There are approximately 28,600 people employed in the U.S. fuel cell industry, according to the 2019 U.S. Energy and Employment Report from the U.S. Department of Energy. Employers of fuel cell technology workers include automotive manufacturers with hydrogen vehicle programs, companies that manufacture fuel cells and related technology, merchant hydrogen producers, colleges and universities that conduct fuel cell and hydrogen research, and government agencies that conduct research in the field (most significantly, the U.S. Department of Energy and its National Laboratories, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's National Fuel Cell Technology Evaluation Center.
The U.S. Department of Energy reports that given the early stages of development, opportunities in fuel cell technology are "limited to a relatively small number of companies, research institutions, and similar entities. Most of these jobs require engineering and science backgrounds related to product and technology development." Visit the Fuel Cell & Hydrogen Energy Association's Web site (http://www.fchea.org/members) for a list of member companies that develop, manufacture, or utilize fuel cells. Research these companies to find out which are the most innovative leaders in the industry.
The states that offer the most opportunities for fuel cell industry workers are California, Connecticut, and New York, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's report called "State of the States: Fuel Cells in America 2016." Other states that offer good employment opportunities in fuel cell technologies include Colorado, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Ohio.
Fuel cell technology workers can find jobs through their college’s career service offices, through contacts made via internships and other educational opportunities, and by applying to private companies and government agencies that develop and/or manufacture fuel cell technology.
As fuel cell engineers gain more experience, they are given greater responsibilities and tougher problems to solve. At this stage, the engineer will be involved in more decision making and independent work. Some engineers advance to become engineering team managers or supervisors of entire projects. They also may enter administrative or sales positions. In addition, many high-level corporate and government executives started out as engineers.
Advancement for engineers depends on their level of experience and education. The more experience engineers get, the more independence and responsibilities they will probably gain; however, an engineer with a bachelor’s degree will, in all probability, not make it to the highest levels of the field. Engineers who are interested in going into corporate, industrial, or executive positions often go back to school to earn degrees in law or business. Those who want to teach at the college level earn doctorates.
As fuel cell technicians remain with a company, they become more valuable to the employer. Opportunities for advancement are available for technicians who are willing to accept greater responsibilities, either by specializing in a specific field, by taking on more technically complex assignments, or by assuming supervisory duties. Some technicians advance by moving into technical sales or customer relations. Others pursue advanced education to become fuel cell engineers.
Read Web sites such as Fuel Cell & Hydrogen Energy Connection (http://www.fchea.org/newsletters) to learn more about trends in the industry and potential employers.
Use social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to stay up to date on industry developments and learn about job openings.
Visit the SAE International Web site, http://www.sae.org, to explore education and training opportunities available, such as online courses and webinars that will help develop your skills.
Visit the following Web sites for job listings:
Attend fuel cell and hydrogen energy conferences to network and to interview for jobs.