What you're worth ... and how to pump up your pay

May 17, 2000
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All EHS pros are not created equal. One holds a Ph.D. and is certified as a safety professional and an industrial hygienist. Another earned his entire safety education on the shop floor, starting fresh out of high school. Both hold the title "environmental health and safety director." But what job titles conceal, salary differences reveal. EHS pay varies wildly, even among folks with the exact same title. Annual salaries range from a low of under $20,000 to a high of over $200,000, according to respondents to Industrial Safety & Hygiene News' 1997 EHS Salary Survey-the profession's only comprehensive compensation report. (We received a 29% response rate from 2,100 ISHN readers surveyed by mail-700 readers were polled from each of three job categories: industrial hygiene, safety, and environmental management). Pay differences, those who've earned their credentials will be glad to know, are mostly linked to experience, certification, and education levels.

Demographic differences

For benchmarking, keep in mind that the average survey respondent is a 44-year-old male with a bachelor's degree who has been with his current employer eight years. He works for a firm of about 850 employees, expects little more than a 3% raise and a $1,800 bonus in 1997-if he gets one at all (56% of respondents get no bonus). He receives an annual salary of $54,400, and works about 47 hours per week. He's satisfied with what he makes and finds his career rewarding. But salaries and satisfaction levels differ by discipline. Safety pros' median income is $48,200, while the salary at the mid-point of what all environmental managers are paid is $51,700, and for industrial hygienists it's $55,400.

Other demographics impact earnings, too. Male professionals average $55,900, females $49,000. By education level, median income for those without a bachelor's degree is $42,800; the median among those holding bachelor's degrees is $50,000; and middle-range income for graduate-degreed pros is $61,800. Years in the field is, not surprisingly, another factor: the median income for a pro with more than 20 years under the belt is $67,600. For newcomers with less than five years experience it's $41,000.

Make more money

Overall, less than one-third of EHS pros surveyed earn $60,000 or more per year. But in some categories the ratio is higher. If statistics are any indication, taking one or more of these steps could increase your odds of making more money: ·
  • Go out on your own. A mere 4% of survey respondents are self-employed, but of those who are, over 60% earn more than $60,000. ·
  • Earn a higher degree. Three-fourths of Ph.D.s earn over $60,000. So do half of pros holding a master's degree. (Only 25% of bachelor's degree holders, 12% of those with a high school degree, and 12% of those with a two-year or technical degree earn that much.) ·
  • Get certified. Of those with a CIH credential, 68% earn $60,000+. Of CSPs, 65% earn that much; same goes for those certified as professional engineers. (But only 25% of certified hazardous materials managers are in the high salary range.) ·
  • Gain experience. 59% of pros over age 60 and 60% with 20+ years experience earn $60,000+. ·
  • Stick around. More than half of respondents say they have less than ten years experience with their current employer. Only 26% of that group earns $60,000+. But 39% of those with more than ten years with one employer earn $60,000+. ·
  • Work for a very small firm, or a very large one. 42% of those employed by a firm of fewer than 50 employees earn $60,000+ (many are likely consultants); 45% of those with an employer of 1,000+ employees earn that much. ·
  • Switch industries. Industries with higher-than-average ratios of $60,000+ earners are high tech (where 57% are in the high income bracket), insurance (55%), chemical (46%), and consultants (44%). ·
  • Move to New England. More high earners live here than any other geographic region-45% earn $60,000+. ·
  • Be a man. 35% of men earn more than $60,000; ony 23% of women do.

Don't think for a minute, however, that making money is what drives most people in this profession. If that were true, then the highest paid group, industrial hygienists, would be the happiest. But as it turns out, their high pay doesn't mean much contrasted with the intangible rewards: safety pros more than the others say theirs is a rewarding career, and environmental pros more than the others say they're "very satisfied" with their compensation.

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