Compared to traditional forms of Engineering like Mechanical, Civil and Electrical, the discipline of Renewable Energy Engineering is relatively new. It is because of this novelty factor that employers are often reluctant in hiring individuals who have graduated with a renewable energy degree. Unfortunately, this hesitance has also permeated down to students, who get concerned about vague career prospects.
Contrary to the popular belief, the courses studied by Renewable Energy students are an amalgamation of Mechanical, Electrical and Engineering systems courses. This is because Renewable energy is not an entirely novel technology. It is in fact a technology that has existed for most part of a century but one whose applications are different. For example machines like wind turbine are made of alternators and prime movers, same as an electrical generator. Solar cells are nothing but light-sensitive diodes. Stress calculations on a turbine blade require the same methodology as calculation of stress on beams etc. Therefore other than the courses on renewable energy resource estimation, all other subjects are covered in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering.
The exciting prospect about renewable energy industry is its rapid growth. Wind and Solar energy are currently the fastest growing technologies in the world. Furthermore, the size Carbon emissions trading market or Cap and Trade market has been estimated to be above 70 Billion USD.
The infographic (click the image on the right) in this post illustrates the career roadmap for renewable energy engineer. From the data complied by NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory), Scottish Renewables and WWF, it was found that Renewable Energy Jobs can be divided into three categories, Entry level jobs (Tier 3) , Mid level jobs (Tier 2) and High End jobs (Tier 1). Each level requires certain degree of skills and experience. A more detailed account of Renewable Energy jobs in UK along with the salary structure can be accessed from this link.
It should be heartening for graduating students to note that over half of the jobs in the renewable sector are entry-level positions. An estimated salary structure has also been presented in the infographic (on the right). Although salaries are not as high as in the Oil & Gas or the Aerospace industry but nonetheless are still lucrative. Much of the skills gained in Renewable sector are transferable to other areas of engineering such as electrical or mechanical.