Sustainable energy programs are available at community colleges, 4-year colleges and universities at the associate's, bachelor's, and master's degree levels. In general, these are technology- and engineering-based programs that cover modern concepts related to such alternative forms of energy as solar and hydroelectric power.
Associate's programs often include lecture-based classes, equipment lab sessions and internships, preparing graduates for work as sustainable energy technicians or assistants. Bachelor's and master's programs in sustainable engineering focus more on the design of sustainable energy systems, with master's programs being considerably more research-intensive than bachelor's programs. Graduates of these programs are typically qualified for work as engineers or engineering consultants.
Associate of Science in Sustainable Energy Technology
This 2-year program engages students in mathematics and science principles that apply directly to energy conservation. The students learn about wind turbines, solar panels, biofuels and other alternative energy sources and the modes by which they can be integrated into today's energy systems. In addition, students participate in internships at existing sustainable energy facilities.
This degree program requires the applicant to hold a high school diploma or equivalent. A background in math and science and a passion for conservation and sustainability are helpful. The curriculum emphasizes working with equipment in a hands-on fashion while effectively applying acquired communication, math and science skills in order to work with existing professionals right after graduation. Common courses may include:
- Wind energy
- Biodiesel energy
- CAD (computer-aided drafting)
- Alternative energy applications
- Hybrid electric systems
Bachelor of Science in Renewable Energy Engineering
Students in this four-year bachelor's program gain an understanding of green building techniques, biofuels, alternative energy systems and renewable energy. Students gain practical knowledge of electrical and mechanical engineering, and they learn how such engineering concepts apply to renewable and sustainable energy. Studies on fuel cells and geothermal energy are also incorporated into the program.
Students must hold a high school diploma or equivalent, and it is recommended that enrolling students have good math skills and a basic understanding of science. This program's goal is to give the student an understanding of mechanical and electrical engineering by incorporating math, chemistry and physics into the curriculum. Here are a few course topics one might expect:
- Electromechanical energy conversion
- Solar energy systems
- Geothermal energy
- Renewable energy transportation systems
- Energy-efficient building design
Master's Degrees in Sustainable Energy Engineering
This multidisciplinary, two-year degree program incorporates research from different departments of engineering, including nuclear, chemical, systems and mechanical engineering. Students learn about energy conservation, environmental risks, solar energy, alternative fuel cells and other technology surrounding the sustainable and alternative energy fields.
Enrolling students must hold a minimum of a bachelor's degree with a GPA of 3.0 or better. They need to have an understanding of thermodynamics, heat transfer and differential equations through an engineering program or related field. This program consists of core courses in alternative energy sources, systems, reliability and nuclear engineering, along with electives. Common courses one might take:
- Renewable energy applications
- Solar thermal energy applications
- Wind energy engineering
- Nuclear engineering
- Energy systems management
- Fuel cells and batteries
Popular Career Options
Graduates of Associate of Science in Sustainable Energy Technology degree program have a wide range of opportunities within the industry, due to the broad curriculum within the field. Jobs from hands-on work in maintenance and equipment construction to office-oriented positions in green investment and energy auditing are attainable upon completion. Here are a few jobs one might get:
- Wind farm technician
- Energy auditor
- Maintenance electrician
- Commercial installer
Upon completion of the Bachelor of Science in renewable Energy Engineering program, students can become energy auditors, renewable energy system integrators, manufacturing engineers, renewable energy system designers and field engineers. Such professionals work in the following fields:
- Civil engineering
According to the California Center for Sustainable Energy (energycenter.org), jobs related to sustainable energy grew by over twice the rate of all other jobs between 1998 and 2007. Here are a few sustainable energy engineering careers one might enter upon completion of the Master's in Sustainable Energy Engineering program:
- Nuclear engineer
- Systems engineer
- Reliability engineer
- Mechanical engineer
Continuing Education Information
Upon completion of this program, a student can elect to pursue a doctoral degree in his or her respective field of engineering. Many specialized doctoral degree programs in sustainable energy are available.
Sustainable energy degree programs can be sought at the associate's, bachelor's, and master's levels. Depending on areas of interest, graduates can pursue careers in fields such as wind energy, agriculture, nuclear engineering, and more.