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What Types of Jobs Are in Solar?

At ImagineSolar, we’ve noticed that a lot of people are not sure what types of jobs exist in the solar industry and on the other hand, many think they can only become a member of a solar installation crew. Therefore, we think it is important to note that there are a wide range of solar job opportunities for all kinds of people. Here, we will explain what types of solar jobs are out there and how you can recognize if one is suitable for you. Also, we list our relevant courses and workshops for each solar job sector.

Photo Credit: ImagineSolar

The 4 Major Solar Job Sectors

The Solar Careers Map from IREC USA places existing solar jobs into four main sectors. These four sectors are manufacturing, system design, project development, and installation/operations.  Each of these categories includes entry-level to high-level solar job opportunities.

Manufacturing

Solar manufacturing is the process of making system components such as: solar modules, inverters, racking equipment, batteries, and other important components of a solar photovoltaic (PV) system. According to the Solar Foundation’s 2017 USA Job Census Report, “Manufacturers currently employ 15% of the solar workforce, or 36,885 solar workers.”

People working in this sector typically have a background in:

  • Engineering (Mechanical, Electrical, Industrial, R&D)
  • Technical & Manufacturing Backgrounds (Equipment Maintenance & Operations, Product Assembly, Material Handling, IT)
  • Business (Logistics, Management, Operations, Supply Chain Management, Human Resources, Marketing, Sales, Finance, Accounting, Customer Service)

To find an example of a solar manufacturer’s job listings go to http://www.missionsolar.com/careers/.

To learn more about solar PV system technologies and manufacturing, check out:

System Design

Solar PV system design combines knowledge of solar technologies, the solar resource, the site assessment, the National Electrical Code, Building & Fire Codes, local requirements, life cycle costing, etc., to create an efficient solar PV system that satisfies expected cost and production estimates.  Here is an example of a job description for a Solar PV Designer from the U.S. Department of Energy:

“Create electrical three-line diagrams for solar electric systems using computer-aided design software; develop design specifications and requirements for solar energy systems; perform computer simulation of solar PV generation system performance to optimize efficiency; provide technical support to installation teams; develop standard operation procedures and safety standards for solar installation work; perform a variety of analyses for solar systems.”

People working in this sector typically have a background in:

  • Science & Engineering (Electrical, Structural, Civil, Environmental, Mechanical, Utility, Computer/Software)
  • Electrical work (Journeyworker, Master Electrician)
  • Solar training plus solar industry experience (we know many ImagineSolar alumni who are system designers who did not start out as engineers or electricians)

To learn more about solar PV system design, check out:

Project Development

Project development is the complete process of selling and preparing to install a solar PV system. The first step is marketing and sales, also known as customer acquisition or project procurement. The second step is determining the best location for a solar PV system and creating a proposal/contract.  The third step is acquiring permits and performing assessments to make sure the system will satisfy local regulations and guidelines. Project development also includes important administrative functions such as accounting, management, and financing. According to the Solar Foundation’s 2017 USA Job Census Report, “companies in the project development sector went from 80.4% requiring experience in 2015 to 41% in 2017.”

People working in this category typically have a background in:

  • Engineering
  • Electrical (Apprentice, Journeyworker, Master)
  • Business (Sales, Marketing, Finance, Management, Human Resources)
  • Project Management
  • Liasion with Authorities Having Jurisdiction, Utilities, Government Incentive Programs

To learn more about solar PV system project management, check out:

Installation/Operations

Installation is the where everything on the solar project roadmap comes together.  It is the process of turning a design into a fully operational system. Operations includes monitoring and maintaining a system over its 25+ year lifespan. According to the Solar Foundation, the installation/operation sector makes up approximately 51.7% (129,423 jobs) of the solar industry workforce in 2017.

People working in this category typically have a background in:

  • Building trades (Carpentry, Roofing, Plumbing)
  • Electrical (apprentice, journeyman, master)
  • Business (estimating, logistics, management, procurement, warehouse operations, customer service, human resources, IT)
  • Project and Crew Management
  • Engineering
  • Inspection

To learn more about solar PV system installation/operations, check out:

The Solar Foundation’s Solar Job Census Map

For additional information on the solar job market, check out this interactive USA map that provides solar employment data in each state:

https://www.solarstates.org/#states/solar-jobs/2017

Finding a Job in Solar Series:

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