An energy engineer works on projects designed to reduce energy use or costs. This may include designing, building, evaluating, or remodeling energy systems or energy procurement methods. Like most engineers, those who deal with energy issues need to be able to work as part of a team. Their work hours may vary depending on project deadlines, but most engineers work during regular business hours. They usually work in an office but might travel occasionally to address project or equipment issues on site. PayScale.com lists the median salary of energy engineers as $65,981 per year, as of October 2016. Over the course of this article, we'll take a look at the steps involved in becoming an energy engineer, including the education, work experience, licensure, and advanced training needed for this career.
Career Requirements at a Glance
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree|
|Degree Field||Energy engineering, energy systems engineering, mechanical and energy engineering, or a related engineering field|
|Licensure/Certification||State professional engineer license often required; voluntary certification may be required for some positions|
|Experience||Engineering experience may be required for entry-level positions; 4-6 years' experience in energy engineering for certification/licensure|
|Key Skills||Knowledge of physics, mechanics, construction methods, dynamics, and engineering technology; mathematical, critical thinking, and analytical skills; knowledge of and ability to use CAD drafting software programs, spreadsheet software programs, and analytical programs such as the Trane System Analyzer and EnergySoft EnergyPro; ability to use multimeters, infrared imagers, catalytic combustion analyzers, air velocity and temperature monitors, and heat tracing equipment|
|Median Salary (2016)*||$65,981|
Sources: O*Net OnLine, Monster.com job postings (found in October 2012), *PayScale.com, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Earn a Bachelor's Degree
The first step to becoming an energy engineer involves earning a bachelor's degree. Bachelor's degree programs are available as a Bachelor of Science in Energy Engineering, Bachelor of Science in Mechanical and Energy Engineering, or a bachelor's degree in energy systems engineering. These 4-year programs include classes in chemical science, mechanics, differential equations, renewable energy systems, power electronics, energy systems, and hybrid transportation.
Complete an internship. Some bachelor's degree programs allow students to complete an internship during their studies. These opportunities may provide students with hands-on experience working in the field. They also allow for networking opportunities, which may make it easier to find a job after graduation.
Work as an Engineer
The second step to becoming an energy engineer involves simply working as an engineer. Working as an energy engineer usually requires work experience. However, some employers hire individuals to work as junior engineers. These positions often don't have experience requirements and are available to recent engineering program graduates.
Join the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE). The Association of Energy Engineers offers members networking opportunities, certification programs, and the ability to attend conferences and other meetings related to the field. Joining this association may allow individuals to stay abreast of changes in the field and meet other energy engineering professionals.
Earn a Professional License
The third step to becoming an energy engineer consists of earning a professional engineering license. Many states require that engineers be licensed, regardless of the type of engineering they perform. Usually, becoming licensed requires possessing at least a bachelor's degree from an officially accredited school, having four to six years of work experience, and passing an exam. Many employers only hire licensed applicants.
Work as an Energy Engineer
The fourth step to becoming an energy engineer consists of actually working as an energy engineer. After gaining experience and becoming licensed, individuals are usually eligible for energy engineering positions. Employers of energy engineers often seek individuals who have experience working as an engineer in general or as an energy engineer.
Earn certification. The AEE offers multiple certifications to its members, including the Certified Energy Manager, Certified Energy Auditor, and Certified Energy Procurement Professional. Some employers may prefer candidates who have earned one or more of these certifications.
Consider advanced training. Master's degree programs provide an in-depth education and may lead to career advancement and leadership roles. The curriculum of these programs includes courses in system dynamics, solar system engineering, grid integration of renewables, and bioenergy utilization strategies. Most programs allow students to choose either writing a thesis or completing additional coursework prior to graduation.
In summary, the steps to becoming an energy engineer include earning a bachelor's degree and participating in internships, working as an engineer and joining professional organizations, earning a professional engineering license, and actually working as an energy engineer while earning official certifications and perhaps going back to school for a master's degree.