Q. I'm interested in changing careers, and hear a lot of talk lately about job creation from renewable energy development. Solar power is my number one interest in the sector—what kind of jobs are available, and what experience is needed? Where should I begin in my job search? - Jared, Washington State
A. You’re smart to target the solar industry, Jared. Today’s job market may be lukewarm on the whole, but the solar sector is red hot. Check out the “2007 Solar Industry Year in Review” for proof that solar is, well…heating up.
Today’s most sought after solar positions are in installation, engineering system design, and sales and maintenance. Lucky for you, lots of skills that are useful in the solar industry don’t require a background in solar power, or even renewable energy. Got PR skills? Help a fledgling solar company market its products. Political background? Lobby for renewable energy. Writing skills? Pen company press releases. Whatever you’ve got, there’s sure to be a way to put it to use in the name of solar power.
Before you start your job search, take some time to learn about the industry. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has a website full of current information. If you’re really serious about a career in solar energy, consider attending the industry’s annual conference in San Diego in October. Spend three days wandering the exhibit hall (no charge), and then put your research to the test by spending some time outside in the sun, at the beach.
If you’re thinking, right, like I have time or money for a trip to San Diego, don’t fret. You happen to live in one of the thirty six states with their own American Solar Energy Society (ASES) chapters. Check out a local event like the Solar Drag Race in Wenatchee, then peruse the national ASES website’s list of green and renewable energy related jobs, as well as their extensive list of solar energy companies. Don’t underestimate the value of an informational interview—many of those company experts will be happy to talk with you about their jobs, and the kinds of educational and work backgrounds that brought them there.
For job listings, try solarjobs.us, or go the government route and check out the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), for example. And last we checked, there were 69 renewable energy jobs listed at renewable energy world online. You might also try www.sustainjobs.com, a new site that claims to be “the leading global site for sustainability, climate change, and renewable energy jobs.”
Solar energy is so hot right now.
Story by Alyssa Kagel. This article originally appeared in "Plenty" in June 2008.