The renewable energy industry is booming and full of thousands of vacant jobs ready for the taking. In fact, the single largest expected demand in jobs is more specifically in the solar sector of the renewable energy industry. This has led many high school students, and those just beginning college, to seriously consider tailoring their education to best prepare them for a job in this field. So, what are the top five STEM-related careers in the solar energy industry, what does the job entail, and what annual salary can employees expect to receive?
- Materials Engineer
- Field Service Technician
- Technical Sales of Photovoltaic Systems
- Solar Site Assessor
- Solar Installer
The solar industry is constantly looking for better designs of both modules, as well as inverters and wiring to best convert sunlight into electricity for consumers. To do this, a materials engineer must experiment with new types of materials, as well as existing types of materials in new configuration. As these materials drop in price, they become more cost effective overall, and can be more widely adopted. Most materials engineering positions require at least a bachelor’s degree in materials science or a related field. The average salary of a materials engineer is just over $86,000.
Field Service Technician
A field service technician in the solar industry is responsible for responding to calls about a malfunctioning solar system. The most common issue they will encounter is a malfunctioning inverter, which will either need to be reset or replaced entirely. The demand for this job is growing just as quickly as more solar arrays are completed around the country. Most field service technicians can acquire this job with either a two-year associate’s degree or a certificate program. All technicians should have a strong background in electrical work. The average salary for a field service technician in the solar industry varies by region but can be as high as $62,000.
Technical Sales of Photovoltaic Systems
Selling solar may be complicated as it is a product unlike many others. This means that solar sales associates must acquire training in both marketing and the underlying engineering of the product. A bachelor’s degree in marketing with a minor in either engineering or another science is usually the most sought after, as these employees will need to explain complicated topics in layman’s terms. Most technical sales jobs are located in areas where there is renewable portfolio standard mandating a certain percentage of energy in the state come from renewables. The salary for a technical sales associate can range from $65,000 – $106,000 depending on specific job incentives.
Solar Site Assessor
Before a solar array ever comes online, there needs to be someone who can properly assess if a proposed site or rooftop is an amenable location to solar. They will perform tasks such as site visits and complete computer generated designs of solar arrays, in hopes of giving the client a better idea of what they can expect from a solar system at their location. Most solar site assessors can receive this position with either a certificate in a computer drafting program or a two-year associate’s degree. The average salary for a solar site assessor is around $40,000.
Installers of solar modules have the single highest job growth projection of any career in the United States. It is estimated that the position will grow up to 105% in the next eight years. The job entails traveling to installation sites and properly securing modules on the mounting system, either on the ground or on a rooftop. Most installation jobs require no formal college degree and instead rely on on-the-job training. The average salary for a solar installer is roughly $40,000.