There are a wide variety of employment opportunities available in the solar energy industry. Contractors, dealers, distributors, builders, utilities, government agencies, manufacturers, installers, and research and development companies can be found throughout the United States. The Southwest has the greatest potential for solar energy, although solar energy development has increased in other areas of the United States. As of 2019, there were approximately 249,983 solar workers in the United States, according to The Solar Foundation. The foundation reports that the top five states for solar jobs are (in descending order): California, Florida, New York, Massachusetts, and Texas.
Manufacturers of solar power components and equipment are located throughout the United States. Large plants are located in California, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.
Many companies recruit on campus or at job fairs. Check with your school’s career center for upcoming fairs in your area. Other good job hunting resources are trade journals, some of which may list job advertisements in their classifieds sections. Check out solar energy publications and blogs.
Internships are also a great way to get relevant work experience and to gain valuable contacts. Many of the larger energy companies and nonprofit groups offer internships (either with pay or for course credit) to junior- or senior-level college students. For example, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory offers both undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to participate in its many research and development programs.
The Solar Energy Industries Association offers a company membership directory at https://www.seia.org/directory. It’s a good place to start to learn more about potential employers.
Advancement opportunities vary by profession. For example, solar panel installers may advance to positions of higher responsibility such as managing other workers. With experience, they may opt to start their own businesses specializing in panel installation and maintenance. Engineers and scientists may start with a position at a small company with local interests and advance to a position of higher responsibility within that same company (for example, director of research and development). Or they may move on to a larger more diverse company such as a public utility, whose interests may cover a broader area.They may also teach at universities and write for various publications.
Trades workers and office workers typically advance by receiving pay raises and managerial duties. By returning to school, construction trades workers can become construction managers or open their own contracting businesses.
Read publications such as Solar Today (https://ases.org/solartoday) 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 following Web sites for job listings:
Attend the American Solar Energy Society’s annual conference, Solar Power International, and other industry events to network and interview for jobs.
Join professional associations such as the American Solar Energy Society and the Solar Energy Industries Association to access training and networking resources, industry publications, and employment opportunities.