Career Choice: Solar Energy Systems Engineers

Career Choice: Solar Energy Systems Engineers

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Solar energy is cheap, plentiful and widely available — with the right equipment. And that is where solar energy systems engineers come in. These professionals offer on-site evaluation of solar projects for residential, commercial, industrial, and government customers. They provide designs for both heating and hot water systems, taking into consideration thermodynamics, energy requirements, local climate and solar technology.

Duties

Solar energy systems engineers perform site audits, gathering information to develop solar power systems. These engineers design solar systems or coordinate the development of same. They make use of diagrams, schedules and other documentation with the help of computer-aided design software.

Solar engineers provide technical support for installation teams throughout the project from installation to testing to completion. They design special collector systems for solar applications and follow quality and safety standards as they complete their work.

Education

Engineers have at least a bachelor’s degree with many possessing at least a master’s degree. In some cases a Ph.D. is preferred. Besides completing the generally required college courses, engineering students will take courses in their core subject. Students must be adept at writing, mathematics, science and computers.

Engineers typically possess credentials with licensing as a professional engineer desired by many employers. Licensing requirements vary by state. In New York, the requirements for engineers are to be of good moral character, be at least 21, and have met all education, examination and experience requirements.

Salaries

The median wage for solar energy systems engineers was $92,030 as of 2012 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Those in the 10th percentile averaged $49,700 per year, while those in the 25th percentile earned $68,800 annually on average. The median income came in at $92,000. For engineers in the 75th percentile, average earnings of $116,600 were realized. Those in the 90th percentile earned $141,800 per year on average.

The top pay by state averages was led by Alaska at $118,200 followed by Maryland at $115,700. New Mexico at $113,400 and Virginia at $107,600 followed. On the other end of the pay spectrum salaries were lowest in Wyoming, averaging $69,100 per year followed by Iowa at $70,100. Wisconsin at $70,300 and Montana at $70,900 followed.

Job Outlook

The job market for engineers continues to be a highly favorable one with the BLS reporting a 20 percent growth rate from 2012 to 2022. However, for solar energy systems engineers, that rate is expected to come in much lower, averaging 3 to 7 percent. That compares to a 14 percent rate of increase for all types of jobs.

Despite limited growth, engineers can find opportunities in other areas. And, with solar power demand continuing to rise, engineers will be needed to provide their expertise for government and commercial sector projects. Future growth may also hinge upon government investment with the requisite policy changes driving job growth.

References

O*Net Online: Summary Report for: 17-2199.11 – Solar Energy Systems Engineers

US Bureau of Labor Statistics: Careers in Solar Power


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