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Sustainability specialist

Sustainability specialists work with clients to help them reach and maintain their green building goals related to their buildings, sites, interiors, operations, and communities in which they are situated.

Quick facts: Sustainability specialist
2021 Median Pay $74,670 per year; $35.90 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Number of Jobs, 2021 1,133,000
Job Outlook, 2021-31 4-7% (average)
Employment Change, 2021-31 114,200
Note: Data for Project Management Specialists and Business Operations Specialists, All Other. Source O*Net

Sustainability specialists evaluate a project’s goals and challenges, then advise on a sustainability path that makes sense for the client and the building itself. The recommended strategies a sustainability consultant makes may differ if the client’s goals are, for example, cost-savings or energy efficiency or human health.

Specific job responsibilities vary depending on the organization a sustainability consultant is working for. Responsibilities may include analysis of sustainable and energy-efficient building design and operation, executing LEED or other green rating system certifications, policy development related to sustainable operational practices, project management, and other customized services.

How to become a sustainability specialist

Due to the wide variety of their job responsibilities, there is no “one path” to becoming a sustainability specialist. While sustainability specialists typically must have a bachelor’s degree, there are no formal educational requirements. Common degrees held by sustainability specialists include a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies, earth science, environmental science and sustainability, environmental architecture, and design.

Sustainability specialists should not only have an interest in environmental stewardship, but they should also be analytical thinkers, problem solvers, and excellent communicators. Much like financial or operations analysts, sustainability consultants collect and analyze data, identify needs, and devise strategies to meet those needs. They write reports, make presentations, lead meetings, and launch sustainability initiatives, so they need to be knowledgeable and confident. As such, desired skills include speaking, writing, critical thinking, and verbal communication.

Education and resources

Access courses and resources to learn about green building and sustainability concepts related to sustainability.

Online courses

Stay up to date on the latest developments in green building through access to online courses with an annual subscription to the USGBC course catalog.

Role on a LEED project

LEED is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Available for virtually all building types, LEED provides a framework for healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings. LEED certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement and leadership.

When a sustainability specialist contributes to the pursuit of LEED for a project, typically they work with the building team as project manager, guiding the project team through the LEED certification process. They document most credits with the exception of the credits that may require an engineering background (most Energy and Atmosphere, and some Indoor Environmental Quality credits). Explore the LEED credit library to see the types of credits sustainability specialists work on.

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