In the United States alone, there are 70,800 wind turbines listed in the US Wind Turbine Database – and the number’s growing, too! In 2021, the global market size of the wind industry was $55.91 billion with a predicted growth surpassing $102.4 billion by 2030. The sustained interest in wind energy as a renewable energy source is due to its sustainability, among other reasons.
And therein lies an excellent opportunity to establish a successful career in the renewable energy industry! You can obtain an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree to take advantage of the wide variety of occupations that the wind turbine industry offers.
These occupations cover three major phases – manufacturing, project development and operations, and maintenance. Each of these phases has corresponding occupations that require specific occupational education and training.
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Associate Degrees for Wind Turbine Technicians
If you want to work with wind turbines as soon as possible, you may want to consider earning an associate degree first. These are two-year programs with 60 credits, minimum, which qualifies graduates for entry-level jobs as wind turbine service technicians.
Most wind techs learn the technical skills necessary to work on wind turbines in vocational-technical schools and community colleges. These two-year institutions of higher learning are particularly equipped to provide specialized technical training for wind turbine technology.
Note, however, that many wind techs also start their careers with a certificate in wind turbine technology. The typical certificate programs can be completed in a year or less, but their coverage of courses is limited. For another year, you can earn an associate degree, which can be used for direct employment and for pursuing a bachelor’s degree.
Students learn the technical skills in wind turbine installation and maintenance through a combination of classwork, laboratory activities, and on-site training. The technical skills developed include:
- Hydraulic maintenance
- Electrical maintenance
- Mechanical systems
- Braking systems
- Safety protocols, rescue, and CPR training including first aid measures
- Programmable logic control systems
Check out these associate degree programs that prepare students for successful careers as wind techs.
- Des Moines Area Community College – Applied Engineering Technology-Wind Turbine Technologies
- SUNY Clinton Community College – Associate of Applied Science in Wind Energy and Turbine Technology
- Fox Valley Technical College – Associate of Applied Science in Wind Energy Technology
But an associate degree isn’t the be-all and end-all of becoming an effective wind tech! Due to the changing technologies in the wind turbine industry, wind techs must also undergo regular retraining.
Individuals with an associate degree in wind turbine technology will likely also be required to undergo a 12-month of on-the-job training by their employers. The on-the-job training focuses on the specific processes and procedures for the wind turbines that will be serviced and maintained. Many employers also include manufacturer training in their on-the-job training programs.
Earning certifications for specific areas may also be preferred by employers, even with your associate degree and work experience. Common certifications are in offshore wind technology, NFPA 70E Arc Flash Safety, Climb & Rescue, and First Aid/CPR/AED.
Bachelor’s Degrees for Wind Turbine Engineers
Most supervisory and management positions in the wind energy industry require at least a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. Due to the engineering-heavy aspect of wind energy systems, bachelor’s degrees in engineering are the most common.
The four-year bachelor’s can be in any of the branches of engineering but there are also industry-specific bachelor’s degree programs available. You may want to check out these programs offered by the best universities in the United States:
- University of California Berkeley – Bachelor of Science in Energy Engineering
- Pennsylvania State University – Bachelor of Science in Energy Engineering
- University of Nevada Reno – Bachelor of Science in Materials Science and Engineering
- University of Washington – Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering
- University of Michigan – Bachelor of Science in Engineering in Environmental Engineering
- Stanford University – Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering
When considering bachelor’s in engineering programs, regardless of their specialization, be sure to check the university and program accreditation. The best programs are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET), meaning their program of study, curriculum, and other aspects meet the highest academic standards.
Gaining relevant and sufficient work experience in the wind turbine industry is a typical requirement to be eligible for wind turbine engineer jobs. This can be achieved through an internship program, followed by on-the-job training under the auspices of senior wind turbine engineers.
You must constantly develop your knowledge and skills as the wind turbine industry is among the fastest-growing industries, not only in terms of market share but also in technological advancement.
While certification and licensing may not be required to work as wind turbine engineers, these are preferred by most employers as a demonstration of competence and commitment to professional growth. But it must also be emphasized that individuals with bachelor’s in engineering degrees are well-advised to seek licensure or certification in their states.
Becoming a licensed professional engineer starts with passing the Fundamentals of Engineering exam. This is followed by a minimum of four years of relevant work experience. Passing the Professional Engineering exam and complying with other state-mandated licensing requirements folloAw.
You may also want to consider earning professional certification or board certification as a specialist! Consider these options:
- Certified by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers & Scientists (AAEES)
- Certified by the Association of Energy Engineers (AAE)
Most employers in the wind energy industry require engineers to possess a master’s degree in a relevant field aside from their professional license and certifications.