Solar panels were invented as far back as 1954. Yet, who could have foreseen that in another 60 years, the solar industry would be a full-blown career and business? Now, more people than ever are required to install these panels on people’s homes and businesses. There is now a growing amount of job opportunities in this field. Both high school students are looking for a career, and adults wanting to make a career change. These groups are asking, how to become a solar panel installer in significantly less time than other trades.

Primarily, it is important to do your research ahead of time to decide whether this is the right career choice. First, ask yourself whether or not you feel that this could be a good job for you. Being that you’ve pulled up this article, maybe you’re seriously thinking about becoming a solar panel installer. Another major question is how much do these types of jobs pay? What are the specifications of this job and other duties associated with it? And lastly, what type of training needs to be completed to do this job well?

Here, we will cover all of your bases to help you in your quest. It’s important to make an informed decision about your career, and ultimately, your future.

Is Solar Panel Installer a Good Job?

Yes, being a solar panel installer is a great career choice because of the stability and market growth. As stated, the business of renewable energy isn’t dying down any time soon. This means there’s potential for not just to be a job, but a career. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, careers in this field are expected to grow at a rapid rate of 51% between the years 2019 to 2029. To put this growth into perspective, the average job growth in other fields is around 4%. Further, it is expected that over six thousand jobs in this field will be created across the country in the next eight to nine years.

A few factors have great potential when considering a career as a solar photovoltaic installation professional. Because this field is growing at an incredibly rapid pace, job security is locked tight. Another thing is the potential for more money as this field needs more installers at such a rapid pace. Lastly, there is much opportunity to rise in status as more new installers are trained and hired.

Job Description and Duties

Of course, before going much further, let’s look at what is required from you. As you will certainly want to know what the job duties and responsibilities are of a solar panel installation expert. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a PV Installers may be required to do the following:

  • Plan PV system configurations based on customer needs and site conditions
  • Measure, cut, and assemble the support structure for solar PV panels
  • Install solar modules, panels, and support structures according to building codes and standards
  • Connect PV panels to the electrical system
  • Apply weather sealant to the equipment being installed
  • Activate and test PV systems
  • Perform routine PV system maintenance

Performing these various job duties also requires several more abilities from a potential solar installer. For example, are you physically able to lift heavy equipment? Also, the use of hand drills, power tools, and other various tools will be necessary. This means you need to be familiar with how and when to use them. Afraid of heights or need to climb up high? If the answer is the first of the two, this job isn’t for you. Much of the system installation is done atop a ladder.

If all of this sounds interesting to you and seems like something you still want to look into, then continue!

How Much Money Do Solar Panel Installers Make?

The salary can vary greatly from state to state. Mainly because installations are now primarily being done on a residential building across the U.S. Moreover, the pay can vary greatly from one company to the next. Even from one type of certification to the next. One company may pay someone more money if they have a proven record of extensive on-the-job installation experience. Whereas another may value hours of advanced online training courses in the subject or board certification.

Again, to reference the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median average salary for solar photovoltaic installers was around $44,800 per year as of May 2019. However, Glassdoor reports the median salary for this position in the solar industry to be about $51,500 per year. Even more interesting is that job search engines, specifically Indeed, report hourly pay for several companies.

Indeed reports an hourly wage of $48.08 for the Myers Electric company. At $48/hour, with a 40 hours work week, then multiplying by 52 weeks out of the year, we come up with a hefty $100k! There is literally the potential to make anywhere from forty thousand a year to an upward six-figure salary! In addition, most of these companies offer benefits such as dental, vision, health insurance, and retirements.

It would be of the best benefit to you or anyone looking into this field as a career to research average salaries for this type of work in the state in which you live. It would be even more beneficial if you could find how much this type of work pays.

Do You Have to Be an Electrician to Install Solar Panels?

Here is both the long and the short answer. Yes and no. Confused? Some states require an electrician license to install solar energy systems. This is because installers must connect the panels and new wiring from the solar panels to current electrical systems. Other states may require a general contractor licensing and an electrician license. That’s on top of a PV and Solar Thermal License you will already have acquired.

I know that is a lot to swallow. However, the first thing you need to do is look at the state in which you live to determine what licensing requirements are necessary should you choose to continue on the route to certification. For example, the state of Arkansas requires the Photovoltaic PV installer to have a residential/contractors license, an electricians license, and a PV installer, licensing which also encompasses a plumbers license…phew. Florida only requires a PV Solar Installation certification/license to do this job on the flip side.

Because this job market is so new, you can’t expect that every state will be on the same page with their different requirements for this type of work. So essentially, it truly is best to do your research for your state specifically and the licensing requirements there.

Is There Formal Training Required to Become a Solar Installer?

Licensing requirements vary from state to state, as mentioned above. However, most programs required to train you for a career as a solar installation professional require a high school diploma (or an equivalent, such as a GED). There truly are a great many different routes to becoming a solar installation professional. Options such as trade schools, community colleges, and on-the-job training are all ways to receive licensure in this field.

Many trade schools offer specific programs to a job’s requirement of whichever state is being researched. For example, technical schools in the state of Arkansas would work with students to ensure they had all of the licensing requirements they need in the industry they are going into. This could mean taking online training courses for electrical studies while at the same time doing on-the-job training as a Solar installation professional.

Further, many states’ requirements state that to obtain the correct licensing, PV installation professionals need to take certain courses and have so many hours of one the job training (or work experience) before ever receiving certification. While all of this may seem extremely overwhelming, remember that in this day and age, many community colleges and trade schools have the ability to work with students and ways they never have before.

The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners

First of all, what a name! The NABCEP certification is to solar installers as American Board certification is to a doctor. Let’s jump ahead and say you decided to enter the solar panel installation field, and you’re ready to take the next step in your training. The NABCEP certification will be your mark in the industry that you know exactly what you are doing and prove you know all of the ins and outs of this vastly growing industry.

The NABCEP certification and training are recognized across the country and will certainly help you become a leader in your career field wherever you are located. Moreover, the NABCEP states that those who meet all of this certification requirements see average growth in the salary of over eleven thousand dollars per year.

How Much Does NABCEP Cost?

Like with any certifications or licensure, there are fees and costs associated, and usually, they are not cheap. The application fee alone for a PV Installation Professional is $125, while the exam cost is currently at $375. That is simply for the basics and does not include any additional costs. According to their website, this certification requires 6 project credits with a decision-making role, OSHA 10, & 58 hours of training.

The professional licensure here would last you three years before needing recertification. Currently, recertification costs are $390. This, however, is a small amount in comparison to the potential salary increases as you improve your installation skills.

Because this is a voluntary certification, this gives solar installers great marketability of themselves in an ever-growing solar industry. Going through the immense amount of training and excelling in the various requirements will give you an edge in the field and certainly open a greater number of job opportunities than available without this extra certification.

What if I Move? Does My License Move Too?

Reciprocity differs from state to state. This means that you need to pay close attention to whether or not your state honors reciprocity from others or if you are going to need to start from scratch all over again. Of course, if this is your career choice, you may need to think deeply about where you want to live and potentially in the future where you would want to live. No one wants to start all over again when putting in a great deal of time and energy into learning a trade.

While solar power PV installers have the potential for many opportunities all over the United States, it would seem that there is potential for moving to be an issue in the case of licensure. Before moving, installers must see the requirements of a different state for that position and if they have a system that honors your license from the previous location. Some states have no reciprocity and have completely different and drastic requirements to become a solar installation professional. In this case, these jobs are likely to be few and far between states with such rigorous requirements.

What is the Difference Between a PV Installers and Solar Photovoltaic Installers?

Installing solar panelsThere isn’t one when it comes down to the difference between a PV installer and a solar photovoltaic installer. In this industry, these two terms for installers are interchangeable and have the same work requirements. A solar photovoltaic installer, also called a PV installer, installs and maintains solar panels regularly.

However, these two things can be confusing because there is a difference between solar photovoltaic material and solar thermal panels.

According to Green Match, the main difference between Solar PV and thermal is how they generate energy. Solar PV impacts “a surface made of a special material generates the release of an electron. On the other hand, solar thermal uses sunlight to heat a fluid (depending on the particular application, it can be water or other fluid).” Solar and PV installer jobs can be interchangeable. This is because the training for a solar engineer overlaps both field.

Final Thoughts

Without a doubt, the solar energy market (rather, the solar industry) is booming in so many different ways. New solar panel businesses are popping up all over the country, providing new jobs in the realm of installation and sales all over the United States. Community colleges and trade schools have to readjust curriculum maps and training guides because of the ever-growing demand for this particular field.

The pathway to becoming a licensed solar installer still has its shortcomings as the industry solidifies best practices. However, a solar installer’s certification has come a very long way in a very short period of time. Further, the fact that there are board certifications available in this industry speaks for itself in the sense of how far the solar world has come in such a short period of time.

Essentially, there is a distinct and growing need for work within the United States. Further, there is a need for skilled workers that can do these types of jobs that will ultimately benefit the people for which they are installing Solar energy but also the earth. Because the job growth market in this field will grow so drastically in the next 10 years, it would be foolish to overlook the need for those to be skilled in this area.

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