1. "LEED" was the most REQUIRED certification

LEED certification was the most common certification required in sustainability-titled job qualifications with 20% of jobs requiring applicants to have LEED expertise.  According to a 2015 survey of 48 Fortune 200 companies by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC): “80 percent agree that LEED is a key way their company communicates sustainability efforts to stakeholders.”  Overseen by the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED certification can be applied to new construction of a building as well as buildings that undergo renovations.  LEED certified buildings are designed to “save money and resources and have a positive impact on the health of occupants, while promoting renewable, clean energy” according to the USGBC.  LEED projects have been undertaken in 150 countries on an estimated 69,000 commercial buildings and 181,000 residential units. 

2.  the number of jobs with sustainability in the Title and Description fluctuated significantly during the year

Jobs with the word “sustainability” in the title as well as jobs with the word “sustainability” in the description were monitored weekly from November 2015 to November 2016 on Indeed.com.  Although there was significant fluctuation during the year, sustainability-described positions experienced a slow decline through October and finished down 1.4% YTD.  Sustainability-titled positions as of November 2016 were down 5.96%. However, there has been a recent boom in the first part of 2017. 

3.  Hiring is seasonal 

 Hiring is at it's peak in the Spring and early Summer.  Notice the sharp drop off in the fall and increase in number of sustainability jobs over the spring months. This coincides with hiring for summer internships; however, the increase in spring jobs also occurs for full time positions.  Sustainability-titled positions peaked on May 25th with 330 and bottomed out at 222 on August 10th.

4. Higher salaried positions remained stable

Salaries for jobs with sustainability in the title have an even distribution across income ranges.  Salaries for sustainability-titled positions were also collected from November 2015 to November 2016 and recorded in four tiers: $30,000+, $50,000+, $70,000+ and $90,000+.  The number of jobs paying above $90,000 were unaffected during the downturn from May 25th to August 10th.  These jobs decreased 2% whereas $30k, $50k, and $70k jobs declined 33%, 26%, and 35% respectively.  

5. 59% of jobs required a bachelor’s degree

In a sample of 150 sustainability-titled jobs, word-frequency analysis revealed that 59% explicitly required a bachelor's degree; however, this number might be low given that a college education is required but not explicitly stated for some jobs.  Within the 59% that required a bachelor's degree, 35% required a bachelor's in engineering.  This likely relates to point #7.  

6. 24% of jobs required a master’s degree

There are not many graduate-level programs that offer specific degrees in sustainability.  Many programs evolved existing environmental science/natural resource management programs to encompass themes of sustainability.  However, the largest academic graduate program specific to sustainability is Arizona State University's Global Institute of Sustainability.  ASU is located in Tempe, Arizona.  Check out this map from Google Trends that shows the number of searches related to sustainability by city for an idea of ASU's relevance.

7. “Environmental”, "Energy”, and “Data” were the three most frequent task-related words found in job descriptions

Word frequency analysis was conducted on both responsibilities and the qualifications in job descriptions to identify common skills required for sustainability jobs.  If you have expertise in any of these competencies, consider emphasizing that expertise when applying to sustainability jobs.  

8.  The Top seven cities Were:

The top cities for sustainability-titled jobs were recorded weekly and averaged over the research period.  New York City, Washington D.C., Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta and Los Angeles were the top seven cities in order.  These are raw totals, not per capita, so it’s no surprise the list includes larger job markets such as New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.  


9. Confusion remains around the definition of sustainability

Have you ever taken a class in Sustainability?  One of the first tasks in such a class is to formulate your own definition for sustainability since a singular definition lacks consensus.  The top Google search queries related to Sustainability were analyzed in 2016.  Two of the top four include "What is sustainability" and "Sustainability definition".  Look for this confusion to clear up in the coming years if sustainability is going to stabilize as a stand-alone profession.  

10.  Sustainability searches in Google are cyclical and remain flat over the past five years

The number of searches for the word “sustainability” relative to total overall searches in Google from November 2015 to November 2016 were identified in Google Trends.  The dip during December could be attributed to students taking off over winter break; however, working professionals also take time off during the holidays.  Therefore, a better indicator is the prolonged dip during the summer months in June and July. 

The cyclical nature of sustainability searches has remained fairly consistent over the past five years.

Did you find this information interesting?  View the latest data and gain additional insights into the sustainability job market with the latest version of the report.  

2017 Report


Updated data from 2016 through April 2017 and new insights from sustainability professionals on LinkedIn