Do You Need A Degree To Work On Solar Panels?

With the growing adoption of solar power, jobs in the solar industry are rapidly increasing. One of the most common solar jobs is that of a solar panel installer. Installing solar panels requires specific skills and knowledge, but depending on the role, formal education may not always be necessary.

This article will provide an overview of solar panel installer jobs, including the education requirements, necessary skills and experience, availability of apprenticeships, career advancement opportunities, job outlook, and steps to start in the field. The goal is to inform readers interested in becoming solar panel installers whether they need a college degree for this career path.

Solar Industry Overview

The solar industry has experienced rapid growth in recent years as solar power becomes an increasingly cost-effective and sustainable energy solution. Total solar capacity worldwide has increased from under 10 gigawatts in 2007 to over 580 gigawatts by the end of 2019. The United States currently ranks second globally in total installed solar capacity after China.

Several factors are driving the growth of solar power, including declining costs, supportive government policies, and increased environmental awareness. The average price of a solar panel has dropped by over 70% in the last decade, making solar energy competitive with fossil fuels in many markets. Many governments provide tax credits, rebates, and other incentives to encourage solar adoption. Concerns about climate change and energy independence have also boosted interest in clean energy sources like solar.

The solar industry now employs hundreds of thousands of workers in the U.S. alone. As solar continues to expand its share of electricity generation, solar jobs are expected to continue growing as well. Key solar occupations include installers, sales representatives, engineers, project managers, and more.

Solar Panel Installer Jobs

Solar panel installers are responsible for installing photovoltaic (PV) systems on rooftops or other structures. This involves a variety of duties:

  • Conducting site surveys to determine the best locations for panel installation.
  • Assembling and placing PV racking and modules on rooftops.
  • Wiring the solar arrays and connecting them to junction boxes and inverters.
  • Testing completed systems to ensure proper functioning.
  • Completing paperwork associated with solar projects and permitting.
  • Educating customers on system operation and maintenance.

Solar installers work on teams under master electricians and supervisors. The job requires technical expertise, physical labor, and compliance with safety regulations when working on rooftops. Installers must be able to lift heavy equipment, work outdoors in varied conditions, and have roofing experience. Strong communication skills are also valuable when interacting with customers. Overall, the role combines technical solar knowledge with general construction skills.

Education Requirements

Formal education is not always required to work as a solar panel installer, but some training is usually recommended. Many employers prefer applicants who have completed solar training programs or vocational schools. These programs teach skills like electrical basics, solar system design, and installation techniques. They often include hands-on training and opportunities to earn certifications.

Some of the most common certifications for solar installers are:

a person working on installing solar panels on a roof represents gaining hands-on experience through solar apprenticeships

  • NABCEP PV Installation Professional Certification
  • NABCEP PV Technical Sales Certification
  • OSHA 10-Hour Construction Industry Training

Earning an associate’s degree in solar technology, electronics, engineering, or construction management can also make an applicant more competitive. However, traditional four-year degrees are usually not required.

Overall, solar panel installers can be trained on the job, through vocational programs, or with independent study for certification exams. But hands-on practice and an understanding of basic electrical systems is important.

Skills and Experience

While a college degree is not always required, certain skills and experience are essential for solar panel installation jobs. Most importantly, you’ll need some technical knowledge and hands-on skills related to electrical work, construction, and roofing.

Some key skills for solar panel installers include:

  • Basic electrical understanding (AC/DC power, wiring, etc.)
  • Working knowledge of photovoltaic systems
  • Ability to use required tools and equipment safely
  • Physical fitness to work outdoors and lift heavy objects
  • Math and analytical skills
  • Attention to detail and craftsmanship

In terms of experience, any type of electrical, construction, or roofing work is helpful. Installers often start as electrician or construction apprentices/assistants to gain hands-on training. Volunteer solar projects can also provide the initial experience needed to enter the field.

While entry-level solar jobs may not require prior professional experience, mid-level and lead installer roles typically prefer candidates with 1-3 years of solar panel or related field installation under their belt.


Apprenticeships are a great way to get trained and gain hands-on experience installing solar panels without needing a college degree. Many solar companies offer paid on-the-job training programs that combine classroom learning with working in the field under the guidance of experienced mentors.

Through an apprenticeship, you can learn all aspects of solar installation while earning a paycheck. Programs typically last 1-3 years, starting with basic skills and advancing to more complex tasks. Upon completion, apprentices become full-fledged solar installers.

The main advantage of apprenticeships over college is that you learn by doing real projects rather than just studying concepts in a classroom. You’ll get training on safety procedures, using tools, mounting systems, wiring, troubleshooting, and customer service. This hands-on experience is invaluable.

Finding a solar apprenticeship involves researching local solar companies and trade unions to see if they offer programs. Competition can be stiff for these selective positions. Having some related education or experience, even volunteer work, can help your chances.

Completing an apprenticeship is a proven path to beginning a solar career without a college degree. The skills and work experience gained set you up for success as an installer or technician.

Career Advancement

Solar panel installers have several options to advance their careers over time. With more experience, installers can become lead installers or supervisors, managing crews and overseeing projects. Some experienced installers transition into sales roles, leveraging their technical knowledge to sell solar systems. Others may start their own solar installation company after several years in the field. There are also opportunities to move into more specialized roles such as solar design engineer or project developer. Some solar professionals choose to get additional training to obtain a master electrician license, which broadens their career prospects. With the right combination of experience and education, advancement to management positions is possible at installation firms or solar energy companies. There are many ways for motivated solar panel installers to move up and expand their skills over the course of their career.

Job Outlook

The job outlook for solar panel installers is quite promising. The solar industry has experienced rapid growth in recent years thanks to declining costs and supportive policies. This has led to strong demand for qualified solar installers.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of solar photovoltaic installers is projected to grow 63% from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations. As more homes and businesses adopt solar power, thousands of new solar panel installation jobs will be created across the country.

The BLS reports that the median annual wage for solar installers was $46,470 in 2020. Wages can vary based on factors like location, qualifications, and experience level. The highest paid 10% of solar installers earned over $76,020 annually.

With rapid job growth and decent wages, a career installing solar panels offers long-term job stability and good earning potential for those without a college degree. Experience in related construction trades can lead to higher pay and more advancement opportunities.

Getting Started in the Solar Industry

If you’re interested in starting a career installing solar panels, here are some tips to help you get your foot in the door:

Complete an apprenticeship or training program. Many solar companies provide on-the-job training for new installers through apprenticeship programs. You’ll get hands-on experience while earning a paycheck. Some community colleges also offer solar education programs.

Earn an entry-level certification. Certifications like the NABCEP PV Installation Professional can demonstrate your basic skills and get you hired as an installer-in-training. These programs teach solar theory, system design, and hands-on skills.

Look for installer helper or assistant jobs. Many solar companies hire assistant or helper positions to work alongside experienced installers. These roles help you gain valuable field experience.

Consider volunteering or job shadowing. Nonprofits like Solar Energy International offer volunteer programs where you can learn hands-on solar skills. Job shadowing a solar installer is also a great way to gain experience and make connections.

Study electrical skills. Strong electrical knowledge is key for solar installers. Taking electrical trade courses can help you stand out when applying for solar jobs.

With the right training and experience, there are great opportunities to grow your solar career. Starting in an entry-level position and working your way up is often the best path forward.


In summary, a college degree is not necessarily required to begin working as a solar panel installer. While some employers may prefer applicants who have an associate’s degree or vocational certificate in a relevant field, hands-on experience and on-the-job training are often just as valuable. The most important qualifications are mechanical aptitude, physical fitness, technical skills, and a willingness to learn. With dedication and hard work, it’s possible to get your foot in the door and advance in your solar career over time through experience. The solar industry is growing rapidly and projected to continue expanding for years to come. So if you’re interested in working with renewable energy and have the right attributes, a job installing solar panels may be an excellent career path whether you have a degree or not. The key is gaining practical experience, building your knowledge, and demonstrating your abilities.

Similar Posts