The effects of climate change are becoming more prevalent – from severe incidents like deathly wildfires and catastrophic flooding to more subtle effects such as changes in the nutritional quality of our foods.
Now more than ever, the future of our planet depends on people who are dedicated to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing our access to clean water, and keeping our planet from warming two degrees.
If you’re looking for a rewarding career where you can help create a brighter future, renewable energy is a path worth exploring. With the right education, training and tools, you can prepare for a lucrative career in the fight against climate change.
A Booming Renewable Energy Industry
While jobs in the solar industry took a dive in 2018, down 3.2 percent from the year prior thanks largely to the Trump Administration’s tariffs on solar imports, renewable energy jobs as a whole are soaring. According to E2’s Clean Energy Jobs America 2019 report, at the end of last year, more than 508,480 Americans worked in the renewable energy sector. Solar was still the largest segment, employing nearly 335,000 Americans. Wind power was second highest with over 111,100, followed by bioenergy and combined heat and power (CHP) at 42,200.
As for the future, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that non-hydroelectric renewable power like solar and wind will be the fastest-growing source of electricity generation in America for at least this year and 2020. The administration expects these renewable resources to jump three percentage points, from 10% in 2018 to 13% by 2020. Fossil fuel generation is predicted to decline 2 percent this year, and show minimal growth in 2020.
Across the globe, the renewable energy sector may employ as much as 24 million people by 2030, according to the most recent report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). In addition, the report revealed that renewables will add roughly 19 trillion to the global economy by 2050.
What Degrees Are a Good Fit for Renewable Energy?
There are a number of degrees that provide a pathway to a lucrative career in renewable energy. For example, a degree in chemistry or biology encourages students to study life on a molecular and chemical level, which prepares them for research as it relates to alternative energy.
The business-oriented sustainability degrees prepare students for careers in an array of environmental sectors, from clean energy to conservation to green building design.
Engineering degrees also offer abundant opportunities in the renewable energy sector. For example, mechanical, electrical and environmental engineering degrees can lead to jobs designing and improving alternative energy systems.
If you know you want to get into renewable energy from the start of college, you can attend a university that offers specialized alternative energy programs. Both prestigious universities and smaller colleges offer sustainability-focused degrees – everything from an associate’s degree to a Ph.D. Check out the Top 8 Renewable Energy Colleges You Didn’t Know About.
How to Get Experience
If you haven’t worked in renewable energy before, there are a few different ways to get experience. You could enroll for hands-on training – for example, the Colorado-based Solar Energy International (SEI) offers solar workshops to prepare students for real-world solar PV and solar thermal. The Northwest Renewable Energy Institute (NWREI) in Vancouver offers training in wind energy, and enables students to become certified wind turbine technicians in as little as six months.
Another way to get experience is through volunteering. There are a number of organizations in different renewable energy specialties in which you can devote your time and learn on-the-job skills. For example, Grid Alternatives is an organization in which volunteers help install solar panels on low-income housing.
Internships also offer college students or recent graduates the opportunity to put their education to practice. By securing an internship at an organization that you respect and aligns with your values, you may be able to work your way up the ladder as you develop your skills and expertise.
Before you begin your job search, be sure to create a free professional profile on Clean Energy Jobs List. From there, you can connect with companies that are hiring, and even find volunteer opportunities in your area.