Environmental consultants salary survey 2005: How much should you be earning?

The constant evolution of environmental law and regulations means there are a growing number of companies turning to consultancies for advice. But while the sector is doubtless growing, how well are the consultants and their colleagues being rewarded for their expertise? This survey provides the answers.

The edie.net and Environment Business magazine 2005 consultancy survey provides reams of valuable data on reputation, how clients choose a consultant and which firms were the biggest in people's perception and reality - all extremely useful for the companies.

But the burning question for those employed with them is more personal - how much should I be getting paid and how does my salary compare with the competition's?

As might be expected, experience and qualifications were the two factors with the greatest impact on pay, but the influence of each varied widely, depending upon the role within the business.

A detailed breakdown of who gets paid what - including charts showing how earnings in each position vary according to qualifications and experience - can be found here: The in-depth analysis. This is available to edie+ subscribers only click here to subscribe from £5.

Qualifications

In some positions academia and professional qualifications clinched the prime pay packet, while in others it was good old-fashioned experience and a proven track record that carried weight.

Compared with national averages, consultancy seems to be a good, but not exceptional, line of work to be in.

According to Government statistics the average (median) salary in the UK was just shy of £22,000 in April '04.

Wages in London were far above the average at £28,132 and there were large variations regionally, from £23,350 in the South East to £19,350 in Northern Ireland.

Nationally, science and technical professionals were earning £31,500 on average while corporate managers could expect an average of £33,500.

Working in the public sector was more profitable than the private sector and stood to earn you an extra £2,340 on your salary.

So how does this compare with the situation in environmental consultancies?

Well, the overall average salary of respondents to the survey was approaching £30,000, putting them well above the national average.

In terms of pay within the categories, directors received the greatest remuneration with the average pay packet between £45,0000 and £50,000.

Senior management came next with salaries averaging between £40,000 and £50,000.

Senior consultants received £30,000 to £35,000 on average while the average marketing staff and those from the catch-all 'others' category are getting between £25,000 and £30,000.

Junior consultants and scientists are being paid around the national average, the norm being between £20,000 and £25,000 while only technicians are receiving a worse-than-average wage, getting from £15,000 to £20,000 on average.

Candidate's market

Stuart Pillans, a recruitment consultant for employment agency Monarch, told edie the industry was crying out for experienced staff to plug the skills gap.

"We find it's a candidate's market out there," he said.

"There just aren't the people for the opportunities, and that has been the case for a good number of years.

He said the influx of an increasing number of people coming into the profession was unlikely to tip the balance in favour of the employer for many years to come.

"There are more and more people coming in, but the successful companies are growing at a faster rate than people are joining the industry," said Mr Pillans.

Asked what the most employable candidate in the sector would look like, Mr Pillans said: "Consultancies are looking for anyone with a bit of experience under their belt, maybe three to six years, and there is a real shortage of these people."

Things are harder for graduates who must compete for limited entry-level positions, he said, but the good news is there are several things they can do to improve their chances in the world of work.

"We often have to point them in the direction of graduate training schemes within consultancies, it's really just a way of getting your foot in the door," said Mr Pillans.

He pointed out that all experience was good experience and could be the key selling point that would distinguish one graduate from the crowd.

Improved chances

He recommended a sandwich year in the industry if possible, and a summer internship certainly looks better on the CV than holidays spent working in Dixons to pay off the student loan.

"It can stand you in a whole lot better stead," said Mr Pillans.

When looking at wages the pay packets in the environmental consultancy sector compare favourably with the national average, but the plain facts are that they are not on a par with those in similar professions, said the recruitment consultant.

"In terms of salaries and how it compares with the likes of civil and construction engineering it is significantly lower paid," he said.

"Companies can charge more for hiring out the services of civil engineers and I'm afraid that's reflected in the wages these guys get."

And it was not the case that civil engineers were generally better qualified than their cousins in consultancy.

Academically strong

"This industry [environmental consultancy] is academically strong with an MSc pretty much the bench mark for people at entry level," he told edie.

"That's not necessarily the case for civil or structural engineering where it's fairly easy to find work with a straightforward BEng.

"There's a further disparity between consultancies too, which makes it hard to quantify what kind of salary you're going to get.

"A job at one place might pay £22,000 or £23,000 when the same job elsewhere might pay £25,000 to £26,000."

In conclusion, Mr Pillans said the financial rewards for environmental consultancy were fairly good but were usually not the main motive for people entering the industry.

"As a rule of thumb people who study for an environmentally-related degree have a passion for what they're doing," he said.

"They tend to do it because they want to help the environment."

A detailed breakdown of who gets paid what - including charts showing how earnings in each position vary according to qualifications and experience - can be found here: The in-depth analysis. This is available to edie+ subscribers only click here to subscribe from £5.

Sponsored by:

Entec - www.entecuk.com

JSM Associates - www.jsm-associates.co.uk

Martin Summers & Associates - www.msaltd.uk.com

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