When you turn on a light switch, plug in your toaster and charge your smartphone, you use energy. And all that energy comes from one or a combination of several sources. Historically, those sources were fossil fuels—coal and natural gas. But today, clean and low-emissions energy sources—solar, wind, bioenergy, nuclear, hydroelectric are booming—are booming, thanks to competition and a greater awareness of climate pollution fossil fuels emit.
And not only are U.S. clean tech industries booming, they’re also hiring. According to a recent U.S. Department of Energy report, published in January, clean tech jobs are now accounting for a larger proportion of energy industry jobs than ever before. Of the 1.9 million jobs available in the energy sector, 748,547 are available in clean tech—mainly in solar and wind. The fastest growing occupation in America is wind turbine service technician, a job with a projected growth rate of 108% from 2014 to 2024, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. That’s of all jobs in all industries in the entire country!
Clean tech jobs are accessible to all types of people with all types of education levels. Have you considered a career in the clean tech sector? Here’s what you need to know about some of the fastest-growing jobs:
Wind turbine service technician
Wind turbine service technicians (sometimes called “windtechs”) make a living by installing, maintaining and repairing wind turbines. They work outdoors, in small turbine corridors and way off the ground at the top of turbines (so it’s helpful if you’re not afraid of heights!). Windtechs often work regular full-time hours but sometimes must be on-call for emergencies. The average pay for an entry-level windtech in May 2016 was $52,260.
As previously mentioned, this is the fastest growing career of all jobs in America. That’s pretty huge! And it means you have an extremely high likelihood of being hired if you qualify.
And almost anyone with the desire to learn qualifies as a windtech: a college degree can be helpful but isn’t always necessary. That’s because, while applicants aren’t required to have a formal college education, if hired they will receive long-term on-the-job-training to learn the techniques necessary to carry out their tasks at work. Bring a good attitude and a willingness to learn and you’re likely to get the job!
Solar photovoltaic installer
Solar photovoltaic (PV) installers (also called “PV installers”) are responsible for putting together, installing and maintaining solar panels and solar energy systems on residential and commercial buildings. PV installers travel to job sites where they work mostly outdoors and atop homes. They work typical full-time days but sometimes must be able to work on short-time notice in the case of emergencies. This is a very physically demanding job. In May 2016, the average pay for a PV installer was $39,240.
The job outlook for PV installers, like that of windtechs, is very good. And job applicants with a high school diploma or equivalent can qualify as workers are trained on the job for about a year. Alternately, job applicants can take a course on PV installation in a technical school, community college or apprenticeship program.
Solar energy systems engineers
Solar energy system engineers analyze, evaluate and design energy efficiency and solar energy projects in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors. They must be well versed in the energy requirements of various structures, local climates, solar technology and the science of thermodynamics.
Much of a solar energy systems engineer’s work is done on a computer. However, some of their work is also done in the field, at job sites. Typically, job candidates have a four-year bachelor’s degree in engineering, however, candidates with alternative educations—such as graduate certificates and apprenticeship training—may also qualify.
Solar energy system engineers have one of the highest-paying jobs in the solar energy industry, with an average salary of $97,300 per year. While these jobs are growing, they’re growing slower than average, at just 2-4% a year. So it’s a competitive field, but well worth trying to break into.