Energy conservation programs are available under a number of different names, including renewable energy/energy efficiency, renewable energy technologies, and renewable energy engineering. Students in these programs can learn the fundamentals of solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and other energy systems. They can also study methods of energy analysis, industrial procedures and social responsibility to prepare them for career in sustainable energy.
Undergraduate certificate programs in this field are designed to prepare schools for installing and fixing renewable energy devices and can be completed in a year or less. Renewable energy associate degree programs also prepare students for installation and repair jobs, but may include additional courses in areas like energy management, hydraulics and energy analysis; general education courses are also required. Renewable energy bachelor's degree programs may include courses related to the engineering or design of renewable energy systems or equipment.
Certificate in Renewable Energy
Certificate programs can help students understand the technical aspects of installing, maintaining and repairing various renewable energy devices. Programs can last up to a year, and graduates are prepared to find entry-level work or advance in their current careers. Some schools allow students to register for courses while still in high school, but others require a high school diploma or GED for admission.
Courses can teach students about the mechanics of green technology and how renewable energy works. Classes that students may take are:
- Sustainable energy
- Global warming
- Electrical power
- Smart grid
- Solar and wind power
- Biodiesel fuel
Associate Degree in Renewable Energy
Programs can include lectures about physics, earth systems, energy theory and renewable energy systems such as solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, biofuels and wind. Students can learn how to install and maintain these systems and provide lessons on necessary skills like industrial safety and technical thinking. Students will also learn about different roles in this burgeoning field of study, such as those of the technology producers, energy managers and labor workforce.
A high school diploma or equivalent credential is typically required for entry into an associate degree program in renewable energy. Admission may partly depend on high school coursework or test scores in math and science.
The majority of required courses are based in science and math. The curriculum can involve laboratories so students can become acquainted with working in a variety of renewable energy systems. Courses will likely combine lecture and hand-on experiments. Students may enroll in courses like:
- Renewable resources
- Energy analysis
- Hydraulic systems and heating systems
- Industrial safety
Bachelor of Science in Renewable Energy
There are few bachelor's degree programs in renewable energy, but it is probable that program creation will increase in the future as demands for energy conservation and efficiency swell. A bachelor's degree curriculum requires students to become proficient in many areas, including chemistry, mathematics, critical thinking, experiment design, data analysis and communication. Programs offer many hands-on opportunities in designing, engineering and applying renewable energy systems. Students in these programs are trained to utilize their creativity, independence, professionalism and leadership skills to guide and enact energy transitions throughout society.
Because renewable energy is a relatively new degree program at universities, students may need to hold an A.A.S. in renewable energy prior to being accepted into a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Renewable Energy degree program. At a minimum, applicants must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent credential.
Students will be required to take general education courses to ensure that they are capable in mathematics, science, communication and other necessary topics. The majority of classes will focus on understanding and implementing energy technologies, and students will likely take classes such as:
- Energy conservation and efficiency
- Bioenergy and nuclear energy
- Power conversion
- Renewable energy applications
Popular Careers Options
Individuals who hold certificates in renewable energy can find entry-level employment in the energy industry. Professionals who already hold degrees or jobs in sustainable energy may take on new responsibilities or receive promotions. Some possible job positions are:
- Green construction laborer
- Energy technician
- Maintenance technician
- Systems installer
- Energy consultant
The training that students receive through an associate degree program in renewable energy can prepare them for entry-level careers in energy systems installation and maintenance. Graduates can find careers working with energy systems like:
- Wind turbines
- Geothermal energy
A variety of job opportunities exist for graduates with a bachelor's degree in renewable energy because demand for the skills that they possess is rapidly growing. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in May 2015 that the median annual salary of environmental engineers was $88,040 (www.bls.gov).
Students who have earned a bachelor's degree can be qualified to enroll in professional or graduate certificate programs in renewable energy. These programs could help individuals gain experience or education in the field in order to gain employment, or could help currently employed students advance in their careers.
Students who earn either a certificate or degree in energy conservation will learn about topics related to energy conservation and the technology that is used to support it in their studies. Upon graduation, graduates can go on and earn positions such as energy technician, systems installer, and energy consultant.