Solar Photovoltaic Installer / Electrican

Man with blue hard cap front of solar panels.

According to the US News & World Report, the average salary for a solar installer is $39,490. For those who are interested in pursuing the career of an electrician, the average salary is $54,110. These growing industry fields provide an excellent opportunity for deaf students to enter a STEM field.

Is solar/electrical field for you?

  • Learn quickly through observing.
  • Detail-oriented.
  • Engaging personality.
  • Interest in energy production and electricity.
  • Hustle and tenacity.
  • Honesty and integrity.
  • Self-motivated.
  • Problem-solver mindset.

How do you get started as a solar photovoltaic installer?

There are several ways to become a solar installer, which may lead you the road to being an electrician.  Requirements may vary by state.  To see a complete listing of each state’s requirements, go here.

On the Job Training
 - Apprenticeship license ($20)
 - if electrician, you need to keep track of your hours.
     - list of years/advancement track.
 - May need to purchase your own tools.

Certification/Degree
 - Engineering and Technology degrees
     - Renewable Energy Specialization Associate of Applied Science Degree
     - Renewable Energy Specialization Level 1 Certificate
     - Community college programs
 -  Solar certification programs (list type of certification programs)
 -  ETA Renewable Energy certification programs

Apprenticeship School
Earn while you learn:
    - IBEW
    - JATC


Are you an employer considering hiring or interested in learning more about working with Deaf employees?

 - Find out from the following article why you should consider hiring deaf people.
 - Video: Panel discussion with a solar company and their deaf employees.
 - Professional Development: Online DeafTEC course Working Together: Strategies for employers hiring deaf employees.

Other Links:

Axium Solar is a Texas based solar company that has successfully added to their talent pool by hiring 10+ deaf installers and a deaf master electrician.

Texas Deaf Chamber of Commerce is a cross agency collaboration that connects and supports employers with deaf individuals.

For more information on renewable energy career opportunities, visit Create Energy ATE Center.

For a more complete listing of career opportunities in the solar field, visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Types of Jobs

Civil Engineers

Job Description
Perform engineering duties in planning, designing, and overseeing construction and maintenance of building structures, and facilities, such as roads, railroads, airports, bridges, harbors, channels, dams, irrigation projects, pipelines, power plants, and water and sewage systems.

Training & Qualifications
Civil engineers need a bachelor's degree. They typically need a graduate degree and licensure for promotion to senior positions. Although licensure requirements vary within the United States, civil engineers usually must be licensed in the locations where they provide services directly to the public.

Education
Civil engineers need a bachelor's degree in civil engineering, in one of its specialties, or in civil engineering technology. Programs in civil engineering and civil engineering technology include coursework in math, statistics, engineering mechanics and systems, and fluid dynamics, among other courses, depending on the specialty. Courses include a mix of traditional classroom learning, work in laboratories, and fieldwork.

A degree from a program accredited by the ABET is needed in order to earn the professional engineer (PE) license. In many states, a bachelor's degree in civil engineering technology also will suffice as an academic requirement for obtaining a license. About 1 in 4 civil engineers has a master's degree.

Important Qualities

Decisionmaking skills. Civil engineers often balance multiple and frequently conflicting objectives, such as determining the feasibility of plans with regard to financial costs and safety concerns. Urban and regional planners often look to civil engineers for advice on these issues. Civil engineers must be able to make good decisions based on best practices, their own technical knowledge, and their own experience.

Leadership skills. Civil engineers take ultimate responsibility for the projects that they manage or research that they perform. Therefore, they must be able to lead planners, surveyors, construction managers, civil engineering technicians, civil engineering technologists, and others in implementing their project plan.

Math skills. Civil engineers use the principles of calculus, trigonometry, and other advanced topics in mathematics for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.

Organizational skills. Only licensed civil engineers can sign the design documents for infrastructure projects. This requirement makes it imperative that civil engineers be able to monitor and evaluate the work at the jobsite as a project progresses. That way, they can ensure compliance with the design documents. Civil engineers also often manage several projects at the same time, and thus must be able to balance time needs and to effectively allocate resources.

Problem-solving skills. Civil engineers work at the highest level of the planning, design, construction, and operation of multifaceted projects or research. The many variables involved require that they possess the ability to identify and evaluate complex problems. They must be able to then utilize their skill and training to develop cost-effective, safe, and efficient solutions.

Speaking skills. Civil engineers must present reports and plans to audiences of people with a wide range of backgrounds and technical knowledge. This requires the ability to speak clearly and to converse with people in various settings, and to translate engineering and scientific information into easy to understand concepts.

Writing skills. Civil engineers must be able to communicate with others, such as architects, landscape architects, and urban and regional planners. They also must be able to explain projects to elected officials and citizens. This means that civil engineers must be able to write reports that are clear, concise, and understandable to those with little or no technical or scientific background.

Quick Facts: Civil Engineers

Average Annual Salary $86,640
Average Hourly Wage $41.65
Total Employment 326,800                          
Job Outlook: 6% growth (average)

[Source: https://www.myplan.com/careers/civil-engineers/articles-17-2051.00.html?art=5 and https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/civil-engineers.htm]

Construction Managers

Job Description
Oversee the construction of solar power plants, from site selection to the final construction of the plant. They supervise a team of diverse occupations, including engineers, scientists, construction workers, and heavy-equipment operators. Construction managers are employed by large construction companies, energy companies, or utilities companies and work under contract or as salaried employees. Because of the size of a power plant and the complexity of the construction, a project manager will typically oversee several construction managers, who then supervise individual aspects of the construction.

Training & Qualifications
Large construction firms increasingly prefer candidates with both construction experience and a bachelor's degree in a construction-related field. While some individuals with a high school diploma and many years of experience in a construction trade may be hired as construction managers, these individuals are typically qualified to become self-employed general contractors.

Education
It is becoming increasingly important for construction managers to have a bachelor's degree in construction science, construction management, architecture, or engineering. As construction processes become more complex, employers are placing greater importance on specialized education.

More than 100 colleges and universities offer accredited bachelor's degree programs in construction science, building science, or construction engineering. These programs include courses in project control and management, design, construction methods and materials, cost estimation, building codes and standards, and contract administration. Courses in mathematics and statistics are also relevant.

More than fifty 2-year colleges offer construction management or construction technology programs. An associate's degree combined with work experience is typical for managers who supervise smaller projects.

Those with a high school diploma and several years of relevant work experience may qualify to become a construction manager, although most are qualified to become self-employed general contractors.

Training
New construction managers are typically hired as assistants and work under the guidance of an experienced manager. This training period may last several months to several years, depending on the firm.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Most managers plan a project strategy, handle unexpected issues and delays, and solve problems that arise over the course of the project. In addition, many managers use cost-estimating and planning software to determine costs and the materials and time required to complete projects.

Customer-service skills. Construction managers are in constant contact with owners, inspectors, and the public. They must form good working relationships with these people and ensure their needs are met.

Decisionmaking skills. Construction managers choose personnel and subcontractors for specific tasks and jobs. Often, these choices must be made quickly to meet deadlines and budgets.

Initiative. Self-employed construction managers generate their business opportunities and must be proactive in finding new clients. They often market their services and bid on jobs, and they must also learn to perform special home improvement projects, such as installing mosaic glass tiles, sanding wood floors, and insulating homes.

Leadership skills. Managers must effectively delegate tasks to construction workers, subcontractors, and other lower level managers.

Speaking skills. Managers must give clear orders, explain complex information to construction workers and clients, and discuss technical details with other building specialists, such as architects. Self-employed construction managers must get their own projects, so the need to sell their services to potential clients is critical.

Technical skills. Managers must know construction methods and technologies, and must be able to interpret contracts and technical drawings.

Time-management skills. Construction managers must meet deadlines. They ensure that construction phases are completed on time so that the next phase can begin as scheduled. For instance, a building's foundation cannot be constructed until the land is completely excavated.

Writing skills. Construction managers must write proposals, plans, and budgets, as well as document the progress of the work for clients and others involved in the building process.

Quick Facts: Construction Managers

Average Annual Salary $93,370
Average Hourly Wage $44.89
Total Employment 471,800                           
Job Outlook: 10% growth (Faster than average growth for all occupations)

[Source: https://www.myplan.com/careers/construction-managers/articles-11-9021.00.html?art=5 and https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/construction-managers.htm]

Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Job Description
Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacturing of electrical equipment, such as electric motors, radar and navigation systems, communications systems, or power generation equipment. Electrical engineers also design the electrical systems of automobiles and aircraft.

Training & Qualifications
Electrical and electronics engineers must have a bachelor's degree. Employers also value practical experience, so participation in cooperative engineering programs, in which students earn academic credit for structured work experience. Having a Professional Engineer (PE) license may improve an engineer's chances of finding employment.

Education
High school students interested in studying electrical or electronics engineering benefit from taking courses in physics and mathematics, including algebra, trigonometry, and calculus. Courses in drafting are also helpful, because electrical and electronics engineers often are required to prepare technical drawings.

In order to enter the occupation, prospective electrical and electronics engineers need a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, electronics engineering, or electrical engineering technology. Programs include classroom, laboratory, and field studies. Courses include digital systems design, differential equations, and electrical circuit theory. Programs in electrical engineering, electronics engineering, or electrical engineering technology should be accredited by ABET.

Important Qualities

Concentration. Electrical and electronics engineers design and develop complex electrical systems and electronic components and products. They must be able to keep track of multiple design elements and technical characteristics when performing these tasks.

Initiative. Electrical and electronics engineers must be able to apply their knowledge to new tasks in every project they undertake. In addition, they must engage in continuing education to keep up with changes in technology.

Interpersonal skills. Electrical and electronics engineers must be able to work with others during the manufacturing process to ensure that their plans are implemented correctly. This collaboration includes monitoring technicians and devising remedies to problems as they arise.

Math skills. Electrical and electronics engineers must be able to use the principles of calculus and other advanced math in order to analyze, design, and troubleshoot equipment.

Speaking skills. Electrical and electronics engineers work closely with other engineers and technicians. They must be able to explain their designs and reasoning clearly and to relay instructions during product development and production. They also may need to explain complex issues to customers who have little or no technical expertise.

Writing skills. Electrical and electronics engineers develop technical publications related to equipment they develop, including maintenance manuals, operation manuals, parts lists, product proposals, and design methods documents.

Quick Facts: Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Average Annual Salary $90,100
Average Hourly Wage $47.63
Total Employment 330,300                            
Job Outlook: 2% growth (slower than average)

[Source: https://www.myplan.com/careers/electrical-engineers/articles-17-2071.00.html?art=5 and https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/electrical-and-electronics-engineers.htm]

Electricians

Job Description
Install and maintain the electrical equipment and wiring that connects the plant to the electrical grid. Electricians in power plants work with heavy equipment, including generators, inverters, and transformers. They must be familiar with computer systems that regulate the flow of electricity, and they must be comfortable with high-voltage systems.

Training & Qualifications
Most electricians learn through an apprenticeship, but some start out by attending a technical school. Most states require electricians to be licensed.

Education
A high school diploma or equivalent is required.Some electricians start out by attending a technical school. Many technical schools offer programs related to circuitry, safety practices, and basic electrical information. Graduates usually receive credit toward their apprenticeship.

After completing their initial training, electricians may be required to take continuing education courses. These courses are usually related to safety practices, changes to the electrical code, and training from manufacturers in specific products.

Training
Most electricians learn their trade in a 4- or 5-year apprenticeship program. For each year of the program, apprentices must complete at least 144 hours of technical training and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training.

In the classroom, apprentices learn electrical theory, blueprint reading, mathematics, electrical code requirements, and safety and first-aid practices. They also may receive specialized training related to soldering, communications, fire alarm systems, and elevators.

Several groups, including unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. Many apprenticeship programs have preferred entry for veterans.

Important Qualities

Business skills. Self-employed electricians must be able to bid on new jobs, track inventory, and plan payroll and work assignments.

Color vision. Electricians must identify electrical wires by color.

Critical-thinking skills. Electricians perform tests and use the results to diagnose problems. For example, when an outlet is not working, they may use a multimeter to check the voltage, amperage, or resistance to determine the best course of action.

Customer-service skills. Residential electricians work with people on a regular basis. They should be friendly and be able to address customers' questions.

Physical stamina. Electricians often need to move around all day while running wire and connecting fixtures to the wire.

Physical strength. Electricians need to be strong enough to move heavy components, which may weigh up to 50 pounds.

Troubleshooting skills. Electricians find, diagnose, and repair problems. For example, if a motor stops working, they perform tests to determine the cause of its failure and then, depending on the results, fix or replace the motor.

Quick Facts: Electricians

Average Annual Salary $55,200
Average Hourly Wage $26.53
Total Employment 715,400                             
Job Outlook: 10% growth (Faster than average growth for all occupations)

[Source: https://www.myplan.com/careers/electricians/articles-47-2111.00.html?art=5 and https://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/electricians.htm]

Equipment Operators

Job Description
Operate one or several types of power construction equipment, such as motor graders, bulldozers, scrapers, compressors, pumps, derricks, shovels, tractors, or front-end loaders to excavate, move, and grade earth, erect structures, or pour concrete or other hard surface pavement. May repair and maintain equipment in addition to other duties.

Training & Qualifications
Many workers learn equipment operation on the job after earning a high school diploma or equivalent, while others learn through an apprenticeship or by attending vocational schools.

Education
A high school diploma or equivalent is required for most jobs. Vocational training and math courses are useful, and a course in auto mechanics can be helpful because workers often perform maintenance on their equipment.

Education at a private vocational school may be beneficial in finding a job, and the variety of construction equipment that is taught varies from school to school.

Training
Many workers learn their jobs by operating light equipment under the guidance of an experienced operator. Later, they may operate heavier equipment, such as bulldozers. Technologically advanced construction equipment with computerized controls requires greater skill to operate. Operators of such equipment may need more training and some understanding of electronics.

Other workers learn their trade through a 3- or 4-year apprenticeship. For each year of the program, apprentices must have at least 144 hours of technical instruction and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. On the job, apprentices learn to maintain equipment, operate machinery, and use special technology, such as a Global Positioning System (GPS). In the classroom, apprentices learn operating procedures for special equipment, safety practices, and first aid, as well as how to read grading plans. Because apprentices learn to operate a wider variety of machines than do other beginners, they usually have better job opportunities.

Important Qualities

Hand–eye–foot coordination. Construction equipment operators should have steady hands and feet to guide and control heavy machinery precisely, sometimes in tight spaces.

Mechanical skills. Construction equipment operators often perform basic maintenance on the equipment they operate. As a result, they should be familiar with hand and power tools and standard equipment care.

Physical strength. Construction equipment operators may be required to lift more than 50 pounds as part of their duties.

Unafraid of heights. Construction equipment operators may work at great heights. For example, pile-driver operators may need to service the pulleys located at the top of the pile-driver's tower, which may be several stories tall.

Quick Facts: Equipment Operators

Average Annual Salary $46,990
Average Hourly Wage $22.59
Total Employment 453,200                        
Job Outlook: 10% growth (faster than average)

[Source: https://www.myplan.com/careers/operating-engineers-and-other-construction-equipment-operators/articles-47-2073.00.html?art=5 and https://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/construction-equipment-operators.htm]

Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers

Job Description
Install or repair heating, central air conditioning, or refrigeration systems, including oil burners, hot-air furnaces, and heating stoves.

Training & Qualifications
Because HVACR systems have become increasingly complex, employers generally prefer applicants with postsecondary education or those who have completed an apprenticeship. Some states and localities require technicians to be licensed. Workers may need to pass a background check prior to being hired.

Education
A growing number of HVACR technicians receive postsecondary instruction from technical and trade schools or community colleges that offer programs in heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration. These programs generally last from 6 months to 2 years and lead to a certificate or an associate's degree. To keep program costs lower, many schools are combining online lectures with in-class lab work.

High school students interested in becoming an HVACR technician should take courses in vocational education, math, and physics. Knowledge of plumbing or electrical work and a basic understanding of electronics is also helpful.

Training

Some HVACR technicians learn their trade exclusively on the job, although this practice is becoming much less common. Those who do usually begin by assisting experienced technicians with basic tasks, such as insulating refrigerant lines or cleaning furnaces. In time, they move on to more difficult tasks, including cutting and soldering pipes or checking electrical circuits.

Some technicians receive their training through an apprenticeship. Apprenticeship programs usually last 3 to 5 years. Each year, apprentices must have at least 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and a minimum of 144 hours of related technical education. Over the course of the apprenticeship, technicians learn safety practices, blueprint reading, and how to use tools. They also learn about the numerous systems that heat and cool buildings.

Important Qualities

Customer-service skills. HVACR technicians often work in customers' homes or business offices, so it is important that they be friendly, polite, and punctual. Repair technicians sometimes must deal with unhappy customers whose heating or air conditioning is not working.

Detail oriented. HVACR technicians must carefully maintain records of all work performed. The records must include the nature of the work performed and the time it took, as well as list specific parts and equipment that were used.

Math skills. HVACR technicians need to calculate the correct load requirements to ensure that the HVACR equipment properly heats or cools the space required.

Mechanical skills. HVACR technicians install and work on complicated climate-control systems, so they must understand the HVAC components and be able to properly assemble, disassemble, and, if needed, program them.

Physical stamina. HVACR technicians may spend many hours walking and standing. The constant physical activity can be tiring.

Physical strength. HVACR technicians may have to lift and support heavy equipment and components, often without help.

Time-management skills. HVACR technicians frequently have a set number of daily maintenance calls. They should be able to keep a schedule and complete all necessary repairs or tasks.

Troubleshooting skills. HVACR technicians must be able to identify problems on malfunctioning heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems and then determine the best way to repair them.

Quick Facts: Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers

Average Annual Salary $47,610
Average Hourly Wage $22.89
Total Employment 367,900                          
Job Outlook: 13% growth (much faster than average)

[Source: https://www.myplan.com/careers/heating-air-conditioning-and-refrigeration-mechanics-and-installers/articles-49-9021.00.html?art=5 and https://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/heating-air-conditioning-and-refrigeration-mechanics-and-installers.htm]

Solar Photovoltaic Installers

Job Description
Assemble, install, or maintain solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on roofs or other structures in compliance with site assessment and schematics. May include measuring, cutting, assembling, and bolting structural framing and solar modules. May perform minor electrical work such as current checks.

Training & Qualifications
There are multiple paths to becoming a solar photovoltaic (PV) installer, often called PV installers. Some workers need only a high school diploma and receive on-the-job training lasting up to 1 year. Other candidates take a course at a technical school or community college. Some PV installers learn to install panels as part of an apprenticeship.

Education
Some PV installers take courses at local community colleges or trade schools to learn about solar panel installation. Courses range from basic safety and PV knowledge to system design. Although course length varies by state and locality, most usually last a few days to several months.

Some candidates may enter the field by taking online training courses. This is particularly useful for candidates with prior construction experience, such as former electricians.

Training
Some PV installers learn their trade on the job by working with experienced installers. On-the-job training usually lasts between 1 month and 1 year, during which workers learn about safety, tool use, and PV system installation techniques.

Although there are currently no apprenticeship programs for solar photovoltaic installers, some learn PV installation through other occupational apprenticeship programs. Electrician and roofing apprentices and journey workers may complete photovoltaic-specific training modules.

In most states, an electrician is fully qualified to connect PV systems to electric grids. They are also able to connect panels to inverters and batteries.

Important Qualities

Customer-service skills. Residential panel installers must work in customers' homes. As a result, workers must maintain professionalism and perform the work in a timely manner.

Detail oriented. PV installers must carefully follow instructions during installation. If they fail to do so, the system may not work properly.

Mechanical skills. PV installers work with complex electrical and mechanical equipment. They must be able to build support structures that hold PV panels in place and properly connect the panels to the electrical system.

Physical stamina. PV installers are often on their feet carrying panels and other heavy equipment. When installing rooftop panels, workers may need to climb ladders many times during the course of the day.

Physical strength. PV installers must often lift heavy equipment, parts, and tools. Workers should be strong enough to lift panels that weigh up to 50 pounds.

Quick Facts: Solar Photovoltaic Installers

Average Annual Salary $40,000
Average Hourly Wage $20.52
Total Employment 9,700                                
Job Outlook: 63% growth (Faster than average growth for all occupations)

[Source: https://www.myplan.com/careers/solar-photovoltaic-installers/articles-47-2231.00.html?art=5 and https://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/solar-photovoltaic-installers.htm]

Welders

Job Description
Use hand-welding, flame-cutting, hand soldering, or brazing equipment to weld or join metal components or to fill holes, indentations, or seams of fabricated metal products.

Training & Qualifications
A high school diploma or equivalent combined with technical and on-the-job training is typically required to become a welder, cutter, solderer, or brazer.

Education
A high school diploma or equivalent combined with technical and on-the-job training is typically required to become a welder, cutter, solderer, or brazer. High school technical education courses and postsecondary institutions, such as vocational–technical institutes, community colleges, and private welding, soldering, and brazing schools offer formal technical training. In addition, the U.S. Armed Forces operate welding and soldering schools. Courses in blueprint reading, shop mathematics, mechanical drawing, physics, chemistry, and metallurgy are helpful.

An understanding of electricity also is helpful, and knowledge of computers is gaining importance as welding, soldering, and brazing machine operators become more responsible for programming robots and other computer-controlled machines.

Although numerous employers are willing to hire inexperienced entry-level workers and train them on the job, many prefer to hire workers who have been through training or credentialing programs. Even entry-level workers with formal technical training still receive several months of on-the-job training.

Important Qualities

Detail oriented. Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers perform precision work, often with straight edges and minimal flaws. The ability to see details and characteristics of the joint and detect changes in molten metal flows requires good eyesight and attention to detail.

Manual dexterity. Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers must have a steady hand to hold a torch in one place. Workers must also have good hand-eye coordination.

Physical stamina. The ability to endure long periods of standing or repetitious movements is important for welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers.

Physical strength. Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers must be in good physical condition. They often must lift heavy pieces of metal and move welding or cutting equipment, and sometimes bend, stoop, or reach while working.

Spatial-orientation skills. Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers must be able to read, understand, and interpret two- and three-dimensional diagrams in order to fit metal products correctly.

Technical skills. Welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers must be able to operate manual or semiautomatic welding equipment to fuse metal segments.

Quick Facts: Welders

Average Annual Salary $41,380
Average Hourly Wage $19.89
Total Employment 424,700                        
Job Outlook: 3% growth (slower than average)

[Source: https://www.myplan.com/careers/welders-cutters-solderers-and-brazers/articles-51-4121.00.html?art=5 and https://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/welders-cutters-solderers-and-brazers.htm]