Education and Training Requirements
Take classes in math (e.g., algebra, calculus, geometry), science, natural science, communications, and computers. Engineering schools tend to favor students who have taken advanced placement and honors classes, so do your best to pursue course work at this high level.
Most solar engineers have a bachelor of science in an engineering specialty, such as electrical, civil, mechanical, or chemical engineering. Engineering programs typically include mathematics, physical and life sciences, and computer or laboratory courses. Classes in social sciences or humanities are usually required as well. Many companies prefer to hire engineers with master of science degrees, so those who pursue advanced degrees may have better odds of securing work. Be sure to attend an engineering program that has been accredited by ABET (https://www.abet.org).
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 offered by many professional associations. For example, the Solar Electric Power Alliance offers webinars, a solar conference, and solar procurement workshops. Past webinars included "Predicting Solar Power Production"; "Solar, Storage and Demand Response"; and "Concentrating Solar Power: Technologies, Storage and the New Era of Projects."
Other organizations that offer professional development classes, webinars, conference workshops, and other opportunities include the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, American Solar Energy Society, Association of Energy Engineers, Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Midwest Renewable Energy Association, National Society of Professional Engineers, SAE International, Society of Women Engineers, Solar Energy Industries Association, and The Solar Foundation.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (https://www.sme.org/training/certifications) offers certification to manufacturing engineers. The Association of Energy Engineers (https://www.aeecenter.org/certifications) also offers certification in a variety of specialties. Contact these organizations for more information.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia require engineers who offer their services to the public to be licensed as professional engineers (PEs). To be designated as a PE, engineers must have a degree from an engineering program accredited by ABET, four years of relevant work experience, and successfully complete the state examination.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Take as many math and science classes as possible and participate in internships to gain experience in the field.
A passion for solving problems is a key characteristic of all engineers, and particularly of those who work on renewable energy projects. Solar engineers team up with a wide variety of people—from management, fellow engineers, designers, and construction professionals, to developers, clients, investors, and more—so it's essential to have strong communication skills, a flexible attitude, and the ability to get along well with others.