Solar jobs are in high demand and have a low barrier to entry — now is the time to break into the industry

  • Demand for solar jobs is growing in response to clean-energy goals and government incentives.
  • Many entry-level solar jobs don’t require higher education, and they offer on-the-job training.
  • This article is part of “Trends to Bet Your Career On,” a series about trending professional opportunities.

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The solar industry has some of the fastest-growing occupations, with jobs just in solar-panel installation in the US expected to grow by 22% by 2032.

One reason is the desire to meet environmental goals. The US Department of Energy estimated in 2021 that the solar workforce could add over 1 million workers by 2035 to achieve the goal of decarbonizing the electrical grid.

To support these goals, the federal Inflation Reduction Act provides tax credits for qualifying clean-energy investments. Many states offer additional tax credits and rebates, and utility companies will sometimes cover some costs of solar installation.

Individuals are looking to cash in on these incentives and avoid rising energy costs. The market-research company Grand View Research estimated that the size of the US residential solar market size was $7.5 billion in 2023.

Corporations are getting in on the action, too: One year after the Inflation Reduction Act’s passage, the White House said companies had announced more than $10 billion in solar-manufacturing investments.

Compounding this demand is a skilled-labor shortage across clean-energy sectors, including positions in installation and repair. “We’re such a nascent industry that there’s just not a deep pool of folks who have all of the background needed to do all of the jobs,” said Kate Collardson, a senior manager of residential operations at the solar company Omnidian.

Solar jobs offer a low barrier to entry and high growth potential

However, the shortage means there are many affordable, accelerated solar training programs designed to help people get their foot in the door. For example, this year Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee added a free four-week solar-installation program to its career-training lineup. Karl Wendt, the organization’s career and technical academy director, said graduates leave with the basic certifications and experience needed to be useful installers.

Karl Wendt, the career and technical academy director of Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee.

Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee



The mean hourly wage for solar installers in May 2023 was $25.55, which Wendt said was impressive given people can land those jobs with a high-school diploma and four weeks of training. “If you compare it to other jobs for that skill level and that time horizon, it’s competitive,” he said, adding that starting as an installer is a strong way to begin a green-technology career involving higher-level positions with higher compensation.

Companies are increasingly willing to hire less experienced employees and offer them on-the-job training. Martin Pochtaruk, the CEO of the solar manufacturer Heliene, told Business Insider that many of his employees appreciated advancement opportunities. “Operators that come in at an entry level have become shift supervisors within a year,” he told BI.

Collardson added that people with backgrounds in areas such as marketing, engineering, and law could apply their skills to jobs at solar companies.

Martin Pochtaruk, the CEO of Heliene.

Heliene



The solar industry can support long-term careers

While Collardson acknowledged that specific solar jobs could grow or shrink as incentives and demands change, they said they believe there will always be jobs in the solar industry for those willing to be flexible.

Collardson said they see a lot of long-term promise in their career path in operations and maintenance. “It doesn’t matter how much solar we install on the planet — if the solar doesn’t work, it doesn’t mean anything,” they said. “Operations and maintenance providers ensure that the solar is working.”

Wendt argued that training in solar now would help people get a head start in an industry that will continue to gain relevance. “You get in on the ground floor of anything that’s growing very rapidly, and it’s always going to be beneficial,” he said.

Pochtaruk said solar is far from a passing trend. “This is not stopping,” he said. “This is a force that is changing the way we work, the way we power our life, and, as such, is a great employment opportunity.”

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Erin Greenawald