The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.

Job and Training in Solar Industry the US

May 9, 2012

Solar Training and Jobs in US and Europe

Chris J Hillman Manager Renewable Energy Allied Business Schools

April 9, 2012




The Solar Industry has maintained strong growth in 2010 and 2011 and is projected to keep growing at much faster pace than most other Industries according to most experts.   This is driven by the energy crisis, government incentives, and the cost of Solar Installations reaching parity with other energy sources.  Government Incentives, Utility Incentives, and the public acceptance of Solar as Mainstream are key.   Nationwide there are more than 100,000 workers

With job growth expected in the 20-30% range for next few years.  Training, as well as being in the right states, and experience is the key to jobs.  The Industry has a big upside and is the second fastest growing in the country.  Construction experience or electrical experience is the best background for these jobs although getting current training for knowledge, techniques and certifications are also important to make a career transition. If you have no experience then training, interning, and becoming very involved is the key.  There is always room for someone who is hard working, smart willing to learn and grow. Many large companies do traing but they expect you to have general technical and business knowledge about the Industry.


Initial Training and Continuing education are imperative in order to get jobs, change careers

and realize advancement.  There are many options available depending on learning style, budget and career that you are seeking.  Joining trade associations, online groups, and networking is the best way to increase knowledge, find opportunities and become involved

so you are a fully engaged employee.


Breakdown of types of Job and technical training



One of the fastest growing areas due to digital technology. Ipads and eBooks

Great for sales, marketing, design, project management and certification prep.


Considered the best type for hands-on learning of how to install when student has no experience.  It is also the most costly and not available in many areas.


Combination of online and Classroom

Very good way to go as you gets the best of both methods

College training

Degrees in Renewable Energy, Sustainability, Electrical Engineering and Solar Power

Jr ‘colleges, Universities and for Profit Schools


Preferred training methods


It is important to find a program that fits a person’s budget, learning style and time table

There are a variety of choices and more coming online all the time.  


Apprentice Programs                                                  35%

For profit and nonprofit accredited schools               25%

Community Colleges                                                  13%

Universities                                                                  9%

Non Accredited    for profit                                          5%

Other                                                                           14%


Growth of the PV Industry


The solar industry is a large and growing part of the economy, and its importance should

only increase as incentives, consumers, and government regulations continue to favor a move

toward clean energy sources.  Already the solar industry is responsible for more than 100,200

U.S. jobs at more than 17,000 employment locations. 

Some of the main job categories are Installers, designers, project managers, engineers, sales and marketing, and support positions.


The best states today are California, Colorado, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, parts of NY, North Carolina, Texas New Mexico and Arizona. Several of the Southern States, Alabama Georgia Florida and Missouri are starting to grow as well.

These are the states where demand is best and the state governments and business environment is most favorable. Weather and supply of trained workers are also important.


Jobs number currently thru 2011 in major Solar States


1. California 25,575

2. Colorado 6,186

3. Arizona 4,786

4. Pennsylvania 4,703

5. New York 4,279

6. Florida 4,224

7. Texas 3,346

7. Oregon 3,346

8. New Jersey 2,871

9. Massachusetts 2,395









Job types and descriptions

Apprentice Installer

Should have basic knowledge of Solar Installation from site assessment to roof installation, installation of inverters, and connecting to the Electrical box.  Knowledge of tools used, ability to follow directions and work safely and efficiently is essential.  Some experience or training is essential to get initial job. A background in construction is helpful to get a job initially and getting some training is vital thru schools, interning, or from employer.  A High School diploma and some technology training is needed.

Experienced Solar PV Installer

You should have at least 18 months of experience installing systems.  NABCEP certification or working towards certification.   Working knowledge of NEC Code, and Electrical Systems.   Experience with tools used in the Industry,  building materials and strong understanding of wiring theory, voltage drops and working with power distribution centers. Knowledge of Safety, site assessment and working with designers and project managers as a team.


Lead PV Installer


The Lead PV Installer is responsible for all facets of PV project implementation including: managing a team of installers, leading the installation, and project commissioning. This person ensures that assigned projects are prepared to implement: (DC) layout review, roof attachment, racking and module assembly, combiner box installation, homerun wiring, and voltage testing; (AC) balance of system layout, conduit and wiring runs, inverter installation, grid inter-tie, and voltage testing. The Project Lead is responsible for overall project implementation, crew safety and maximized productivity, coordination with Project Manager/Designer, and all project tracking including safety documentation, installation time, inventory reconciliation, and installation/safety photos. Strong knowledge of Code, electrical wiring, and Installation Experience is required.

Solar salesperson outside


Prospecting for clients, utilizing online tools and conducting preliminary

site evaluations for initial design, proposals, communicating with project management

Tracking all leads and deals in CRM database, close deals and getting contracts signed.

Qualifications are sales experience, experience or training in solar design, experienced in building rolodex of business, Microsoft and CRM proficiency, great communicator, 4year degree preferred and clean driving record.


Solar sales inside


There is a major trend in sales to have more inside sales people and handle the sales function

from the inside as much as possible, therefore there are many jobs for this function

Their job typically is to manage lead flow, and schedule appointments for outside salespeople, determine suitability  of sites using tools, and satellite technology. 

They also handle all initial inquiries, incoming sales calls and handle customer questions and problems and work with outside sales as liaison and support on the inside.


Project Manager


Manage the project cycle for Solar projects, participate in design, oversee field teams, manage subcontractors, budgets, schedule with MS Project,  and manage project meeting on weekly basis This includes:  project planning including defining schedule and budgets which meet contract requirements; oversight of the design process through plan-check and permitting; defining elements of work and soliciting bids for subcontracted work where necessary; providing direction and supervision of all field activities related to the physical construction; managing the project budget, cash flow and schedule through the project cycle; oversight of the data management for all project data flows; oversight for all quality and safety requirements on the project; materials and equipment planning and requisition; and planning/management for all general conditions requirements to successfully install the project on-time and within budget, while maintaining required levels for quality and safety.



 PV designer


The responsibilities are primarily using AutoCAD to create full plan sets for residential PV or commercial systems. This can include, but is not limited to, creating structural side views, attachment details, performing beam calculations, creating a line diagram of the wiring schematic, and performing electrical calculations. Using AutoCAD software, and customer tools, track permit process, and work with sales, project management and installation.



Some numbers on jobs


There are 100,237 solar workers in the United States, up from 93,000 last year.  This represents an overall growth rate of 6.8% over the past year, nearly 10 times higher than the national average employment growth rate of 0.7%. Solar job growth over the next 12 months is anticipated to be almost 24%, representing approximately 24,000 additional new jobs.



Here is how the various job categories breakout by type.  The Sales Field and Installation

will experience the most growth in the future as the Industry grows.


Sales   35%

Installation 22%

Manufacturing   14%

Other    17%


Over one third of the people in the industry are in sales or marketing.  This will continue and become even more important as competition increases and the public will need to be educated by companies on the benefits and advantages of solar power. Additionally good technical jobs of all types will be there as Solar becomes more mainstream.  Manufacturing is going thru a shakeout period as prices have dropped dramatically and profits are difficult for panel manufacturers currently. 

Deciding between a short training program or a full-fledged multi-year degree program then comes back to the type of job a person seeks.  To become an installer or to go into technical sales, a training program should work well.  However, to become a design engineer, or manager for a manufacturer, a degree will probably be required.





Government agencies, Non Profits  and Trade Associations


Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC).



Quality is the name of the game for IREC and if you are based in the U.S., the IREC website is a good source of information for educational programs.  IREC has gone to great lengths to compile lists of university programs and training organizations to help those who wish to enter the clean energy workforce. Its university link offers 39 universities with courses or complete programs in Renewable Energy. IREC’s training providers list offers 132 independent and community college programs that help train installers in all technologies.

While IREC hasn’t evaluated the university programs (it’s a voluntary listing where entities can set up an account and list their programs), they have awarded some training programs with ISPQ (Institute for Sustainable Power Quality) Accreditation, which is IREC’s “gold star of approval” for any program.  You can see which programs are ISPQ accredited by visiting the ISPQ Awardees page on the IREC site.



The main certifying organization is NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners)


Entry level Exam

Certified PV Installer

PV Technical Salesperson


Some of the main training providers for Solar careers


         Solar living Institute

 Solar Education Institute

 Boots on the Roof

 Allied Business Schools



 Jr Colleges and Universities in most states


Main Solar Trade Organizations




Good websites resources


Here are the leading countries worldwide for Solar currently



In 2010 Germany set the pace for solar growth with 7.4 gw of power.  It attracts investors with the lowest system price in the market and a feed in tariff that bring price certainty









South Korea







The information and views expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author and not necessarily those of or the companies that advertise on this Web site and other publications. This blog was posted directly by the author and was not reviewed for accuracy, spelling or grammar.


Volume 18, Issue 4


To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:



Successfully Integrating Solar: A Proactive Approach

•      What does the increasing solar penetrati...

Presenting at PV Insider O&M Conference

Charles Pimentel, COO of Solar Frontier Americas will be presenting on t...

Solar Frontier Offsite Office at Solar Power International (2 mins....

Solar Frontier will be hosting an offsite meeting room offering our gues...


Sell Through Hypothesis

You first learned to hypothesize, or make educated guesses, in grade sch...

Vacancy? No Problem!

Have you ever tried to sell an efficiency product or service to a prospe...

Going The Extra Mile

Selling efficiency takes perseverance, creativity, and a willingness to ...


Tweet the Editors! @jennrunyon


Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now