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Sustainability Specialists

At a Glance

  • Have strong communication skills
  • Promote environmental awareness
  • Work with businesses and schools
  • Usually work indoors but sometimes work outside
  • Have at least an associate degree

Career summary

Sustainability specialists promote responsible ways to manage resources like water and energy.

Sustainability specialists look at how businesses, schools, or other organizations use resources such as water and energy. They look for ways to save money for organizations by utilizing principles of sustainability. They develop organizational sustainability plans and help organizations meet the goals of their sustainability plan.

Sustainability specialists meet with managers, business leaders, and employees to learn about their concerns. They assess the organizations impact on the environment. For example, they may look at a factory's waste management system and how much material is recycled. They may also look at how a company educates the public about their sustainability practices.

A sustainability plan may contain one or more of the following goals:

To implement plans, sustainability specialists work with other managers to find out what equipment is required, how work can be done differently, and how to train employees. They help put together budgets and may write proposals to funding agencies or other investors.

They check the progress made towards the goals of the plan. They measure use of energy, the rate of recycling, or an increased use of public transportation. They keep records of progress and make adjustments when necessary.

Specialists communicate sustainability plans by writing reports, and talking with employees and members of the public. They also work with leaders from different organizations to improve cooperation on sustainability goals.

Related careers

This career is part of the Business Management and Administration cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to sustainability specialists.

Common work activities

Sustainability specialists perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, sustainability specialists:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Sustainability specialists frequently:

It is important for sustainability specialists to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for sustainability specialists to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Sustainability specialists need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a sustainability specialist, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Most people prepare for this occupation by getting an associate or bachelor's degree in sustainability. This prepares you to work with the various organizations needed to reduce the environmental impact of human activity. As an undergraduate you study environmental politics, energy analysis, and sustainable practices.

English courses are helpful for writing research and technical reports. Take business courses to learn how to coordinate project management goals and tasks. Algebra and statistics courses can help you solve mathematical problems.

Work experience

Experience working with administration, project management, and public outreach is good background for this occupation.

On-the-job training

It is common for newly hired sustainability specialists to receive some on-the-job training. This varies by employer. Each organization will have its own unique way of approaching sustainability issues.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum (external link) may be different from your state's graduation requirements (external link).

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups (PDF file) that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Employers look for applicants who have at least an associate degree. They look for analysts that have strong oral and written communication skills. They also look for applicants that can solve problems and work well on a team. Specialists who have certificates in green building practice are attractive to many employers.


Currently, there is no specific statewide wage information available for sustainability specialists. However, this occupation is part of the larger group called "all other business operations specialists."

Business operations specialists, all other (SOC 13-1199)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $20.55 $26.87 $34.98 $45.85 $57.91
Monthly $3,561 $4,657 $6,062 $7,946 $10,036
Yearly $42,750 $55,900 $72,750 $95,370 $120,460
    Bellingham Hourly $19.58 $24.49 $29.94 $37.02 $46.81
Monthly $3,393 $4,244 $5,189 $6,416 $8,112
Yearly $40,736 $50,932 $62,282 $77,019 $97,356
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $23.08 $32.08 $40.30 $47.85 $54.23
Monthly $4,000 $5,559 $6,984 $8,292 $9,398
Yearly $47,995 $66,719 $83,812 $99,523 $112,805
    Clarkston-Lewiston Hourly $18.25 $20.68 $23.80 $30.58 $42.74
Monthly $3,163 $3,584 $4,125 $5,300 $7,407
Yearly $37,959 $43,027 $49,505 $63,609 $88,905
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $20.16 $27.73 $40.49 $54.95 $65.84
Monthly $3,494 $4,806 $7,017 $9,523 $11,410
Yearly $41,934 $57,669 $84,220 $114,311 $136,956
    Longview Hourly $19.71 $23.64 $33.82 $41.20 $52.94
Monthly $3,416 $4,097 $5,861 $7,140 $9,175
Yearly $41,001 $49,170 $70,344 $85,711 $110,103
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly $17.16 $22.32 $29.61 $39.54 $49.22
Monthly $2,974 $3,868 $5,131 $6,852 $8,530
Yearly $35,677 $46,429 $61,602 $82,244 $102,362
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $19.10 $25.25 $31.47 $39.77 $50.26
Monthly $3,310 $4,376 $5,454 $6,892 $8,710
Yearly $39,735 $52,525 $65,445 $82,705 $104,524
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $21.78 $28.01 $36.29 $47.50 $60.29
Monthly $3,774 $4,854 $6,289 $8,232 $10,448
Yearly $45,308 $58,265 $75,484 $98,801 $125,391
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $16.89 $23.65 $31.89 $42.44 $54.24
Monthly $2,927 $4,099 $5,527 $7,355 $9,400
Yearly $35,134 $49,196 $66,316 $88,275 $112,830
    Vancouver Hourly $20.27 $25.37 $33.60 $44.04 $56.85
Monthly $3,513 $4,397 $5,823 $7,632 $9,852
Yearly $42,156 $52,769 $69,885 $91,591 $118,240
    Walla Walla Hourly $22.15 $31.41 $39.00 $46.75 $55.59
Monthly $3,839 $5,443 $6,759 $8,102 $9,634
Yearly $46,081 $65,328 $81,129 $97,227 $115,625
    Wenatchee Hourly $19.15 $22.74 $29.45 $38.84 $47.96
Monthly $3,319 $3,941 $5,104 $6,731 $8,311
Yearly $39,847 $47,298 $61,258 $80,793 $99,770
    Yakima Hourly $19.21 $24.11 $28.85 $35.96 $43.23
Monthly $3,329 $4,178 $5,000 $6,232 $7,492
Yearly $39,949 $50,143 $59,996 $74,794 $89,927
United States Hourly $18.47 $25.09 $33.91 $45.62 $59.13
Monthly $3,201 $4,348 $5,877 $7,906 $10,247
Yearly $38,420 $52,200 $70,530 $94,890 $123,000

Wages vary widely depending on the specialist's skill level, experience, and level of education. Wages also vary by area of the country and by employer.

Benefits also vary. Most full-time sustainability specialists receive typical benefits. These include paid vacation, sick leave, and health insurance.

National wage information is not available specifically for sustainability specialists. However, they are part of the larger group of "all other business operations specialists."

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

#Currently, there is no specific statewide outlook information available for sustainability specialists. However, this occupation is part of the larger group called "all other business operations specialists."

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Business Operations Specialists, All Other (SOC 13-1199)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 38,236 17.3% 16.1% 5,034
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 504 16.9% 13.4% 66
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 815 8.8% 8.6% 90
    Benton and Franklin Counties 1,089 12.7% 15.0% 131
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 1,915 7.5% 11.9% 207
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 1,633 15.6% 15.2% 207
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 1,265 18.8% 14.1% 171
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 1,589 17.9% 14.6% 212
    King County 21,277 20.8% 19.6% 2,981
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 622 15.1% 13.8% 78
    Pierce County 2,996 14.2% 15.2% 370
    Snohomish County 2,669 9.2% 12.4% 298
    Spokane County 1,894 14.3% 13.9% 235
United States 1,135,700 6.3% 5.2% 119,600

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand will grow quickly for this occupation as more businesses attempt to reduce waste and pollution. Demand may be limited by government budgets.

Job prospects are best for those with training and experience.

Employment and outlook information is not available specifically for sustainability specialists. However, they are part of the larger group of "all other business operations specialists."

Other resources

Alliance to Save Energy (external link)
American Geophysical Union (external link)
2000 Florida Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20009
Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (external link)
2401 Walnut St, Suite 102
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (external link)
4420 West Lincoln Way
Ames, IA 50014
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy information (external link)
(US Department of Energy)
Environmental Career Center (external link)
P.O. Box 3387
Hampton, Virginia 23663
Environmental Council of the States (external link)
1250 H Street NW, Suite 850
Washington, DC 20005
Environmental Protection Agency (external link)
Park Place Building
1200 - 6th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

Holland occupational cluster