The solar industry is thriving, delivering more job opportunities to professionals with various interests, and skillsets. The number of solar jobs throughout the U.S. has increased by more than double in the last five years, and career options show no signs of slowing down.
As an innovative trade, solar energy offers a range of attractive jobs for aspiring professionals, ranging from design, engineering, and installation, to marketing, sales, and strategy. Solar also demands talent from a scientific perspective too, as research institutes, governments, and universities across the globe invest more resources into the advancement of existing technology, the discovery of new technologies, and the procurement of greater benefits in the field of renewable energy.
So how do you choose which career best applies to your skills, and more importantly – how do you get started with your chosen occupation?
Becoming a Solar Technician
The growing demand for solar energy solutions across the United States has prompted a need for experts who understand how to install maintain and fix solar systems when necessary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for solar technicians is about 24%, thanks to a decrease in the costs of panels for residential properties, and an increase in government incentives.
Step 1: Understand What a Solar Technician Does
Besides installing solar panels, a solar technician may also manage the operation, and maintenance requirements of those panels, as well as dealing with assembling, repair work, and more. Because they are required to act quickly on a number of advanced systems, solar technicians must have extensive knowledge of the industry, but they can often gain the majority of their training on the job, as they learn how to read schematics, adjust their work to local code regulations, and understand the current requirements for the circuits of a solar powered system.
Step 2: Supplement Your Education
Although it is possible to begin a career as a solar technician without a college degree, a history in mechanics, construction, or electrician work can be particularly useful. Usually, the amount of experience you have can dictate your level of hourly pay as a technician, and official certification can further increase your income.
Step 3: Become an Engineer
Also known as alternative energy engineers, solar engineers are similar to technicians, these are the experts that work in manufacturing, and designing solar panels, with the help of solar researchers. Unlike solar technicians, solar engineers are usually required to hold a bachelor’s degree in electrical or mechanical engineering. Engineers responsible for providing public services must acquire state licensure as a professional engineer.
Becoming a Solar Researcher
As innovative as solar energy may be, it’s always possible to improve upon the technology using data gleaned from scientific study, and experimentation. Recently, the development of new materials has allowed solar panels to become more lightweight, while remaining strong enough to function in harsh environmental circumstances.
1. Learn Your Responsibilities
Solar researchers often spend the majority of their time working in a lab with other experts, running experiments that uncover important information such methods for developing solar cells, and what effect conditions have on those cells. Some researchers also attend international conferences to share their ideas with other professionals, and publish lectures designed to help emerging solar students.
2. Obtain Your Doctoral Degree
The high level of scientific knowledge required in solar research means that a doctoral degree is necessary for a career in this field. Whether your doctorate is in physics, chemistry, or material science, you will use your knowledge to perform tests, data analysis, and extensive examinations into the future of solar power.
Becoming a Solar Salesperson
Finally, just like any other industry, solar power requires marketing expertise to be successful. The commercial aspect of solar power includes everything from finding ways to boost sales at a corporate level, to supply chain management, marketing strategy, accounting, operations, and more.
Step 1: Build Your Knowledge in Sales
If you plan to pursue a career in solar sales, you’ll need to build your people skills, expand your understanding of the finances associated with solar, and use your creativity to develop marketing and advertising solutions that help your company stand out. To some degree, these are skills learned through experience, but a business or marketing degree may prove useful too.
Step 2: Find a Specialty
It’s also possible to specialize within a particular area of sales, depending on your level of experience, and education. For instance, a bachelor’s degree in digital marketing or digital media could lead to a career in digital marketing and SEO, while a degree in marketing or advertising may be better suited to direct mail, paid media and television advertising.