Renewable Energy Engineers


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Engineers in the renewable energy industry need a strong background in science and mathematics. For example, 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.

Other important classes include computer science, computer-aided design, shop, English, and speech. Those interested in management careers should take business and accounting classes. Taking a foreign language is highly useful since a majority of renewable energy companies are located abroad.

Postsecondary Education

Engineers need at least a bachelor’s degree to enter the field. Students typically complete at least one internship as part of their college training. Those who conduct research, manage workers, or teach college classes typically need a graduate-level degree, often a Ph.D. The Interstate Renewable Energy Council offers a database of postsecondary renewable energy training programs at https://irecusa.org/workforce-development/credentials-qa/credential-holders. The U.S. Department of Energy provides a list of programs at https://www.energy.gov/eere/education/education-homepage. The following paragraphs provide more information on educational paths in each renewable energy subdiscipline. 

Most wind engineers have a bachelor of science in an engineering specialty, such as electrical, civil, environmental, industrial, materials, or mechanical engineering. Many companies prefer to hire engineers with master of science degrees, so those who pursue advanced degrees may have better odds of securing work. Engineers also receive extensive on-the-job training. More information about wind energy technology and educational programs can be found at  https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/wind-energy-technologies-office.

Most solar engineers have a bachelor of science degree in an engineering specialty, such as electrical, civil, mechanical, or chemical engineering.

Hydropower engineers usually have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in renewable energy engineering or in their particular discipline such as civil, electrical, or mechanical engineering.

Geothermal engineers usually have bachelor’s degrees in their particular specialty (such as mechanical or civil engineering).

Bioenergy/biofuels engineers may have a bachelor’s or advanced degree in electrical, electronics, industrial, mechanical, or even civil engineering.

Fuel cell engineers typically have bachelor’s degrees in chemical, electrical, industrial, materials, or mechanical engineering, along with extensive course work in fuel cell technology. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy provides a good resource for exploring careers and education in this field: https://www.energy.gov/eere/education/explore-careers-fuel-cell-technologies.


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

Continuing education (CE) opportunities are provided by many professional associations. For example, the American Wind Energy Association offers educational sessions at its annual conference that cover technical, scientific, and business issues. The Geothermal Resources Council offers workshops and seminars at its annual meeting and trade show. Topics include drilling, economics, the environmental aspects of geothermal activity, financing, geochemistry, geology, geophysics, heat pumps, legal aspects, management, non-electric uses, and reservoir engineering. The Renewable Fuels Association provides CE opportunities at its National Ethanol Conference.

The American Society for Engineering Education offers continuing education opportunities for engineers via its annual conference and other events. The National Society of Professional Engineers provides webinars for student members of the society. Past webinars included "Career Success in Engineering: A Guide for Students and New Professionals," "Ethics and Professionalism for Students and Young Engineers," "How to Get Your First Job," and "Engineering Your Career with a High Quality Social Network Web Seminar." The Society of Women Engineers offers conference sessions, webinars, and other education resources on topics such as leadership, career development, and special issues for women in engineering. 

Other organizations that offer continuing education classes, webinars, conference workshops, and other opportunities include the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, American Solar Energy Society, Association of Energy Engineers, Canadian Hydropower Association, Fuel Cell & Hydrogen Energy Association, International Hydropower Association, Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Midwest Renewable Energy Association, National Hydropower Association, National Society of Professional Engineers, SAE International, Society of Women Engineers, Solar Electric Power Association, Solar Energy Industries Association, and The Solar Foundation.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

The Association of Energy Engineers provides certification in a variety of specialties. SME offers certification to manufacturing engineers. 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.

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 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 usually is 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, https://www.ncees.org.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Take as many math and science classes as possible and participate in internships and other experiential opportunities to gain experience in the field.

Students who are interested in becoming renewable energy engineers should enjoy solving problems, developing logical plans, and designing things. They should have a strong interest and ability in science and mathematics, as well as knowledge of renewable energy technologies. Engineers often work on projects in teams, so prospective engineers should be able to work well both alone and with others. Other important traits include strong communication skills and an interest in continuing to learn throughout their careers.