Solar Education and Job Paths for High School Students
Some students have dreamt of their desired career path since elementary school, while others may have no idea what vocation they want to pursue. Both are completely acceptable, but one thing is recommended: high schoolers should start thinking about their future before graduation.
We’ve seen that younger people have been increasingly interested in pursuing careers in climate solutions — even those who aren’t interested in science-related fields. Vanderbilt University added a climate change major for students mainly in the humanities, and social media platforms are full of eco-focused creatives spreading the word about how to make better choices for the planet.
If you or a high school student you know is interested in a sustainability-focused career, we suggest looking into solar jobs.
To meet the Biden administration’s trajectory of 100% clean electricity by 2035, The solar industry needs to exceed 900,000 workers. As of 2020, that number was only 231,474, which means there’s a lot of opportunity for growth in the solar industry.1
Plus, with electricity rates rising and the cost of going solar dropping, we anticipate more homeowners and businesses are going to look into installing solar panels, which translates to more and more opportunities for solar industry employment.
What Solar Jobs Are Available?
There are tons of different types of jobs in the solar energy industry, from design to installation to project management and engineering.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common jobs in the world of renewable energy.
Solar Installers, Electricians and Technicians
If you particularly loved hands-on science projects or technical education electives, you may be best suited for these roles. These positions vary in their scope and qualifications, but they all require a knowledge of basic electrical skills and will be involved in on-site installations of solar panels and solar batteries, as well as maintaining or troubleshooting the technology post-install.
Project Managers and Administrators
If you enjoy being the stage manager for the school musical or being president of a club, you might enjoy being a project manager for solar installations. These careers are all about coordinating logistics and streamlining efficiency.
Solar Systems Designers
This is a great job for any artists or creatives, but those interested in problem-solving as well. You could be involved in designing utility-scale solar farms or in helping a homeowner increase their home value by adding solar panels in the most attractive, yet efficient way.
Many companies use a software called Aurora that employs satellite imagery to assist in planning how many solar panels you need on your home and how much sunlight they’ll receive.
Financial Analysts and Accountants
If you love crunching numbers and were considering a career in finance or accounting, why not pursue that path in a career that also involves sustainability? Every business needs someone to oversee the numbers — expanding solar companies especially.
If you love science and were considering a career in engineering, consider becoming a solar engineer! Solar engineers work on increasing the efficiency of solar panels, while also designing and constructing solar projects and coordinating layouts of panels, inverters and other equipment for optimal solar performance.
While it’s often looked at as some ground-breaking new technology, solar actually has a long history, but there’s always room for improvement.
Here’s another solar job path for creatives and innovative thinkers. Every company needs a marketing team, especially in the ever-competitive solar industry. Thousands of solar companies are looking for new talent to showcase their company.
If you were on the debate team or were considering law school in the future, you can go into an environmental law tract specifically for the solar industry. Because solar is developing, it involves a lot of navigation of government policies, bureaucracies and legislatures. You could be a part of some historic rule-changing in the future.
If you like talking with new people and would be interested in teaching others about the benefits of solar energy, solar consulting may be for you. Solar consultants are hired by solar companies to meet with potential customers or investors to educate them on solar energy projects, present proposals and answer any questions about the solar installation process.
Renewable Energy Journalist
These are for those of you who are involved in your school newspaper or reading the morning headlines on TV. Or, simply if you’re interested in writing or storytelling!
The world of renewable energy is growing fast, which means several news outlets are looking for journalists who will specialize in covering new technologies, policies and other exciting news surrounding solar and other renewable energy sources.
Solar Programs for High School Students
Exploring different interests throughout your high school career is the best way to figure out what career field you may want to pursue. The following solar programs are open to high school students interested in learning more about renewable energy.
Grid Alternatives is an organization devoted to making renewable energy more accessible to more people. Its mission is to “build community-powered solutions to advance economic and environmental justice through renewable energy.”
Its Solar Future Program provides classroom and hands-on solar learning to students of all ages with a huge focus on high school juniors and seniors. You can contact your local GRID office to find out what Solar Futures opportunities are available near you.
Grid Alternatives also has a SolarCorps Fellowship Program that offers an 11-month, paid experience in the solar and non-profit renewable energy industries. You can visit this website to learn more about SolarCorps.
Student Energy is a worldwide youth-led organization empowering young people to get involved with clean energy. While many Student Energy chapters are at university or college campuses, there are also community chapters that high school students may get involved in.
You can visit Student Energy’s website to find out if there’s a chapter near you or learn more information about starting your own chapter. There’s also a Student Energy Fellowship program that provides core energy systems education and helps young people build project and leadership skills to take climate action.
The National Youth Council, headed by Project Green Schools, is open to students in grades 5–12 who are interested in participating in regional, national and world sustainability events.
While not specifically solar-focused, this organization gives students a seat at the table with government, corporate and professional leaders to talk about all things green — which includes renewable energy.
Solar United Neighbors (SUN) developed the SUN Patch Program as a way to get Girl Scout troops involved in the solar energy movement. Scouts of all ages are encouraged to learn more about how solar works, how it’s used and how they can become solar ambassadors for their community.
You can read more about how to get involved with the SUN Patch program here.
Sustainable Energy For All holds Youth Summits and innovation challenges to inspire young people to actively participate in clean energy goals.
The organization hasn’t announced a 2023 Youth Summit yet, but you can learn more about Sustainable Energy For All by visiting its website.
Salaries and Qualifications of Jobs in the Solar Industry
As we’ve explained, there are tons of different types of jobs in the solar industry. While some people are solely focused on doing a job they are passionate about, others may be thinking, “show me the money!”
And that’s not a bad thing! Hopefully, your future career in solar comes with both passion and good pay.
The table below shows some of the most common solar careers we see emerging, along with general qualifications and average salaries. Keep in mind that these salaries will vary based on where you live and years of experience in the field. Typically, the more popular solar power is in your state, the more competitive you can expect your salary to be.
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