturing said he thought the problem had more to do with compensation. "Most companies are unwilling to pay for experienced workers. There is a shortage of environmental (air quality) specialists in the 10-20 year experience range, but they are unwilling to hire more experienced workers and pay them a little higher." This respondent works in the Philadelphia, Pa. area and said he earns $180,000 a year.

What about tomorrow?
The latest forecast from the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (2006) predicts the fastest employment growth in environmental engineering (25 percent through 2016). Civil engineers should expect 18 percent employment growth for the same period, resulting primarily from the need to improve the nation's infrastructure. Health and safety engineers, except mining safety engineers and inspectors, are projected to experience 10 percent employment growth.

The sentiments of our salary survey respondents are on target: Even the government recognizes the value of training. "It is important for engineers, as it is for workers in other technical and scientific occupations, to continue their education throughout their careers because much of their value to their employer depends on their knowledge of the latest technology," according to the 2008-2009 Occupational Outlook Handbook. "Engineers in high-technology areas … may find that technical knowledge becomes outdated rapidly. By keeping current in their field, engineers are able to deliver the best solutions and greatest value to their employers. Engineers who have not kept current in their field may find themselves at a disadvantage when seeking promotions or during layoffs."

Who answered the salary call?
The 2008 salary survey respondents include managers (28 percent), regulatory compliance specialists (20 percent), engineers (12 percent), project managers (12 percent), and health/safety supervisors (8 percent). Scientists and support staff job titles numbered less than 6 percent each.

Most (41 percent) of the respondents work in manufacturing, followed by consulting firms (25 percent), and government (25 percent). Less than 10 percent of the responses came from those in utility workplaces. Under the category of Other, 226 respondents hailed from oil and gas, academia, and the water and wastewater treatment sectors, as well as banks, laboratories, and treatment, storage, and disposal facilities. These last numbers were too few to use in the final calculations, but we offer a small sampling of the numbers to provide an idea of what these jobs might pay.

Eighty-three percent of respondents have either a bachelor's or master's degree, and a little more than half hold other certifications, such as CHMM, P.E., and P.G.

The bulk of respondents (more than 67 percent) have between 11 to 21 years or more of experience.

Environmental Protection conducted its first salary survey in 1994. The 2008 survey is not scientifically valid. It is an information compilation of reader responses.

In November, look for an article on where to find the training you need at eponline.com.