Everything About Being a Solar Energy Technician
Today, solar energy is constantly changing and it is on the rise in both residential and commercial areas. Since solar power is being used for many different green projects, you can also expect the number of jobs in this industry to grow, too.
For that reason, you should see a lot more information online and in other venues about the role of the Solar Energy Technician. The solar energy technician is also known by other names like the solar installer.
Therefore, you may see this name being used interchangeably at times.
That being said, here are the things that you need to know about how to become a solar energy technician.
What is a Solar Energy Technician, and what does he/she do?
Solar energy technicians are trained professionals who have a wide range of responsibilities and duties. The work that these technicians do encompasses a variety of specialized functions.
From installing solar panel systems for residential and commercial areas to maintaining their solar products to keep them functioning properly, their job is to perform a variety of essential roles.
Actually, one of the primary roles is to be a solar energy installer. However, when called upon by a commercial or residential owner, they may perform one or more of the following job activities.
- Install or maintain solar panels on a particular roofing system, residential areas, or corporate buildings.
- Assist in constructing a solar farm
- Move around proficiently and safely on rooftops, while also hauling around heavy materials, climbing up and down ladders
- To install and maintain solar panels properly, these technicians must stay up to date with the latest local, state, and federal codes.
- To install solar panels in the right places, they must be able to read schematics and blueprints proficiently
- On the job, the training gives these technicians the experience that they need to cut, fit and then connect multiple solar panels together based on the schematics and blueprints that apply to specific solar energy projects
- Assists residential owners, commercial owners, and others involved with configuring the best setups for their locations
- Installs other associated components in these solar panel energy systems (i.e.pumps, fans, and collectors).
How to Become a Solar Energy Technician?
If you are thinking about working in the area of green technology, you may want to consider working in the position of solar energy technician.
Or, for those of you who have already made a decision, here’s a step-by-step guide to what is required.
Step 1: Requires a High School Diploma or GED
The first requirement that you must meet before you can become a solar energy technician involves the level of education that you must complete. For example, you need to get your high school diploma or obtain a GED.
Without this level of education, you cannot obtain the proper credentials for certain jobs in the solar energy field.
The high school diploma and GED is also essential for a number of reasons, including preparing you to go to the next level in your studies.
For instance, the math and science courses that you successfully complete are another form of preparation.
Since math and science are used in CAD (computer-aided drafting) courses, this is useful knowledge that is applicable to your training and educational requirements.
Step 2: Obtain education or training
Once you have completed these foundational requirements, the next step in becoming a solar installation tech is deciding which path to take, higher education or training on the job.
Simply put, here are the 2 options that are presently available to you.
- apprenticeship – 1 year in duration
- college program – 2 years in duration
While both options will lead you to your goal of becoming a solar energy technician, there are pros and cons to each.
For instance, if you choose the apprenticeship, you’ll have an opportunity to learn from licensed solar energy technicians and be paid at the same time.
On the other hand, if you choose to attend a 2-year college program, you’ll have an opportunity to learn in a formal training classroom environment. In this forum, you will learn both concepts and theory, along with practical applications.
Salary and Employment Outlook for Solar Energy Technicians
The salary of a solar energy technician usually varies from one individual to another. Therefore, you can expect to see a significant gap in earnings within this industry. For instance, you can expect a salary that ranges from $12 to 27 an hour or more.
Because the profile of a solar energy technician can differ dramatically, your salary will be based on a combination of your experience, educational background, skills, and the location in which the work is performed.
According to some of the latest data from BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics (may 2019), however, your average annual salary should range in the $46,000 mark.
Also, for more detailed information on the actual spread of salaries, here is the salary data for solar energy technicians by percentile.
- $31,000 for the 10th percentile
- $36,000 for the 25th percentile
- $44,890 for the 50th percentile
- $55,680 for the 75th percentile
- $63,880 for the 90th percentile
Additionally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the career outlook for these jobs is good for the years between 2018 and 2028.
Solar energy technicians and other similar jobs are expected to grow at a rate that is much higher than the national average in other occupations.
At a growth rate of 63%, the demand for solar panel installations is high and its affordability is low.
With federal, state, and local governments providing substantial incentives for homeowners, small businesses, and corporations, the number of jobs will increase accordingly.
Key Skills Needed To Be a Solar Energy Technician
To be successful in a solar energy tech position, there are at least 3 key skills that you are expected to possess. As a matter of fact, when you begin preparing to take on these responsibilities, your mentors will work with you to assist in sharpening them.
Even though you may spend quite a bit of your time alone performing the actual solar panel installation, your duties will also require you to coordinate your work with others.
For instance, before you can begin the installation, you may meet with other professionals to coordinate these projects by a specific deadline.
From talking with the property owner about the best location for the solar panels to set up meetings with other contractors, good customer skills are one of the keys to a smooth and timely installation.
Attention to Details
In this job, you will be required to pay close attention to every detail. So, you must be able to read and follow instructions exactly as they are provided in manuals, blueprints, and other instrumental documentation (i.e. cutting solar panels by exact measurements).
In addition to reading blueprints and providing good customer service, this job is also very physically demanding. So, you must be able to climb ladders, lift heavy solar panels and other equipment, and fit comfortably into tight spaces.
Hand Tools Skills
A solar energy installer must be able to use a wide array of hand tools. These tools will be used for numerous purposes, including the following: tools to assist with measurement, cutting, and bending wire when it is needed.
You can also prepare to perform a variety of different electrical duties like tightening fixtures.
What are their differences and how they can become solar energy engineers?
If you are trying to decide which solar energy position is right for you, you need to learn more about each.
For instance, the primary differences between the solar energy technician and the solar energy engineer are provided for you below.
- The Solar energy technician's duties entail providing solar power to residential and commercial facilities by installing, repairing, and maintaining these systems.
- The Solar energy engineer's duties consist of planning, designing, and implementing small and large projects for commercial and residential use.
For this reason, the solar energy technician is considered to be a pathway to the solar engineer position. Furthermore, the salary of the solar energy engineer job is much higher as the responsibilities increase, too.
What are the designations, and accreditations solar professionals can earn?
If you are interested in going up the ladder as a solar professional, you may be pleased to know that there is a wide range of designations and accreditations available.
When you do your research, you may find a career path that fits your interest and the accreditations that are needed to fulfill the duties of that particular job. Here’s a brief listing of designations and accreditations required for specific jobs.
Certification (High school or GED and specialized solar energy training)
- Solar /Installer Assembler
- Electrician with Solar Expertise
- Solar Energy Systems Designer
- Solar Utility Procurement Specialist
- Utility Interconnection Engineer
- Solar Marketing Specialist
- Solar Sales Rep
- Building Inspector
Post Graduate Degree
- Energy Attorney
- Solar Project Developer
- Materialist Scientist
Solar Energy Licensing
Once you have earned your degree, you may also be required to get a specific license for the solar jobs that you will be performing.
For example, before a solar energy technician can do work for a residential or commercial customer, this license must be presented.
You can find more information online about
- each city and state’s requirements.
- licensing exam passing scores
- number of hours worked to obtain a license from a specific location
Which schools, colleges, educational programs, and certificates are available for one to improve and/or earn certifications, and accreditations in solar energy?
If you are looking for solar training and educational programs that will prepare you for a career in solar energy, you should start early looking for the best options available to you.
Fortunately, there is a long list of schools, colleges, and other solar educational programs that can prepare you for these opportunities.
So, you may want to start your search by visiting government sites like energy.gov. For instance, energy.gov is currently promoting programs like STEP (Solar Training and Education for Professionals) as great resources for this industry.
Career Paths for A Successful Solar Energy Technician
Solar energy technicians and installers often move into a variety of different roles today.
Based on the experience and the educational levels that they complete, they can move into upper-level professional positions relatively easily. One of the most common career paths for the solar energy technician is the role of a solar energy engineer.
Actually, if solar energy technician is looking to move to the next level without a huge delay, they may want to go back to school to complete their bachelor's degree.
On the other hand, if they choose to go a little further in their education, they may earn a post-graduate degree. The post-graduate degree will prepare the technician for the solar energy developer role.
In short, solar energy technician is an excellent entry-level position for anyone who wants to excel in their career. From this position, the potential for growth is extremely high and promising.
Therefore, these technicians will not be stuck in a position that offers no upward mobility or increase in income.
For those of you who are interested in joining the ranks of the solar energy industry, you may want to consider working in a solar energy technician position.
A solar energy technician's primary role is to install solar energy systems for residential and commercial use.
So, to perform the duties of this job, you will need to pass the required courses and training programs to be successful. And, you will have a chance to choose one of two options for completing these requirements.
One of the most advantageous options includes completing an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships are ideal for numerous reasons, including receiving pay for the work performed and learning the craft from experts in the field.
Or, if you choose to do so, you can learn a solar energy technician's duties in a formal training setting.