In the last few years, the use of sustainable and renewable energy sources has been growing globally. With that, the renewable energy sector has become the fastest growing industry worldwide, and it has created many diverse renewable energy career choices for graduates and undergraduates.
Many colleges and universities across the world offer renewable energy degrees. So, there are many opportunities for students to find their career paths in the renewable energy sector. The industry provides jobs for people with various skills and experience. They have many options for long-term growth in this sector.
People have increased awareness to taking action against climate change as it impacts the health and the environment. Sustainable energy provides a solution to this environmental problem. So, renewable energy will contribute to protecting the environment and preserving them for our future generations.
Global energy consumption is growing. Energy has become an essential requirement for every household and business for lighting, heating, manufacturing, transportation, etc. Most energy sources are produced from fossil fuels like oil, natural gas, coal, and petroleum in the present context. These are non-renewable energy sources, and they harm the environment.
Figure 1: The growth in Renewable energy technology (Source: IEA, 2021)
Renewable energy sources like solar, wind, biomass, hydro, geothermal, and wave serve as alternative sources of energy that reduce the negative impact on the environment. According to the Global Energy Transformation Report (2019) by International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), renewable energy sources such and solar and wind could meet 86 % of power demands by 2050. In addition, the report says that renewable energy will create more jobs than those lost in fossil fuel industries by 2050.
This article will discuss more on the renewable energy career paths—guidelines, best career choices, and the reasons to consider them.
Growth of the Renewable Energy Domain
Renewables is one of the fastest-growing energy sources. Globally, the most used renewable energy sources are hydro, wind, and solar.
The pandemic in 2020 did not stop the growth of the global renewable energy capacity. According to a new report by the IEA (2021), the global renewable capacity rose by 45% in 2020—mainly wind and solar energy, as shown in figure 1. That is the most growth experienced in history so far. Moreover, the global wind capacity grew by 90%. Similarly, there was a 23% rise in the installation of new solar powers. Further, it says that this energy will increase in the future too. IEA (2021) reported that 2021 and 2022 would have similar growth, if not more (Figure 1). In the last two years, renewable energy sources increased in demand, and non-renewable fuel consumption declined.
Guidelines for Building Renewable Energy Career
There is no doubt that the renewable energy sector is growing. So, more career choices in renewable energy will be a game-changer for global power. However, since it is a new industry for most graduates, they are unaware about starting a career in this sector.
Building a career in clean energy is not very different from doing so in any other sector. A promising career demands quality time, hard work, and patience. The main thing before starting a career in any industry is to know what you want. So, you can have a clear path to work towards and achieve your goals accordingly. Therefore, you need to build a strategy to prepare yourself for it.
Below are some guidelines for building a career in the renewable energy sector.
1. Explore the choices
Renewable energy has a lot of job options because it has different fields of work. You can find some of the most high-paying jobs in this sector. You can earn from $25,000 to $100,000 annually and even more by working in this sector. But it depends on your skills and experience. The more you have them, the more money you can make.
Your expertise does not have to be industry-specific to work in clean energy. Engineers, business analysts, project managers, lawyers, and technologists are more generic careers that can fit into many sectors. So, you must explore your choices. What do you want to work on? Where does your expertise lie? Research if you must.
2. Identify your goals
Do not choose renewable energy as a career path just because it is gaining popularity. The jobs here are not accessible. If you are not passionate about your work, you might quickly lose interest and waste valuable years of your life. So, you must get to know your goals and purpose. Also, make sure that you are genuinely interested in working in this sector.
Money should not be your only goal. But your dreams can be to make a positive impact on the environment and to promote sustainable energy. The point is; whatever you do, do it with passion. Your work will be more efficient, and you will be more productive and focused too.
Take time to identify with your goals. If you find any connection between your inner interests and your reasonable goals, you can be delighted with your choice.
3. Seek guidance
Even when you have done your research and decided to work in this sector, you might need more guidance. You might want to connect with the specialists to know more about the area of your interest. For instance, you can see their experiences and advice working in a particular area
Sometimes, things might not be as you have imagined. The experts can help you know more about the job and guide you to a better path for your interest and expertise. In addition, they can also help you get into the industry.
4. Get the necessary training and experience
Your skills might not match what is required for the job. But you must not worry. You can still apply for the job that you want because most companies provide on-the-job training to new employees. So, apply for the job and get the necessary training.
You might also not get the exact position you wanted. But you could still work as an intern so that you acquire the necessary skills and experience for your dream position. So, if the vacancy opens up again, you will be chosen for the job.
5. Build your network
Networking is an advantage to working in any sector. It brings connections and opportunities. Get connected to experts, industry specialists, and respective communities in your interest areas. It will help you land a job and keep you informed about the ongoings in the sector.
You can network with people and communities by creating social media profiles. For example, LinkedIn is one of the most popular websites for career networking. You might land a job through it. So, sign up and start building connections with others. Create a profile and list down your skills and experiences.
Further, stay active and engage with more people. For example, you can like, comment, and share people's posts. You can also direct message them and show them the work that you have done.
Top Renewable Energy Career Paths in demand
People have had the awareness about clean energy and the benefits of working in this sector. It is a growing industry. Having a career in this sector will be good for them personally and also for the global environment. So, more people study and work in this sector to reduce the impact of fuel-based energy sources. Further, they promote the importance of clean energy to the world.
A career in this sector will be valuable in the future. You have many fields in this sector, including hydro, solar, wind, geothermal energy, and bioenergy. In addition, the real-world implementation of such energy sources is increasing.
Below are some of the top renewable energy career choices to consider.
Engineering is a broad field. There are many sectors in engineering like electrical, environmental, mechanical, biochemical, IT and more. All types of engineers have a great career in the renewable energy sector as their role is to solve problems and develop new technologies.
Environmental, electrical, and mechanical engineering are the most common careers in the renewable energy sector. Engineers work in research and prototype development, implementation and large-scale development of any products or services used in the green energy sector. For example, they design solar cells, wind turbines, geothermal plants, hydroelectric dams, biofuels and biogas reactors, power grids etc. Furthermore, they also work to design and develop power storage technology like smart electric grids and batteries.
Renewable energy has different engineering jobs for other skills and expertise. The salary could vary depending on the skills, experience, and job position. Having a Bachelor's degree will be enough for you to land a job as an engineer. However, for higher positions and salaries, a Master's degree will be preferred.
2. Biomass Production
Biomass production is one of the crucial sectors for those looking for a green energy career choice. Bioenergy and biofuel production from biomass is a growing field of renewable energy. Also, biomass itself can act as a renewable energy source. Agriculture waste, crops, seaweeds, microalgae, and other biowaste are the feedstocks for biomass energy, bioenergy, and biofuels. So, there is an excellent opportunity for biomass production and generation.
Sustainable farming is a good employment opportunity as it can be used to protect the environment. For example, corn is a good option for producing biofuel. Similarly, sugar cane, soybean, coconut, wheat, etc., are also in high demand for biofuel production. However, it is good to use the non-edible parts as a biomass source. Therefore, anyone interested in biomass production generates food and produces biomass required for bioenergy and biofuel production.
Biomass production has a wide range of biological inputs and outputs. So, it is one of the top renewable energy careers.
More research is ongoing regarding the production of energy through biomass use. Therefore, a course or degree in agriculture science will be a great advantage if you get into this sector. It provides knowledge of plant philosophy, water management, animal nutrition, and more.
Farmers have different production capabilities depending on seasons and natural conditions. Until now, the economic value of different types of biomasses has not yet been recognized. Therefore, the salary or income depends upon the scale and type of biomass.
3. Renewable energy consultation
Consultation in the renewable energy sector helps companies to enhance their effects of becoming environmentally friendly. Consultants will measure the company's actions and minimize the damages and risks.
Renewable energy consultants address various issues related to the energy supply chain and the environment. They know technical research and scientific expertise in the energy and environment sector. So, they collect data and conduct various analyses. Further, they spread awareness about the impact of energy consumption on the environment. A few consultants also participate in sustainable management activities. Therefore, having technical knowledge about the energy sector is best to become an energy consultant.
4. Architecture and Design
The recent innovations and breakthroughs in solar technologies have changed the way we design our houses and buildings. Solar panels on the roofs of buildings are not new these days, which provide clean energy that can be used throughout the building for various purposes. In addition, concepts like a solar gain for heating require passive solar design. Similarly, the improvements in wind turbines design and technology have significantly increased the wind energy capacity.
Designers and architects think and act accordingly with current requirements. So, they are in high demand. There are many jobs and career choices for architects and designers. They come up with creative and innovative ideas. They are always looking to design cost-effective, innovative, easy to use, and environmentally friendly technology. Moreover, they also require critical thinking most of the time.
Having a Master's degree in architecture and designing will be a huge advantage.
5. Installation and Maintenance
Solar panel installation in many houses and buildings is growing. Similarly, off-shore and onshore wind turbine installation is also increasing. Moreover, the number of households and large-scale biogas plants are rising globally. As a result, installation and maintenance in the renewables sectors are in high demand.
For example, Installing, maintaining, and constructing solar farms and solar panels is a great business to be in. In general, installers require no particular degrees but may require specific training or courses. With more experience, you can get more salary. Furthermore, you can also be a certified installer.
Similarly, wind energy is also growing. So, wind turbine installers are in high demand. For that, you will need technical knowledge in wind power, including installation and maintenance.
Also, there is an excellent opportunity to work on biogas plant installation and maintenance if you are trained in the biogas sector.
The salary of installers depends on experience and specialities. With a degree, you can even obtain managerial roles and higher pay.
Should you choose clean energy as your career path?
Technological innovation is growing. It provides a significant advantage to the clean energy sector in producing and utilizing renewable energy resources. In addition, the study of renewable energy is also increasing. Colleges and universities provide sustainable energy courses and degrees to choose from as their career path. These courses are now a significant part of the curriculum.
In 2017, Bill Gates addressed college graduates that the study of energy is one of the most impactful careers paths. Artificial intelligence and Bioscience are the other career paths mentioned. According to him, these career paths will make a significant impact in the future globally.
A clean energy career has different choices for you. For example, you can work in hydro energy, solar power, bioenergy, or wind energy. However, according to studies, hydro, solar, and wind have more job opportunities than other fields.
Climate change is a global concern. Sustainable energy plays a significant role in fighting this change. So, having a career in renewable energy will make a global impact on the environment. We have explored many career choices in this sector depending on your skills, experience, and interest. In addition, you have the flexibility to work in different fields.
Your role will be valuable no matter what you do as long as you do it to impact the environment and sustainable living positively. Clean energy is the future. There will undoubtedly be more consumption and demand for this energy. So, you should consider this as a career path.
Sustainable energy is the answer to the global concern of climate change. We need to utilize renewable energy sources and develop more innovations to grow its production and consumption. We need more companies that work for the betterment of the environment. These companies would provide more job opportunities to people working in energy.
Renewable energy career is growing with the growth of the industry. But the change is yet to reach its highest level. So, there will be more clean energy career paths for people willing to work in this sector.
The clean energy sector is vast as it has different fields. Its development requires the skills and expertise of a variety of workforce. From installers to engineers to businesses analysts, we need them all. For you to work in this sector, you do not need industry-specific expertise. Some of the top career choices to work in the renewable energy sector includes engineering, farming, consulting, architecture, designing, and installation.
If you want to work in the renewable energy field, it is a great career path. It is good in terms of money and growth and for the benefit of the environment. We must preserve the planet for our future generations. So, the experts must work together in developing the renewable energy sector to build a better future.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Is renewable energy a good career choice?
Yes, renewable energy is a good career choice. Climate change has become a massive issue in the world. The leading cause of climate change is non-renewable energy sources like oil, natural gas, petroleum, coal, etc. Therefore, the study and research in the renewable energy sector provide better alternatives to non-renewable energy sources. Moreover, more and more renewable energy-related companies, products, services are growing significantly. Therefore, there are good opportunities to choose renewable energy as a good career choice.
2. What degree do I need to work with renewable energy?
With renewable energy degrees, graduates can work and build a promising career in energy studies. The study of clean energy has the ultimate goal of sustainable living and a vibrant future. This sector will see massive growth in the years to come. The universities are also likely to promote energy studies more in the coming years.
Students can choose energy studies at different levels of their careers. They can obtain Bachelor's degrees, Master's degrees, and doctorate degrees in sustainable energy.
However, all jobs do not require high-level degrees. Some jobs, like installers and technicians, need only a high school diploma. But if you have a degree, you can have a better position, working experience, and earnings.
3. Is solar energy a good career?
With growing renewable energy jobs, solar technology produces the highest jobs globally. The jobs in the solar industry will continue to grow in the coming years.
Like other renewables, solar contributes significantly to the environment by producing clean energy. Because of it, people rely less on conventional fuel-based power sources. Solar also saves electricity bills.
A career in solar energy comes with different choices—installer, electrician, sales, design, and engineer. The more experience and skills you have, the more money you can make. Also, growth in the industry equals growth in the career, regardless of whether it is solar or any other renewable energy.
4. What is the fastest growing renewable energy?
The production of renewable energy sources like biomass, geothermal, solar, wind, and hydro are growing each year. On the other hand, fossil fuel energy consumption is lowering. In recent years, solar and wind are the fastest growing renewable energy sources.
According to IEA (2021), hydropower is contributing almost 50% of the global source of renewable electricity generation in recent years, which might be decreased for the first time in 2024. However, between 2020 and 2025, solar and wind capacity doubles, increasing 1123 GW.
Besides solar and wind, hydropower also contributes significantly to global power generation. According to IRENA (2019), renewables such as solar and wind would contribute about 60% of the total power generation by 2050.