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Become a Sustainability Officer: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become a sustainability officer. Research education requirements, training and professional memberships you will need to start a career in professional sustainability.

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Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Chief sustainability officers are top executives who determine how a company or organization can best address issues of environmental sustainability. Specifically, they may be responsible for the creation, development and management of sustainability policies and programs in line with both corporate objectives and environmental regulations. Many top executives begin their careers by earning a bachelor's degree in business-related fields or in fields that support their careers in a specific industry.

Step 2: Develop Work Experience

Having completed an initial educational program, aspiring chief sustainability officers may enter the work force and begin developing relevant business skills and professional reputations. As many corporations now have need for chief sustainability officers, industry knowledge may be a key factor in career growth at this early stage. Alternately, some corporations also have entry-level roles in the sustainability field, and some professionals might choose this as a path for advancement.

Step 3: Secure Advancement with Additional Education

By developing a professional reputation through job success and promotion, employees can move closer to becoming a chief sustainability officer. Additional education may assist in this goal. Both Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree programs and graduate-level sustainability certificate programs may help professionals grow in their careers. Aspiring sustainability offers should also build an understanding management principles and corporate sustainability goals. The ability to apply this knowledge to benefit a business may be necessary for promotion.

For those in the sustainability field or considering entering it, there are a growing number of educational options. Both minor concentrations and certificates are available from some schools, and they cover a wide range of topics relevant to both understanding and promoting sustainability.

Step 4: Obtain Certification and Professional Membership

For those working in the sustainability field, the International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP) provides professional membership. Additionally, the International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP) offers a certificate program for current and aspiring professionals (sustainabilityprofessionals.org). Requirements for this certificate program include a series of workshops delivered monthly, and it may take up to two years to complete.

Step 5: Get the Job

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, top executives, including sustainability officers are projected to see a five percent increase in employment from 2012-2022. The median annual wages for these workers were $101,650 in May 2012.

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