Paths to prepare for this job include training programs and certification opportunities that are offered by independent training organizations such as the Building Performance Institute, as well as associate's degree programs in energy management. Engineering- or architecture-related bachelor's degree programs also exist. Online programs are available. Students will explore course topics such as electrical control circuits, green building sustainability, thermodynamics and building design.
Certification is required to work in this field. In order to qualify to sit for a certification examination, candidates must have associate's or bachelor's degrees and significant work experience.
Associate of Applied Science in Energy Management
Energy management associate degree programs prepare graduates to work as mid-level technicians without the duties and responsibilities of a full-fledged engineer. In addition to learning to design, test and solve problems for computerized building systems and environmental controls, students perform building energy efficiency evaluations. Many programs give students experience in energy audits. A high school diploma or GED is generally all that is required for admission to these associate programs. An individual program may focus on an area of energy management that is somewhat unique to that program. Specific energy management coursework may include:
- Analyzing HVAC systems
- Basics of energy management
- Electrical control circuits
- Energy physics
- Green building sustainability
Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering
Employers often require a degree in mechanical or electrical engineering. Mechanical engineering involves the design, manufacture and operation of mechanical systems. Although this can include everything from spacecraft to medical equipment, it can also include the elaborate systems such as those governing the heating and cooling systems. This program has no special requirements beyond a high school diploma or equivalent. In addition to a number of math courses, coursework often includes:
- Analyzing circuits
- Fluid mechanics
- Heat and mass transfer
- Property and structure of materials
Bachelor of Architecture
Bachelor of Architecture degree programs are 4-5 years in length. Today's programs focus on helping students to design environmentally friendly buildings and structures, a specialization known as green architecture. Most architecture programs have several courses in architectural design because it is too vast to cover in a single course. Other courses common to this degree include:
- Choosing systems and materials
- Designing buildings for climate and sound and light environment
- Designing coordinated groups of subsystems
- Methods for communicating design ideas and structures
- Types of structural systems
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Job growth for energy auditors was expected to be 5-9% (which is average) from 2016-2026, according to O*Net Online (www.onetonline.org). The same source also reported there would be an anticipated 104,200 job openings over that decade. In 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a median annual wage of $70,350 for other business operations specialists, which includes energy auditors (www.bls.gov).
Certifications and Licensure
Three primary certification groups define the kinds of training for certified energy auditors, the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE), Building Performance Institute (BPI) and Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET). However, only the AEE defines training for the certification titled Certified Energy Auditor (CEA). Offered by the AEE, the CEA was developed to identify energy auditing professionals with the necessary experience and knowledge to perform competent audits. Candidates taking the CEA exam must first complete either a live or online seminar from the AEE. They must also have verifiable work experience in energy auditing or energy management.
To maintain certification, a training provider must do an annual quality assurance evaluation on one percent of the rater's analyses. Also, every three years the HERS rater must have 18 hours of professional development. RESNET keeps a list of upcoming endorsed continuing education courses.
There are a few educational routes available for certified energy auditor training: bachelor's degree programs in architecture or energy management or associate's degree programs in energy management. A bachelor's or associate's degree is required before sitting for the certification exam offered by the AEE.