The solar industry has been booming and with it there have been a myriad of career paths opening in solar. The solar job market is expanding, and the Bureau of Labor statistics cited a 22% increase in photovoltaic installer jobs alone from 2022 to 2023. With such an expansive job market, new solar careers are opening up everywhere. Here, we’ll look at some career paths for people who want to be involved in solar.
The Solar Industry is Growing
The solar industry has been skyrocketing in popularity. From 2021 to 2022 alone, the residential solar market grew by 40%. Not only that, but solar is available in all 50 states, with many of them offering rebates and other incentives for households that want to get solar.
This rise in solar popularity isn’t just a short-term trend; converting to solar now is more important than ever. With our climate facing dangerous changes, we need to find ways to rely on energy that isn’t derived from fossil fuels. Solar is one of the best forms of renewable energy. It’s significantly better for the environment, highly efficient, and accessible to the majority of homeowners. The solar industry’s growth isn’t going away any time soon, and with it has come many opportunities for new solar careers. We’ll go over some of the best career options if you’re interested in getting involved in solar energy.
Solar Installation and Maintenance
Solar installation and maintenance jobs are the heart of solar energy; they’re the ones who get the systems up and running and keep them working as intended.
Solar PV Installer
A solar PV installer is a fairly straightforward job description. Solar PV installers are responsible for setting up solar systems. They are familiar with system layouts and have the tools and skills to install your solar panels. During installation they’re responsible for properly mounting the panels on your roof, connecting them to proper wiring, and ensuring that your system is set up to connect to the grid and power your home at the same time.
Most solar PV installers are well educated through a trade school and they often go through training before becoming full-fledged installers. This means that installers have extensive background knowledge in their field and are well-equipped to handle any type of system install. Generally, solar PV installers will work closely with the household or business they are installing panels on.
Electricians are responsible for handling the electrical side of solar panel installation. These team members focus on the wiring and, most importantly, battery storage systems. Most solar systems are paired with battery storage to ensure that households with solar can stay powered during grid outages. Electricians are responsible for installing and performing maintenance on these systems.
Becoming a licensed Journeyman Electrician has a few extra steps to ensure that you are qualified to be working with battery storage and other electrical systems. Once you have your Journeyman license, opportunities open up for you in the solar field.
Solar Design and Engineering
Designing solar panels is often done by engineers. The solar industry has a need for qualified engineers to ensure that the panels we use are the most efficient and affordable as possible.
Solar Engineers help design solar panel systems as well as battery storage systems. Solar Engineers survey sites or use drone data to create optimal solar designs for commercial or residential application. They are keenly aware of the ins and outs of a solar PV system, as well as the electrical building codes in various communities. Solar Engineers often have a background in electrical engineering (or other engineering field), or another solar-related field.
Material engineers are responsible for the materials used to create solar panels. This means they work closely with semiconductors, metals, plastics, glass, and composites. Their goal is to create new materials that can be used in future solar panels. They are focused on finding or even creating materials that can improve the efficiency and sustainability of solar panels. Material engineers often have a background in engineering, materials science, or a related field.
Chemical engineers focus on the chemistry behind solar panels and their energy production. They have a strong background with semiconductors and organic chemistry. Most solar panels are produced with semiconductors, but some newer panels are made out of organic materials. Chemical engineers often plan, test, and supervise the production of solar panels. They understand the chemical processes behind converting sunlight to energy and focus on making those processes more efficient. Chemical engineers often have a strong background in both chemistry and engineering, but a background in computer software engineering is often helpful as well.
Mechanical engineers focus on the machines behind solar panel production. Solar panel manufacturing is a very automated process, which means the industry relies heavily on machinery to do the heavy lifting during the manufacturing. Mechanical engineers are focused on ensuring that these machines are functioning properly. They perform maintenance on machines that are actively in use and perform research to create more efficient machinery as well.
It is important to note that many engineering jobs in the solar industry not only require a bachelor’s degree, but additional training as well. The solar industry is specialized and it is necessary for solar engineers to fully understand the panels they’re designing. Many solar engineers will learn through internships and close supervision before they earn greater independence in their field.
Solar Sales and Marketing
The solar industry requires a lot of scientific knowledge, but there are plenty of alternative careers in the solar industry that don’t require such a strong scientific background.
Solar Sales Consultant
Solar companies are always looking for customers who want to go solar. Solar sales consultants are needed everywhere. As a solar sales consultant, you will work with customers and encourage them to start their solar journey. You’ll be expected to walk potential customers through the solar process, discuss solar quotes, help customers finance their solar panels, and generally be in charge of the communication between your solar team and your customers.
Solar sales consultants are expected to have substantial knowledge of the solar industry and strong communication skills. They need to be able to answer questions quickly and with accuracy to ensure that their customers can get the best understanding of their future solar systems as possible. On top of that, they need to stay up to date on solar news and development to ensure they can convey to customers the best solar solutions.
Solar Marketing Specialist
Solar marketing goes hand in hand with solar sales. Solar marketing teams are integral to solar companies to find new potential customers. Many people can be skeptical of solar and its benefits, so it’s the marketing’s team’s job to make people aware of the benefits of solar and how much it can do for households and businesses in America.
Solar marketing teams often handle events, social media, websites, search engine optimization, and more. Their focus is ensuring that their company is easily accessible and that people can access information about solar when they want or need to. Often it is the marketing team that will interact with customers before they become customers. Solar marketing teams also need to stay on top of the latest solar news. When something new happens in the solar world, the marketers are often the first to report about it and get the news out.
Solar Operations Roles
Solar Permitting Specialist
In order to construct a solar system, solar permitting specialists are needed to secure building, construction, and electrical permits from towns and utility companies. Solar permitting specialists also work with utility companies to “turn on” or energize solar systems once they’re built, ensuring proper grid interconnection. Solar permitting specialists often have backgrounds in local government, energy and utilities, urban planning, or similar.
Solar Customer Service Representative
Customer service is there to fulfill the customer’s needs. They make sure all of the customer’s questions are answered and ensure they receive the proper service they are looking for. Custom service representatives also often answer incoming phone calls, emails, and more. Customer service should also have a strong understanding of solar systems and the industry as a whole to best assist customers.
Solar Project Manager
Solar project managers help bring a project to fruition from start to finish. They work alongside engineers and solar designers, permitting specialists, and even the sales team to get projects built on time and up to company standards. They communicate heavily with the customer (homeowner, business, or entity) to get the customer’s project off the ground.
Get Involved in the Solar Industry Today
If you’re interested in working in solar, one of the best steps you can take is to stay up to date on what’s going on in the solar world. You can find a career in solar with nearly any background, so if you’re interested, start looking now. If you’re looking to join our team, check out our Solar Careers page to see if any of our available roles are a good fit for you!