Online degree programs in alternative energy are available at the bachelor's and master's degree levels. Possible careers in alternative energy include electrical engineering and operations management. These programs are rare at the bachelor's level. Master's programs are available fully online and in hybrid formats. Some master's programs require in-person discussions a few days per month. Electrical and electronics engineers typically need a minimum of a bachelor's degree, and generally need a professional engineer's license for increased career prospects. Operations managers generally need a minimum of a bachelor's degree combined with extensive work experience, but requirements vary by employer. Operations managers at large companies may need master's degrees.
Bachelor's Degree - Renewable Energy
An online bachelor's degree in renewable energy is available to students who want to incorporate sustainable business and lifestyle practices into a wide variety of fields. Graduates of this program are equipped with a wide range of cross-disciplinary skills that include mathematics, science, engineering, research, business, teamwork and communication. Degree programs in renewable energy are still new, and consequently, rarely available to be completed entirely online.
Program Information and Requirements
Online bachelor's degree programs in renewable energy are generally 120 credit hours in length and can be completed in four years. Though it is possible to find this program available entirely online, it is more common to find individual online courses in renewable and sustainable energy offered through an on-campus degree program. Students can select online courses to be completed individually, or in an online group setting, where peers and professors communicate through discussion boards.
Students must have access to a computer with a high-speed Internet connection. Some courses contain streaming video that requires a computer to have audio and video capabilities. A printer is necessary for students to create copies of their study material.
Fundamentals in Renewable Energy
This course introduces students to the practices and external influences involved in sustainable energy. Concepts in this course include solar energy, hydrogen power, wind power, fuel-cells, biofuels, hydroelectricity and wave power. Students also study the economic, environmental, social and political parameters that influence renewable energy practices.
Weatherization and Energy Efficiency
Students in this course explore the fundamentals of weatherization for structures and the techniques used to maximize energy in buildings. Students learn to monitor a building's energy usage and improve its energy efficiency.
A course in green building introduces students to the fundamental concepts of sustainable building materials, design and construction. Students study practices used for both institutional and residential buildings. This course also recognizes green building concepts from a LEED certification perspective.
Master's Degree - Alternative Energy
Online master's degree programs related to alternative energy include a Master of Business Administration in Global Energy Management, Master of Business Administration in Managing for Sustainability and Master of Science in Global Energy Management. These programs are all similar in that they focus on the use of conventional energy sources and the future use of alternative, sustainable energy.
Students learn how these new power sources are developed, financed and regulated. The program provides students with advanced training in current and future sustainability concepts, as well as developing marketing plans and policies for the implementation of these concepts. Students must have an undergraduate degree in business or related degree prior to enrolling in these programs.
Program Information and Requirements
These master's degree programs are available entirely online, as well as in a hybrid format. Some programs require the student to meet on campus a few days a month to discuss current problems the alternative energy industry is facing. Classes are often administered using a software platform called eCollege. Students use this platform to communicate with teachers, take tests, watch videos and submit papers. Textbooks and other physical material required can be obtained on campus or mailed to the student.
This course covers the various technologies that are used to power automobiles, generate electricity and provide heat. Topics include solar energy, biofuels, geothermal systems and wind power. Students learn how to assess each alternative energy source's economic and environmental impact and risk.
The course on sustainability examines the social, political, business and economic impact of sustaining alternative energy. The course focuses on the core impact that the development of these alternative, sustainable energy sources have had on society. Students also gain an understanding of the facts and prospective problems that these energy sources are facing.
Sustainable Modes of Transportation
Transportation systems are analyzed in this course, and students gain an understanding of how to improve the current systems. Environmental policies and the controlling of emissions and water pollution are all examined. Students study the different alternative fuel sources in order to determine the economic and environmental impact.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) cites the mean annual wage for electrical engineers at $97,340 as of May 2015. The BLS projects job growth will show little or no change for electrical engineers from 2014-2024.
Graduates of a master's degree program can gain upper-level employment as business managers with a company pursuing sustainable alternative fuel sources. According to the BLS, general and operations managers held 2,145,140 jobs in the United States (www.bls.gov) in 2015. The average annual wage among general and operations managers was $119,460. In addition to private business, employment can also be gained through the government, though individuals may make slightly less per year.
Continuing Education Information
Students can continue their education and pursue a Ph.D. in Energy Resources Engineering, which may not be available online. This degree offers graduates an opportunity to teach at the university level or perform research.
Students interested in online programs in alternative energy can look into a bachelor's in renewable energy or a master's in alternative energy. These programs are available online, though some programs require some on-campus discussion groups.