Bachelor's in Sustainability

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Careers in Renewable Energy: Pathways Toward Sustainability

Renewable power provides many benefits to the energy sector. As the industry grows and the U.S. Department of Energy develops a broader understanding of renewable energy’s advantages, more jobs become available in the field. Research regarding energy security and renewable sources of power is advancing, allowing the U.S. to work toward a future that both meets our energy needs and protects our environment.

Two wind turbine technicians survey a wind farm as the sun sets.

Renewable energy is power that comes from sources that are not depleted when used, such as wind and sunlight. Renewable energy, also called “clean energy,” leads to fewer carbon emissions and less pollution than nonrenewable energy. While renewable energy is far from a new concept, modern technology and a better understanding of nature’s power sources have led to a broad range of exciting new careers in renewable energy.

Renewable energy careers are becoming increasingly essential in terms of sustainability, and they have a positive impact on both the environment and the economy. For those interested in protecting natural resources, jobs in renewable energy can be particularly rewarding as they offer innovative approaches to improving environmental sustainability. Individuals interested in exploring renewable energy career paths should consider pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Sustainability.

What does a career in renewable energy entail?

Renewable energy career options have evolved and grown over the past several years, and clean energy continues to be one of the fastest-growing sectors in the U.S. economy. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, 6.4 million people are employed in the traditional energy and energy efficiency industries in the U.S. As communities integrate renewable energy into their infrastructure, jobs are becoming available across the country.

Anything that relates to clean energy derived from natural sources is considered renewable. Careers in renewable energy include those in solar, wind, hydroelectric, biomass, geothermal, and tidal power generation, with a wide variety of employment paths. Professionals in the field design and manufacture energy-efficient buildings, build and repair electric vehicles, develop bioenergy strategies, and much more.

Types of careers in renewable energy

These five careers are some of the fastest-growing options for people interested in working in renewable energy:

1. Solar Installer

Solar installation is one of the fastest-growing careers in the country. The average projected job growth rate across all careers is 4% between 2019 and 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), while solar installers’ projected job growth rate during that period is 51%. These professionals work in teams to install solar photovoltaic systems on a variety of sites. They install solar modules and panels based on the structure of homes and buildings and make sure the systems comply with regulations and standards. They also conduct maintenance.

The annual median salary of solar installers was $44,890 in 2019, according to the BLS. Individuals with a bachelor’s degree in a field such as sustainability may advance to supervisory positions, such as solar installation manager, and can earn higher salaries.

2. Wind Turbine Technician

Wind turbine technician is another of the fastest-growing careers in the country, with the BLS projecting jobs to grow by 61% between 2019 and 2029, more than 15 times the average projected growth rate of the labor market as a whole. Wind turbine technicians conduct regular maintenance of wind turbine towers, troubleshoot problems with mechanical systems, and collect data for research. Skills relating to communication, physical strength, troubleshooting, attention to detail, and mechanical knowledge are crucial for this role.

The annual median salary of wind turbine technicians was $52,910 as of 2019, according to the BLS. Supervisory positions such as wind energy operations managers or wind energy project managers usually require a bachelor’s degree in the field.

3. Construction Manager

While not all construction careers are careers in renewable energy, construction managers may be involved in the development of alternative power plants or the construction of sustainable building projects. The job description of a construction manager can vary according to the project, but generally speaking they coordinate and supervise building projects from beginning to end. They create budgets, hire subcontractors, work alongside other construction specialists and engineers, ensure projects comply with legal regulations, and implement safety codes. Some essential skills related to the role are decision-making, time management, leadership, analytical thinking, and technical proficiency.

Workers in construction usually need a bachelor’s degree and experience in the field to advance into a management position. The field is expected to grow 8% between 2019 and 2029, according to the BLS, and the annual median salary for construction managers was $95,260 as of 2019.

4. Electrical Engineer

Electrical engineers work in a range of alternative energy fields including hydroelectric plant operations, solar panel development, and electric vehicle development. The growth of alternative energy technologies and the need to upgrade the U.S. power grid is driving demand for electrical engineers. The median annual salary for electrical engineers was $98,530 in 2019, according to the BLS, and jobs are projected to grow by 3% between 2019 and 2029. Most positions require a bachelor’s degree, and a master’s allows individuals to become more competitive in the field.

5. Biochemist

Biochemists work to develop alternative fuels, or biofuels, that are potential renewable energy sources. They may also work on new ways to clean up chemical spills or otherwise protect the environment. Biochemists had a median salary of $94,490 in 2019, and jobs are predicted to increase by 4% between 2019 and 2029, according to the BLS. Many positions require an advanced degree, but some entry-level jobs are available for bachelor’s degree holders.

Explore renewable energy career paths

Harnessing natural resources such as the sun to channel energy is nothing new. However, a variety of innovative clean energy jobs are growing in importance as technologies advance. As well as a positive job outlook and challenging work, careers in renewable energy offer a number of benefits, including playing an active role in positively impacting the environment.

If you are interested in becoming a renewable energy professional, explore how an online Bachelor of Science in Sustainability degree can help you pursue your professional goals. Maryville University offers courses such as Climate Science, Ecosystem Studies, Sustainable Agriculture, Environmental Law and Policy, and Issues in Sustainability Design that provide the foundation for exciting work at the forefront of responsible energy. Learn how we can help you pursue a career in renewable energy today.

Recommended Reading

Careers in Sustainability with a Bachelor of Science Degree

Examining the Importance of Environmental Ethics

What Is a Degree in Sustainability?

Sources

Business Insider, “21 High-Demand Careers for People Who Want to Save the Planet — and Also Have Job Security”

Energy.gov, “Explore Clean Energy Careers”

Natural Resources Defense Council, “Renewable Energy: The Clean Facts”

O*Net, “Solar Energy Installation Managers”

O*Net, “Wind Energy Operations Managers”

O*Net, “Wind Energy Project Managers”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Biochemists and Biophysicists”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Careers in Biofuels”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Careers in Electric Vehicles”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Careers in Solar Power” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Construction Managers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Electrical and Electronics Engineers”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Fastest Growing Occupations”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Solar Photovoltaic Installers”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Wind Turbine Technicians”