The best qualifications for ESG jobs in finance
Senior ESG fund managers can earn £500k ($666k) in London. In the U.S., private equity funds and hedge funds are paying seven figures for ESG expertise. ESG jobs are growing rapidly: candidates with the right qualifications are reportedly receiving as many as 25 approaches from headhunters each week. - But which qualifications are they?
The CFA Institute's ESG Investing Certificate
Three years ago, CFA Institute launched its own ESG Investing certificate, a one-time, self-study exam, which is easier than the institute’s famous three-level charter. Recognized by the UN Principles for Responsible Investment (UN PRI), the certificate focuses on how to analyze and integrate ESG factors into the investment process. For those less keen on taking the course, the institute also provides a comprehensive 52-page guide.
Certification recognizing technical or scientific knowledge
The demand for ESG expertise is such that candidates who combine finance qualifications with scientific qualifications in fields such as climate change, risk policy and environmental research are also valued.
Qualifications in this category include:
- The CFA Institute's coming Certificate on Climate, with the first exam scheduled for March 2022. Designed to help investment professionals integrate climate change considerations into the investment process, the syllabus includes climate risks, regulation and policy, impact, data and measurement, scenario analysis and private markets.
- The Global Association of Risk Professionals' (GARP) certificate on Sustainability and Climate Risk (SCR). The goal here is to prepare candidates for sustainability and climate risk challenges.
- The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment (SIF) $250 online course on the Fundamentals of Sustainable and Impact Investment, or the $1.3k graduate-level, $1,300 Chartered SRI Counselor designation in partnership with the College for Financial Planning (CSRIC). SFI claims this is the only professional services designation for sustainable investing in the U.S..
Universities have also been quick to fill the education gap: In the U.S., Harvard University offers a $1,920 online course on Sustainability and Impact Investments, among many others; Columbia Business School runs an online, 7-week Certificate in ESG Investing for $2,350; while NY University’s Stern School of Business will offer in April an on-campus, five-day executive progamme on Sustainable Finance and ESG Investing for $4,119.
In the UK, the University of Cambridge runs a number of courses, some short and online, such as Business and Climate Change; amongst others, Oxford offers an MSc in Environmental Change and Management, while the University of Edinburgh has postgraduate degrees in Energy & Climate, and the Environment & Society.
Finally, and as ever, the best credentials often are one’s own: Olivia Albrecht, former head of ESG Business Strategy at PIMCO, told hiring firm Lawson Chase: “Read books; listen to podcasts; go to lectures; and ask lots of questions. And lastly, be willing to add to your workload by incorporating sustainability workstreams. Don’t think of an ESG/impact focused role as either/or. Most of us started by having 2twojobs until the efforts really took off!”
These courses and certificates will give candidates the technical knowledge needed for ESG investment and finance roles. The good news is that because of the deep specialization required, the right expertise will help non-financial candidates access investment jobs.
The ESG job market is indeed buoyant, from demand for basic data and research analysts, to requirements for six figure product strategists who can explain to clients how a firm is integrating ESG factors in its research. ESG Marketing, investment writers and RFP professionals are also in demand, and so are top professionals aiming to become directors of sustainable investment or global heads of sustainability.