By Devin Partida
The world may move to only using renewable energy in the coming years. To make this transition, we must have a generation of problem solvers to help us reach a greener future.
Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education has been growing in popularity in recent years. Some see this as a trending academic discipline that may pass, while others emphasize the role it will play in renewable energy. Educators and teachers can encourage students to pursue degrees in STEM and enter the renewables market.
In the first five months of 2020, over 25% of electricity in the country was powered by renewable sources. Students will significantly benefit from an early introduction to STEM, and the hope is that they will be able to land a job in their respective fields.
One common goal between many countries is to reach net-zero emissions before the next decade. Replacing traditional energy sources with new technologies will aid in achieving that goal as well as create well-paying jobs for individuals. We need individuals with a STEM background to help us reach this critical goal.
Let’s explore some possible careers that students with STEM backgrounds could potentially enter.
Computer and Information Research Scientist
Computer and information research scientists develop new technologies and find innovative ways to upgrade or enhance existing technologies. Unlike computer programmers who deal with information management systems, computer and information research scientists focus on creating practical computing solutions to new problems.
It’s possible to earn a job in this field with only a bachelor’s degree, but having a Master’s in Computer Science may increase students’ chances of being hired for more quality positions.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects job growth in computer and information research scientists to reach 15% from 2019-2029.
In 2020, the average salary for a computer and information research scientist was $126,830. The next few years will open up numerous possibilities for students interested in this career and pay off big time.
Researchers and analysts are needed in almost every industry, from retail to aerospace. Analyzing data and drawing conclusions based on that information is a critical skill for someone interested in being an energy analyst.
For those seeking a career as an energy analyst, a master’s or doctoral degree from one of these disciplines will help:
The average pay for an energy analyst is $62,969. Because a student can find entry-level jobs with a bachelor’s degree, it’s a solid career choice.
Solar engineers plan, design, and work on projects that use solar energy to provide electricity to homes and businesses across the country. Many people are adding solar power to their homes, which is both cost-effective and environmentally friendly.
Solar engineers also perform maintenance on solar power plants and materials, which requires technical skills. In addition, solar photovoltaic installer jobs are projected to have a 10-year growth rate of 63%.
The average salary for an experienced solar engineer is $106,879 per year.
Aside from being a solar engineer, rising in rank by being a solar sales manager can increase pay by almost $28,000. The renewable energy market can be lucrative for those with specialized skills.
Wind Turbine Service Technician
When we think of renewable energy, it’s common to visualize the vast turbines we see on the side of some highways.
Entering a job field that includes working up on top of these massive structures may be dangerous, but it can prove to be profitable with the proper training.
Wind turbine technicians, also known as wind techs, care for all aspects of wind turbines. Whether it’s maintenance, identification of malfunctions, or repair jobs, wind techs are responsible for keeping wind turbines spinning and producing significant amounts of energy.
There are around 4,300 jobs in the wind turbine industry, and the median salary comes in at just under $53,000 a year. With renewable energy growth, the number of jobs available is likely to increase.
Chemical engineers are some of the best-suited employees to tackle the challenges of the sustainable energy sector. Chemical processes transform our resources in energy, and chemical engineers are ones working to enhance these processes.
Engineers work to find new, innovative ways to generate energy, improve environmental conditions, and maximize energy efficiency. Chemical engineers manage the processes in energy plants and ensure these processes are smooth and economical.
A typical chemical engineer can make upwards of $65,200 a year.
Many of the skills used on the job are broad and based on mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology. These skills are a challenge to master, but it’s possible with a quality STEM education.
Encouraging STEM Education
To prepare students for careers in renewable energy, educators must emphasize the importance of STEM learning.
Although not every student will find passion in this field, there are no downsides to becoming a well-rounded, highly critical thinker. Learning STEM skills allows students to succeed in all aspects of their education.
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