Landing a Job in Renewable Energy

I teach classes on renewable energy and green building at The Evergreen Institute, my educational center in east-central Missouri. I also teach through other organizations and institutions such as the University of Colorado’s continuing education program.

One trend I’ve noticed in recent years is a dramatic increase in the number of students interested in pursuing a career in renewable energy or home energy efficiency. A few years ago, only one or two students in my classes would raise their hands indicating they wanted to pursue a career in renewable energy. Now, it’s half my class — sometimes more!

One of the questions students invariably ask me is “How do I get a job in the industry?” I’ll discuss this topic in this blog and a few follow ups.

My immediate answer to this question is “Get as much education as possible — with as much hands on experience as possible, too.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to enroll in college. Many colleges and universities in fact, are only recently awakening to the fact that we need programs in renewable education — and are scrambling to set them up.

(Permit me a bit of soapbox time: It seems to me that colleges and universities, the bastions of forward thinking, are always the last to figure out important trends. As one who has taught at the college level for more than 30 years, it seems to me that administrators haven’t grasped the importance of environmental education or renewable energy until recently. Where have they been?  I know there are programs in environmental science and some in renewable energy, but they’re often fairly new and inadequately supported. Enough said.)

A far faster way to get up to speed is to sign up for courses on renewable energy at one of the main educational centers like ours of Solar Energy International (based in Carbondale, Colo. If you live in California, try the Solar Living Institute). In a few weeks time, spread out over six months to a year, you can get up to speed fairly quickly.

By all means, though, once you’ve completed the basic and intermediate-level courses, sign up for as many hands-on courses as possible. The theory and background material you’ll gain in “Intro to Solar Electricity,” even “Intermediate PV,” is great, and the knowledge you’ll accumulate will help immensely. But if you’re interested in working for a company that installs solar-electric or wind systems, you’ll need experience — as much as possible — to distinguish yourself from other candidates. Sign up for as many installation classes as possible. This will save your employer the cost and time required for on-the-job training.

That leads me to my second recommendation. If you are truly interested in landing a job in this field, get to it right away. You’re not alone.

As I noted earlier, there are a lot of people who have suddenly arrived at the conclusion that renewable energy is an idea whose time has come. So, get going on your course work now.

If there aren’t any classes right now, you can begin by reading. There are many good books on these topics, available through our bookstore (, your local bookstore and online.

In future blogs, I’ll discuss other tips on landing a job in the industry.