Energy engineering is an interdisciplinary field that takes a technical approach to conservation and environmentalism. Students in bachelor's and master's degree programs receive practical training in the field through internships and a thesis or research project. Some bachelor's degree programs may also include online coursework. Graduate certificate programs focus on the study of topics such as electrical power distribution and nuclear engineering.
Bachelor's Degree in Energy Engineering
Students in energy engineering bachelor's degree programs study accounting, design and electronics to learn how to retrofit old buildings with renewable energy technologies. They learn about solar and geothermal power, as well as the environmental impact of carbon, in order to lessen the damage of energy inefficiency in buildings.
Courses train students to audit energy usage, assess energy efficiency and inspect heating and lighting systems to determine potential energy savings. Students also learn to use the knowledge of mechanical and building design to trace airflow, heat transference and implement solutions to minimize energy waste. Some common course topics include:
- Heat and light
Graduate Certificate in Energy Engineering
Energy engineering certificate programs at the graduate level train students to analyze energy consumption, manage projects and design more energy-efficient systems for building projects. Students learn to look at biofuel, photovoltaic cell, wind turbine and geothermal heating options as an alternative to fossil fuels.
Course topics and labs teach how to measure energy usage and evaluate power generation systems by harnessing naturally occurring resources, such as solar power, in order to maximize potential savings. In total, these programs take 12 to 18 months to complete. Fields of study include:
- Electrical power distribution
- Environmental management
- Heat pipes
- Nuclear engineering
- Thermal fluid systems
Master's Degree in Energy Engineering
Students in a two-year master's degree program in energy engineering work to develop and implement technologies to help reduce air pollution, global warming and American dependence on foreign oil. Some schools offer students the option to write a thesis, undertake a research project or complete additional coursework. Students in energy engineering master's programs learn about fuel cells, batteries and fossil-fuel power generation.
Courses teach how to review electrical plans, collect information, analyze energy usage and design system layouts for energy efficiency updates. Coursework includes:
- Heat transfer
- Nuclear reactor physics
- Solar systems engineering
- System dynamics
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the disciplines that primarily focus on energy production and usage include agricultural, chemical and nuclear engineering. Jobs in these fields were expected to see varied growth from 2014-2024. Only 100 new agricultural engineering jobs and 600 chemical engineering jobs are anticipated during this decade. On the other hand, nuclear engineering employment is expected to decline by 700 jobs over this decade.
In May 2015, the BLS reported that agricultural engineers earned $78,490 as an average annual salary. While chemical and nuclear engineers earned median yearly wages of $103,960 and $106,060, respectively.
A bachelor's degree prepares students for work as entry-level energy engineering professionals. Entry-level energy engineering professionals could find employment in the following jobs:
- Applications engineer
- Controls engineer
- Energy modeler
- Power systems analyst
Graduates from master's degree programs find work in the chemical, nuclear and agricultural engineering fields. Possible career options include:
- Design engineer
- Energy auditor
- Energy policy consultant
- Energy systems engineer
- Facilities manager
Continuing Education Information
For graduates interested in careers in academia or research, pursuing a doctoral degree in energy resources engineering could improve career opportunities. Coursework expands upon previously learned knowledge of energy modeling to include elements of uncertainty and economics. Doctoral programs take 3-4 years to finish and usually require a master's degree to enroll.
Programs in energy engineering give students the opportunity to study alternative energy options and the bachelor's degree presents an overview of the field. At the graduate level, master's degree programs provide advanced coursework and research opportunities, while certificate courses focus on the direct applications of renewable technologies.