FAQ

This map always raises lots of great questions. Many can be answered by explaining the general principles that underly its content and organization. Read on.

Jobs
Q1. 

Where are the architects? The finance experts? The performance engineers? And what about the firefighters, the real estate agents, the energy auditors, and the many others whose work intersects with the solar industry?

A1. 

They are busy building our solar future. We just didn't have room for all of them here.

The enormously complex solar and storage industry comprises many more occupations than a single web tool can reasonably depict. So a team of national experts selected some 40 illustrative occupations to map. We saw value in attempting to show a distilled, representative whole. Not every job on the lattice is exclusively or even primarily a solar job. But each one requires some training in solar-specific skills. And each one is in some way essential to building a robust, high-quality solar and storage industry.

Q2. 

Do these occupations offer full-time work in the solar industry?

A2. 

All the occupations listed on this map have opportunities for full-time employment. However, not every job on the map is exclusively related to the solar industry. Building inspectors may spend a fraction of their time on solar-related reviews, but the quality of their solar-specific training is critical to the safety, growth, and success of the industry. And not everyone working in the solar industry has a “solar job” per se: Plumbers, for example, install solar hot water systems, and Manufacturing Technicians produce solar components. They are trained first, and primarily, as plumbers and technicians and later develop solar products or system expertise. These workers develop broad occupational skill sets in addition to solar competence, allowing them to better weather fluctuating energy and labor markets. For these occupations, educational institutions can integrate solar skill training into more wide-ranging courses.

Q3. 

Does this map include jobs in battery storage?

A3. 

Battery storage is growing rapidly within the solar industry, and occupations found on this map will include not only solar-related positions but also solar-plus-storage. One specific position included on this map is the Energy Storage Installer position, but this one job does not encompass all aspects of battery storage, nor did we include the multitude of occupations that involve this technology.

Labor Market Information
Q1. 

How many solar jobs are there?

A1. 

IREC’s annual National Solar Jobs Census is the authoritative report on job growth and workforce development in the solar industry. The latest report found that there are 263,883 workers in the United States who spend the majority of their time on solar-related work. This total increases to 346,143 if we include those workers who spend part of their time in other energy industries.

Since 2010, the number of solar jobs has more than doubled, with a net increase of 170,000 jobs for those who spend the majority of their time on solar work. Solar jobs are in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. As this Solar Career Map shows, these jobs provide opportunities for a full range of interests and education and experience levels.

Q2. 

Where are the job listings?

A2. 

This tool was not designed as a job bank. The map is not tied to any specific employers, and in no way guarantees a career progression. The U.S. Department of Labor and many states offer online tools that match occupations, skills, and interests with specific training and employment opportunities.

Q3. 

How accurate is the wage data?

A3. 

The salary ranges in the Solar Career Map should be taken as a general guide. It is not always possible to have precise wage data in emerging industries like solar energy, and wages will vary based on location and many other factors. When available, salary ranges for these occupations were obtained from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), primarily from 2022 data. BLS wage data includes data from both Occupation Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) and the Occupation Outlook Handbook (OOH). Additionally, salary data was derived from O-Net Online (The DOL Employment and Training Administration’s Occupational Information Network).

If two or more of those wage sources were unavailable, wage data was derived from geographically diverse hiring notices posted by employers across the country. This wage data came from at least five companies (when possible) for each occupation. From these multiple sources of data, a “typical range” was made with an hourly amount and a coinciding annual salary. If the range derived from actual job descriptions was exceptionally large, this range was narrowed to within $40,000 of the mean. State-level wage ranges can be explored via O-NET wage and employment trends for each occupation. We will continue to update as industry-standardized salary data becomes available.

Education & Training
Q1. 

What is the “preferred” education and training level?

A1. 

There are many education and training paths into most of the jobs in this career map. This tool includes the preferred skill level or credential that would be most attractive to employers, and most conducive to building a safe, high-quality solar industry. Education and skill attainment are identified by one or more of the following: certification; licensure; apprentice-, journey-, or master-level; high school diploma (or equivalent); post-secondary credential; associate’s degree; bachelor’s degree; or postgraduate degree.

Q2. 

Does certification matter?

A2. 

Many entry-level solar jobs do not require training or certification to get started. However, one way to ensure quality and measure competence in a solar workforce, no matter the individual education or training path followed, is third-party personnel certification. Based on voluntary, industry-validated skill standards, certification documents a worker’s current knowledge, skills, and abilities, rather than their completion of a particular program. Many of the occupations in this Solar Career Map have certification options specific to the core trade or profession.

Q3. 

Are these realistic career pathways?

A3. 

The Solar Career Map purposely uses the term “routes,” rather than pathways. They are meant as a guide to possible solar careers rather than setting out a specific path. The Career Map includes advancement routes within a single industry sector, such as installation; as well as multi-sector routes that jump between sectors. Some of the transitions in the multi-sector solar career routes require enormous advances in skill, credentials, and education. Community colleges, workforce boards, apprenticeship councils, or regional training partnerships can provide more information on career pathways in this dynamic industry.

Q4. 

How can I learn about solar industry apprenticeships?

A4. 

Registered Apprenticeships are a proven tool for recruiting and retaining skilled and diverse workers. Apprentices are paid employees who receive on-the-job training and related technical instruction under the supervision of a mentor. An apprenticeship typically takes between two to five years to complete. In many ways, the credential earned is similar to a degree issued upon completion of college education in a particular field of study.

For solar employers interested in starting an Apprenticeship Program, IREC is available to help. Through the Apprenticeships in Clean Energy (ACE) Network, we provide no-cost, high-quality technical assistance for employers and other potential sponsors throughout the process of designing, registering, implementing, and scaling Registered Apprenticeship programs. Contact us today to learn more.

Job seekers interested in exploring Registered Apprenticeships can visit the Apprenticeship Job Finder page.

Map Organization
Q1. 

Why aren’t there more entry level jobs?

A1. 

There are many opportunities for entry-level workers in the solar industry, particularly for entry-level installers. Many people begin their solar career with little experience other than a strong work ethic and willingness to learn on the job. However, career routes in the solar industry don’t necessarily progress from the bottom to the top of the map. Workers at mid- and advanced levels may enter the solar industry via lateral pathways that add solar training to a traditional occupation (e.g., electrician, lawyer, engineering technician). There are a number of groups doing excellent work to build bridges and on-ramps for workers seeking to enter solar career routes.

Q2. 

Shouldn't my job be located in a different sector or skill level?

A2. 

Many of the job titles on the Solar Career Map could appear in more than one sector. Indeed, the very nature and scope of a given job may change depending on the firm size and market segment (e.g., residential, commercial, or utility-scale solar). A small-scale residential installer might also be doing assessment, sales, and system design.

Some of these jobs could appear in many positions up and down the skill ladder. An electrician can practice at the apprentice, journey, or master level. Sales positions range from entry-level assistants to highly skilled technical experts.

Whatever the designated level of a job title on this map, many occupations include a wide range of skill levels. As solar technology rapidly evolves, workers in all positions will need to update their skills through continuing education or on-the-job training, and in many cases could benefit from professional certification.

Learn more about the scope and variations for each job by viewing the full descriptions on the Solar Career Map.