The solar energy industry has such a wide range of occupations available that it attracts professionals with diverse qualifications! Covering the cycle of research and development, manufacturing, sales, installation, operation, and everything in between, it’s among the fastest-growing industries today, too.
Just think of the possibilities for career advancement that will come with earning one of these degrees within the solar energy industry. While it’s true that many jobs in the industry only require a high school diploma and intensive on-the-job training, even an associate degree will boost your career advancement opportunities.
Here are some of the best degrees that you can earn to become competitive in the solar energy industry and their possible applications.
- Chemical Engineering
- Materials Engineering
- Electrical Engineering
- Electronics Engineering
- Industrial Engineering
- Mechanical Engineering
- Civil Engineering
- Software Development or Software Engineering
- Construction Management
- Solar Photovoltaic Installation
- Power Plant Technology
- Engineering Technology
Associates and Bachelor’s in the Solar Energy Industry
Chemical engineers design or develop the processes and equipment for the manufacture of solar energy-related products. Their job also involved planning and testing the manufacturing methods for solar cells, semiconductors, and thin-film panels.
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.
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology BS in Chemical Engineering
- University of California Berkeley BS in Chemical 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.
- California Polytechnic State University BS in Materials Engineering
- Northwestern University BS in Materials Science and 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, electrical engineers design the electrical circuitry and wiring systems for solar panels and their adjunct devices.
- Arizona State University BS in Engineering in Electrical Engineering
- Boston University BS in Electrical 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.
- Southern California Institute of Technology BS Electronic Engineering
- Eastern New Mexico University BS in Electronics Engineering Technology Composite
Professionals with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering are adept at the maximization of complex systems, processes, and organizations through the optimization of the basic factors of production. These factors include people, money, materials, machines, energy and information, thus making industrial engineering integral in the manufacture of solar energy products.
With industrial engineers at the helm, manufacturing operations become more effective and efficient.
- Georgia Institute of Technology BS in Industrial Engineering
- Northeastern University BS in Industrial 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.
- University of Washington BS in Mechanical Engineering
- University of New Orleans BS in Mechanical Engineering
Civil engineers are the best professionals to call for the design, construction, and repair of solar power plants and their related infrastructures. Solar power plants and photovoltaic plants have special requirements, thus, the imperative need for trained civil engineers with specialist knowledge.
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 the development of software to predict weather patterns to troubleshooting issues in computer systems.
- University of Texas Dallas BS in Software Engineering
- Western Governors University BS in Software Development
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.
- Louisiana State University BS in Construction Management
- Indiana State University BS in Construction Management
Solar Photovoltaic Installation
Solar photovoltaic installers are instrumental in the installation and maintenance including repairs and replacements of solar panels 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.
- Arizona Western College AAS in Solar Photovoltaic Installation
- Los Angeles Trade Technical College AS in Renewable Energy Technician: Solar PV Installation and Maintenance
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.
- Bismarck State College AAS in Power Plant Technology
- Flint Hills Technical College AAS in Power Plant 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.
- University of Toledo Bachelor’s in Engineering Technology degree programs
- DeVry University BS in Engineering Technology
- New England Institute of Technology AS in Mechanical Engineering Technology
- Seminole State College of Florida AS in Engineering Technology