Which Degrees Help You Work in the Solar Energy Industry?

The solar energy industry is a sector brimming with opportunity as an innovative and growing field. Whether you’re eyeing research, development, or hands-on installation, we guide you through the educational journey to harness the sun’s power. Let’s find out what the best degrees for a solar energy career are to set you up for success to work in the solar energy industry.

Best Degrees for a Solar Energy Career

Two men wearing protective gear, monitoring solar panels

Chemical Engineering

Chemical engineers design or develop the processes and equipment to manufacture solar energy-related products. Their job also involved planning and testing the manufacturing methods for solar cells, semiconductors, and thin-film panels.

Chemical engineers optimize production methods to improve solar cell efficiency and lower costs. They develop new materials and chemistries to advance solar technology, such as more effective photovoltaic absorbers, transparent conductors, and anti-reflective coatings. 

Chemical engineering provides a strong foundation for driving solar innovation through both research and efficient manufacturing processes.

Their knowledge and skills in chemistry enable them to engage in the research and development of new products and processes for the solar energy industry. Here are some of the best chemical engineering schools in the country:

Materials Engineering

New materials have fueled and continue to fuel mankind’s greatest achievements in diverse areas of life, from medicine and agriculture to engineering. This is true for the solar energy industry where new materials improve the efficiency of solar power generation and applications.

Materials engineers work with metals, plastics, and semiconductors, among other existing materials, in creating new materials for solar cells and other products. 

Electrical Engineering

As a distinct engineering discipline, electrical engineering involves the study, development, and application of systems, equipment, and devices that utilize electricity, electromagnetism, and electronics.

In the solar energy industry, people with electrical engineering degrees design the electrical circuitry and wiring systems for solar panels and their adjunct devices. 

Electrical engineers optimize solar systems for maximum electrical power output and efficiency. They develop advanced inverters, transformers, and charge controllers to convert direct current from panels into usable alternating current effectively. 

Electrical engineering skills also aid in modeling solar radiation patterns, forecasting energy production, designing robotic solar tracking equipment, and ensuring safe, reliable system operations. Expertise in electronics and semiconductors equips electrical engineers to advance photovoltaic technologies on both the materials and systems levels.

Technician checking the power supply and quality of one of the solar panels

Electronics Engineering

This is one of the sub-disciplines of electrical engineering, and it’s concerned with smaller devices like consumer electronics.

Electronics engineering covers numerous areas of study, including analog and digital electronics, radio engineering, and solid-state physics, which have wide applications in the solar energy industry. 

Electronics engineers design and optimize solar photovoltaic systems and components at the circuit level. They develop voltage converters, microinverters, sensors, and control electronics leveraging semiconductors, printed circuits, embedded programming, and nanotechnology. 

With expertise in clean energy electronics, automation, instrumentation, and data analysis, electronics engineers create solar innovations from the chips up.

Industrial Engineering

Professionals with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering are adept at maximizing complex systems, processes, and organizations through optimizing the basic factors of production. These factors include people, money, materials, machines, energy, and information, thus making industrial engineering integral in manufacturing solar energy products.

With industrial engineers at the helm, manufacturing operations become more effective and efficient. 

Mechanical Engineering

With its broad coverage, mechanical engineering degrees are among the most sought-after qualifications in the solar energy industry. Mechanical engineers combine mathematics principles, engineering physics, and materials science in the design, development, and operations of mechanical systems.

Their duties cover solar panels and cells, as well as electric generators and pumps in solar power plants. 

Additionally, mechanical engineers design the structures and motion systems that allow solar panels to track the sun’s movement for optimal orientation. They develop concentrated solar power systems with mirrors, lenses, and receivers to collect and convert sunlight into thermal energy. 

Thermal engineering skills enable mechanical engineers to manage heat transfer and energy efficiency challenges in solar facilities. They also assess mechanical wear and lifespans of system components. With this well-rounded expertise, mechanical engineering prepares students for advancing many facets of solar technology.

Solar panels installed on a field outdoors

Civil Engineering

Civil engineers are the best professionals to call for designing, constructing, and repairing solar power plants and their related infrastructures. Solar power plants and photovoltaic plants have special requirements, thus, an imperative need for trained civil engineers with specialist knowledge. 

In addition, civil engineers optimize the layout and structural components of solar installations to withstand weather elements and maximize solar capture. They engineer the foundations, mounting systems, solar tracking equipment, and access roads to facilitate the construction, operation, and maintenance of solar farms. 

Civil engineers also account for the electrical, cooling, and control systems needed to generate power from the sun’s rays and feed it reliably into the grid. With expertise spanning large-scale solar project development, construction methodology, materials science, and infrastructure resilience, civil engineering provides a versatile skillset for solar energy careers.

Software Development or Software Engineering 

The crucial importance of computer programs including dedicated software in the solar energy industry cannot be overemphasized!

This is where software developers and software engineers prove the most valuable, from developing software to predicting weather patterns to troubleshooting issues in computer systems. 

Software engineers code algorithms to precisely track the sun’s path and optimize solar array orientations for maximum energy production. They write programs to monitor performance and detect faults in solar installations. 

Software engineers also develop user-friendly platforms to visualize solar data, analyze lifecycle costs, model future expansion, and simplify system operations for customers.

Construction Management 

Professionals with a degree in construction management have the knowledge and skills to oversee complex solar power plant construction projects.

Their skill set also includes human resource leadership, considering that construction sites have diverse workers, from construction workers and operators to engineers and scientists. 

Construction managers coordinate on-site activities during each phase of solar farm development to ensure timely and on-budget delivery. They schedule staff and resources efficiently while maintaining safety protocols. 

Construction managers also secure permits, manage procurement and equipment logistics, implement quality controls, and integrate the various solar energy systems into a smoothly functioning renewable power plant.

Man wearing protective gear standing on a roof filled with solar panels

Solar Photovoltaic Installation

Solar photovoltaic installers are instrumental in installing and maintaining solar panels, including repairs and replacements in residential and commercial projects.

Their duties include attaching the solar panels, working with hand and power tools, and installing electrical wiring, which requires specialized training. 

PV installers conduct site assessments to determine optimal positioning and specifications for solar array setups. They configure panels for maximum sun exposure, properly ground and mount equipment, connect wiring between arrays and inverters, and test systems for safety and performance. 

With expertise in construction, electronics, and troubleshooting, solar photovoltaic installers translate system designs into functioning renewable energy installations that harness the immense power of the sun.

Power Plant Technology

Power plant operators are responsible for monitoring power generation processes at power plants. Their duties also include monitoring the solar generators and arrays, regulating generator output, and ensuring stable voltage. Their main concern is also about safety, thus, their emphasis is on accurate record-keeping of maintenance records. 

Solar power plant technicians operate and maintain the mechanical equipment, control systems, data infrastructure, and security measures required for renewable energy facilities. They troubleshoot issues with solar collectors, thermal systems, and energy storage as needed. 

Plant technicians also routinely inspect equipment, perform preventative maintenance, and confirm safe operations. With training in power distribution combined with hands-on solar technology exposure, plant technicians play an instrumental role in ensuring solar farms reliably generate electricity from the sun’s radiant energy.

Engineering Technology

Engineering technicians only need an associate degree to enter the engineering field, albeit at entry-level junior positions. Their main duty is to provide assistance to licensed engineers in finding effective solutions for technical problems in the development, production and construction, and maintenance of solar energy systems.

Their CAD skills are also valued because of the industry’s heavy reliance on computer-aided design.

Two men installing solar panels on a house roof

Benefits of a Solar Career

Working in the solar energy industry comes with many rewards beyond just a paycheck. Some key benefits include:

Man installing solar panels on a building

Related Questions

What Is the Best Degree for Solar Panels?

The best degree for a career in solar panels is electrical engineering or electronics engineering. These engineering programs provide the ideal foundation in semiconductors, power systems, and electronic devices that translate directly to designing, testing, and troubleshooting photovoltaic solar panels and systems. 

Other useful majors include physics, materials science, and environmental engineering, but electrical engineering offers the most relevant applied skills for photovoltaics.

What Degree Should You Get to Work in Renewable Energy?

The most direct degree path into the renewable energy industry is environmental engineering or environmental science, which provides broad knowledge on topics like energy policies, sustainability, climate challenges, and the transition to clean power. 

Mechanical and electrical engineering degrees are also excellent preparations for hands-on renewable energy jobs in wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and hydroelectric power generation technologies.

What Careers Are Related to Solar Energy?

Some of the top careers related to solar energy include solar photovoltaic installers, solar sales representatives, solar operations and maintenance technicians, solar engineers, solar equipment manufacturing and supply chain managers, solar finance and business development professionals, solar marketing specialists, sustainability consultants, and solar policy and regulations analysts.


With solar energy production rapidly expanding, the industry needs qualified workers to innovate, design, build, and optimize photovoltaic systems. Workers from diverse educational backgrounds can leverage their skills to propel the solar sector forward – making solar careers both widely accessible and instrumental in paving the way to a clean energy future powered by the sun.

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