Renewable energy engineers work to increase the energy production of clean energy sources like wind and solar power. They need a bachelor's degree in mechanical, electrical or chemical engineering as well as certification from a state licensing board.
Renewable energy engineers focus their efforts on developing new means for energy extraction and designing energy-efficient machinery. The sector for green jobs is continually growing, so students getting a degree in this field can expect to see a lot of job opportunities after graduation. In order to thrive in this career, students must have an aptitude for math and science. Students can get their degree in different areas to become one of these professionals, such as in electrical, chemical and mechanical engineering. Some schools also offer renewable energy engineering degrees as a minor. There are great internship opportunities available that provide interactive work experiences.
|Education Requirements||Bachelor's degree|
|Other Requirements||Licensure required|
|Job Growth (2014-24)*||5% (for mechanical engineers)|
|Median Salary (2016)**||$68,445 (for energy engineers who work with renewable energy)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **PayScale.com
Renewable Energy Engineers Job Information
Renewable energy engineers are part of the growing sector of green jobs that involve environmentally conscious production. These individuals maximize the energy potential of clean energy sources including wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower. Renewable energy engineers monitor and develop alternative energy outputs. They may pursue different careers paths such as consultants and researchers.
Similar to other engineering fields, renewable energy engineers must have an aptitude for math and science. They need to be able to apply these principles to solving problems and communicate their proposals effectively. Renewable energy engineers may alternate time between the office and a worksite. On the job, they may interact with other professionals including equipment installers and construction workers.
According to Payscale.com in September 2016, the national median annual salary for energy engineers working in renewable energy was $68,445. Employment opportunities for all mechanical engineers are expected to grow 5% between 2014 and 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
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The employment opportunities for renewable energy engineers can be dictated by several factors. According to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, developing the supply lines and facilities for renewable energy is expensive and requires government subsidies. Some forms of energy are only available in the certain regions while others may be expensive to convert or require the assembly of large machines, which can draw complaints from local communities.
Renewable energy production is growing which will lead to increased job opportunities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), wind energy is the fastest-growing source of energy and could contribute 20% of the nation's electricity by 2030. Solar and hydropower are making less significant contributions but also have potential for growth.
Prospective renewable energy engineers can choose from different engineering programs including mechanical, electrical and chemical. These programs have requirements outside the core curricula that include sequences in calculus and physics or chemistry. For the engineering curricula, the capstone requirement is typically a senior design project that allows students to apply the principles they've learned toward an original concept. While in school, many students perform cooperative internships that provide work experience.
While renewable energy engineering is not offered as an accredited program, some schools offer a renewable energy minor. These minors include coursework in electrical energy conversion, energy economics and renewable energy policy. Other schools may offer an alternative energy track or certificate programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Students may consider engineering programs accredited by ABET, Inc., formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. According to ABET, many state licensing boards require applicants to hold a degree from an accredited school while employers, certification boards and graduate schools may prefer it. Accreditation signifies that a program is preparing students to meet the professional standards of engineering.
While there are multiple career paths available for those interested in becoming renewable energy engineers, a bachelor's degree is often necessary for entry-level positions. Candidates are also required to become licensed through a state licensing board. The more education that potential energy engineers possess, the better their job prospects will be.