Campus sustainability positions growing

New, first-time campus sustainability positions increased.

campus-sustainabilityPositions and offices within the field of campus sustainability continue to grow and evolve, according to the 2015 Salaries & Status of Sustainability Staff in Higher Education report from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

The report presents results of a recent Higher Education Sustainability Staffing Survey and attempts to increase understanding of the continuously growing career field of sustainability in higher education.

Notable findings from the 2015 report include:
• Since 2012, 87 respondents indicated that they entered into new, first-time positions in campus sustainability, with a significant spike in 2012. This demonstrates the continued growth of the campus sustainability profession since the last spike occurred in 2008.
• Respondents holding their positions for six years or more increased from 12 percent in 2012 to 23 percent in 2015, demonstrating that sustainability officers are becoming seasoned sustainability professionals in higher education.
• The number of respondents supervising paid or unpaid workers increased from 83 percent in 2012 to 88 percent in 2015, indicating increasing responsibility of sustainability professionals.
• The rate of institutions with at least one office, center or institute with “sustainability” in its name has increased from 71 percent in 2012 to 76 percent in 2015, indicating that sustainability is a growing priority in higher education.
• There is an overall trend toward slightly higher median salaries in 2015 as compared to 2012 that suggests growing experience among sustainability staff.
• Funding for sustainability through student sustainability fees or green funds increased from 4 percent in 2012 to 9 percent in 2015, which is indicative of growing student interest in addressing sustainability challenges.
• The gender wage gap shrank between 2012 and 2015, with female respondents earning 93 cents to the dollar in 2015 compared to 88 cents to the dollar in 2012.
• Respondents were more diverse in race and ethnicity, with minority respondents increasing from 8 percent in 2012 to 10 percent in 2015.
• Consistent with the growth in sustainability-focused academic programs, more sustainability officers are completing degrees in sustainability studies or science, with 91 such respondents in 2015, compared to 61 in 2012.

Conducted approximately every two years since 2008, AASHE’s sustainability staffing survey examines the nature of sustainability positions at colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, providing insights into salaries, funding, supervision, job satisfaction, challenges and more.
Responses to the 2015 49-question survey were collected from individuals with both broad responsibility for campus sustainability as well as those that focused on a particular area of sustainability (e.g., energy, recycling & waste, curriculum, communications & outreach).

For more information about the survey or publication, please email

Material from a press release was used in this report.

Laura Ascione