Renewable Energy Careers


Education and Training Requirements

High School

For many jobs in the renewable energy industry, it pays to have a strong background in science and mathematics. For example, earth science, agriculture, and biology classes will be useful if you plan to work in the hydropower industry researching the effects of a new hydropower project on the surrounding vegetation and animal life. Mathematics, earth science, and chemistry classes will be helpful if you plan to work in the geothermal energy industry identifying and harvesting possible sources of geothermal energy from within the earth. Physics classes will be helpful if you plan to work in the wind industry designing windmills and turbine engines to capture and convert wind energy into electricity, or "green" buildings and homes of the future.

You need not be technically gifted in science and math in order to succeed in the renewable energy industry. Computer classes are useful for workers who run design programs, organize research, and maintain basic office records. Finance, accounting, communications, and English classes will be helpful to anyone who is interested in working in the business end of the industry. Taking a foreign language is highly useful since a majority of renewable energy companies are located abroad.

Postsecondary Training

Most technical jobs in this industry require at least an associate's or bachelor's degree. Courses of study range from environmental science and mathematics to architecture and meteorology. Many people who are employed in the research and development or technical departments of their respective renewable sub-industry have bachelor's or master's degrees in electrical, chemical, or mechanical engineering. Some scientists have graduate degrees in engineering or the sciences (such as biology, physics, or chemistry).

A growing number of colleges offer classes, certificates, and degrees in renewable energy, including Georgia Tech, Purdue University, the University of California (at both Davis and Irvine), and the University of Wisconsin.

Visit the following Web sites for lists of programs: and

Four-year degrees in liberal arts, business, or other professional degrees are not required, but are recommended for many non-technical jobs. For example, a community affairs representative or public relations specialist should have a communications or journalism background.


Certificate programs in renewable energy are provided by colleges and universities, professional associations (such as the Midwest Renewable Energy Association), and private organizations (such as National Solar Trainers). Contact these providers for more information.

Other Education or Training

The Renewable Fuels Association offers continuing education opportunities (CE) at its National Ethanol Conference. The Geothermal Resources Council offers workshops and seminars at its annual meeting and trade show. Topics include drilling, economics, environmental aspects of geothermal activity, financing, geochemistry, geology, geophysics, heat pumps, legal aspects, management, non-electric uses, and reservoir engineering. Many other professional associations (such as the American Solar Energy Society, American Wind Energy Association, and the National Hydropower Association) provide CE classes, webinars, and conferences in their particular specialty.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

The Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) offers certification in nearly 25 specialties. To be considered for certification, a candidate must meet eligibility standards such as a minimum of three years of relevant work experience and membership in a professional organization. Most programs consist of classroom work and an examination.

Certification and licensing requirements for other jobs in the renewable industry will vary according to the position. Solar panel installers must be certified in order to work on most projects, especially government contracts. Different associations offer certification needs and continuing education training. For example, the Midwest Renewable Energy Association offers certification for those working with photovoltaics. Other organizations that offer certification include the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners and the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies.

Contractors in the solar industry must apply for certification to ensure their structures are sound and to industry standards. Check the industry trade associations for specifics on project certification.

Most states require engineers to be licensed. There are two levels of licensing for engineers. Professional engineers (PEs) have graduated from an accredited engineering curriculum, have four years of engineering experience, and have passed a written exam. Engineering graduates need not wait until they have four years of experience, however, to start the licensure process. Those who pass the Fundamentals of Engineering examination after graduating are called engineers in training (EIT) or engineer interns (EI). The EIT certification is usually valid for 10 years. After acquiring suitable work experience, EITs can take the second examination, the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam, to gain full PE licensure. For more information on licensing and examination requirements, visit the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying’s Web site,

Electricians may require licensure depending on the requirements of their job, as well as the industry sector for which they are employed. All states and the District of Columbia require that architects be licensed before contracting to provide architectural services in that particular state. Though many work in the field without licensure, only licensed architects are required to take legal responsibility for all work.

Truck drivers must meet federal requirements and any requirements established by the state where they are based. All drivers must obtain a state commercial driver's license. Truck drivers involved in interstate commerce must meet requirements of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Any experience—such as an internship or volunteer opportunity—that you can obtain working at a renewable energy-related employer will be useful preparation for the field. One of the best ways to gain experience in the field is to participate in an internship while in college. This will help you to to explore career paths, learn about your industry, and make valuable networking contacts. These contacts will come in handy when you are looking for a job.

It's not absolutely necessary to be a technical genius to do well in this industry. Some of the technical side can be learned while on the job. However, it is important to have an interest in environmental issues.

Teamwork is important within all sectors of renewable energy. The ability to work with large groups of people, with varying backgrounds and technical knowledge, is a must. Other important traits include strong organizational and communication skills, as well as an interest in continuing to learn throughout one’s career.