What Degree Is Best For Renewable Energy?

What degree is best for renewable energy?

Renewable energy is one of the fastest growing industries as countries around the world transition to cleaner sources of energy. The renewable energy field encompasses a wide range of careers focused on developing, installing, and maintaining renewable energy systems such as solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, and biomass energy. Key career paths within renewable energy include engineering, project management, science, finance, policy, and more. The rapid growth in renewable energy globally is expected to drive strong demand for skilled professionals in the coming decades. This article provides an overview of the renewable energy industry and explores the various degree programs that can prepare students for a career in this field.

Background on Renewable Energy

Renewable energy comes from natural sources that are constantly replenished. The main types of renewable energy are solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, and biomass. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the major renewable energy sources are:

Solar energy comes from the sun’s rays and can be converted into electricity through photovoltaic cells or concentrated to produce heat. Solar power is the fastest growing renewable energy source with capacity increasing over 600% in the last decade (https://www.nationalgrid.com/stories/energy-explained/what-are-different-types-renewable-energy).

Wind power utilizes the airflow from wind to turn large wind turbines that generate electricity. Wind power capacity has also grown rapidly in recent years to become one of the largest sources of renewable energy worldwide.

Hydropower harnesses the energy from flowing water, such as water flowing through dams, to produce electricity. It’s one of the oldest and largest sources of renewable power.

Geothermal energy taps heat from under the earth’s surface to provide heating or generate electricity. Sources include hydrothermal reservoirs, hot rock systems, and geopressured resources.

Biomass energy utilizes plant and animal materials like wood, agricultural waste, or methane from landfills as fuel sources. Biofuels made from crops like corn and sugarcane are also forms of biomass energy (https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/renewable-sources/).


There are several engineering disciplines that provide relevant training and knowledge for careers in renewable energy. Electrical engineering involves designing, developing, and testing electrical systems and equipment, which are critical components of most renewable energy systems like solar panels, wind turbines, and geothermal power plants (https://online-distance.ncsu.edu/career/renewable-energy-engineer/). Mechanical engineering focuses on machines and systems involving movement and energy conversion, which applies to renewable technologies like hydroelectric dams and tidal power generators.

Environmental engineering applies science and math principles to protect the environment and sustainably manage natural resources like water, air, and energy. Environmental engineers work on renewable energy solutions like biofuels, biomass conversion, and energy conservation systems (https://www.devry.edu/blog/renewable-energy-engineer.html). An engineering degree in one of these specialized fields provides the hands-on technical skills and foundation in physics, math, and energy systems needed to design, build, and maintain renewable energy infrastructure.


Science degrees provide foundational knowledge in physics, chemistry, biology, and environmental science that are directly applicable to renewable energy. According to One of the key science disciplines is What College Degree To Choose In Order To Work In Sustainable Energy? (Greener Ideal), physics gives an understanding of energy systems and fluid dynamics, chemistry covers chemical processes relevant to energy conversion and storage, biology examines biofuels and environmental interactions, and environmental science looks at sustainability and conservation.

Majoring in a science like physics, chemistry, biology, or environmental science equips students with technical knowledge to pursue specializations like solar PV, wind energy, biofuels, geothermal systems, hydroelectric power, and more. Coursework emphasizes fundamental concepts in math and science that enable analysis and innovation in renewable energy technologies.

According to Texas Tech University, its Bachelor of Science in Renewable Energy covers areas like thermodynamics, environmental systems, energy conversion, electronics, and more. The program highlights the multidisciplinary nature of renewable energy.

Overall, science degrees build expertise in the core technical principles and skills needed to understand renewable energy systems. Whether concentrating in physics, chemistry, biology, or environmental science, students gain relevant knowledge to pursue careers developing, installing, managing, or researching renewable energy solutions.

Project Management

Project management is a critical skillset for overseeing and coordinating renewable energy projects from conception to completion. Renewable energy projects are complex endeavors that require meticulous planning, resource allocation, budgeting, and timeline management to succeed. As noted by an article on LinkedIn, some key project management responsibilities include defining the project’s goals and scope, creating detailed plans for execution, assembling project teams, managing budgets and schedules, monitoring progress, and making adjustments as needed (https://www.linkedin.com/advice/0/how-can-you-use-project-management-renewable-energy).

Effective project managers for renewable energy projects bring technical knowledge of the industry as well as strong organizational, communication, and problem-solving abilities. They develop project schedules and budgets, acquire permits and approvals, oversee procurement and construction, track progress using PM software, and coordinate with various stakeholders. Renewable energy projects carry unique challenges like dependence on weather and environmental conditions, evolving technologies, and complex regulations. As one article discusses, top project management skills for renewable energy include adaptability, systems thinking, and change management (https://www.linkedin.com/advice/3/what-top-skills-renewable-energy-project-management).

With expanding investment in renewables, skilled project managers are in high demand. Proper project management can make the difference between a successful project delivered on time and budget versus one that goes over cost and schedule estimates. As an article on project management for renewable energy states, “methodical project planning and management is essential for the many renewable energy projects underway worldwide” (https://www.inloox.com/company/blog/articles/make-renewable-energy-projects-successful-with-project-management-part-1/). A project management education, training, or certification can provide a strong foundation for managing renewable energy projects.

Policy & Law

Lawyers play a key role in shaping renewable energy regulations, policies, and incentives. They work on legislative initiatives and regulations at the federal, state, and local levels to promote renewable energy growth and access to markets (https://online.law.tulane.edu/blog/four-renewable-energy-law-jobs). For example, energy lawyers may draft laws providing tax credits for solar installations or negotiate power purchase agreements for new wind farms.

Specific legal careers related to renewable energy policy include energy regulatory attorneys, renewable energy project finance attorneys, energy transactional attorneys, compliance attorneys, and more. These positions often require deep knowledge of energy regulations as well as strong legal research, writing, negotiation, and analytical skills (https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/career-map-attorney).

Lawyers focused on policy play key roles through litigation and advocacy as well. For example, they may promote renewable energy access for disadvantaged communities or defend environmental regulations related to reducing carbon emissions. Overall, policy and law careers in renewable energy involve navigating complex regulatory frameworks to help shape a sustainable energy future.


Finance plays a critical role in the growth of renewable energy. Significant investment is required to develop renewable energy projects, and financial analysts are needed to determine project viability and facilitate investment. Some key finance careers in renewable energy include:

  • Project Finance – Structuring financing packages and securing investors for large renewable energy projects like wind farms or solar arrays. Project finance analysts conduct due diligence and evaluate project risks.
  • Investment Analysis – Researching and evaluating renewable energy companies and assets to guide investment decisions. Analysts model project cash flows and estimate risk-adjusted returns.
  • Commodities and Energy Trading – Buying and selling renewable energy commodities like carbon credits as well as renewable electricity and fuels. Traders follow market trends and identify trading opportunities.

Strong analytical and modeling skills are essential for these roles. Coursework in corporate finance, project finance, financial modeling, and accounting is recommended. Certifications like the CFA can also strengthen a renewable energy finance career. The future is bright for finance professionals passionate about enabling the transition to renewable energy.

Source: https://www.reddit.com/r/FinancialCareers/comments/trjshe/careers_in_finance_we_dont_hear_about_normally/

Skills & Certifications

There are certain technical skills that are highly sought after in the renewable energy industry. This includes expertise in areas like solar PV system design, wind turbine technology, energy storage, and power electronics (source). Hands-on experience installing and maintaining renewable energy systems is also very valuable.

Obtaining relevant certifications can help renewable energy professionals demonstrate their competency. Some of the most recognized certifications include:

  • Certified Energy Manager (CEM)
  • Certified Renewable Energy Professional (REP)
  • NABCEP PV Installation Professional Certification
  • Certified Wind Technician (CWT)

Earning these credentials requires passing exams that test both theoretical knowledge and practical skills related to renewable energy systems. They signal to employers that individuals have the expertise to excel in their renewable energy careers (source).

Job Outlook

The renewable energy industry is experiencing rapid growth and job creation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of solar photovoltaic installers is projected to grow 27% from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations. Renewable energy jobs offer competitive salaries, with the average salary for a renewable energy engineer in the U.S. at around $100,000 (https://eepower.com/market-insights/state-of-the-industry-the-evolution-of-us-energy-jobs-and-salaries/). Clean energy jobs can also lead to significant income increases, with Brookings Institution research finding landing a clean energy job can equal an 8%-19% pay raise (https://www.forbes.com/sites/energyinnovation/2022/06/29/clean-energy-jobs-are-booming-making-up-for-rising-fossil-fuel-unemployment/).

The key points covered are the projected fast growth for renewable energy jobs, the competitive salaries compared to averages, and the potential for significant income increases when getting a clean energy job. The sources are cited using standard richtext/HTML formatting.


There are several promising degrees and career paths in the growing renewable energy field. For those interested in design and engineering, mechanical, electrical, or chemical engineering degrees are pathways to jobs such as designing and developing solar panels or wind turbines. For students passionate about sustainability and policy, environmental science, sustainability studies, or political science majors can lead to renewable energy policy and advocacy roles. Those with stronger interests in the business side may want to consider finance or project management degrees that open opportunities in financing and renewable energy project development.

While traditional college majors create a strong foundation, certificates and training programs specific to renewable energy are also valuable. Programs in solar panel installation, energy auditing, or wind turbine maintenance provide practical skills for installation and maintenance jobs. Staying up-to-date on the latest renewable energy technologies, regulations, and job trends through continuing education and training is also key in this rapidly evolving industry.

With renewable energy production on the rise, the number of jobs in the sector is projected to grow. There are diverse educational paths to careers advancing clean energy and sustainability. Candidates with technical skills, business acumen, and passion for renewable energy are needed across engineering, project development, policy, and more. The right mix of formal degree and specialized training can open up opportunities in this purpose-driven and forward-looking field.

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