6 fantastic careers in renewable energy

Demand for renewable energy is on the rise all over the world as concern for the global climate and sustainability grows. You can meet this demand.
James Davis
James Davis
Team PostgradAustralia
Save 

Renewable energy requires the skill of people across disciplines to succeed. It requires engineers to innovate and design the technology. Policy advisers need to be in the ears of governments attesting to the benefits. Finance and project management professionals need to manage the proper allocation of resources. Lawyers must navigate energy legislation to ensure projects can exist within current frameworks. No matter your interests, there are likely a number of ways to contribute to the growing developments in this sector. It’s just a matter of knowing what’s available. So, here are some of the most effective careers in renewable energy and how you can get into them.

1 - Electrical engineer

What do they do?

Electrical engineers design, develop and test all manner of equipment. When it comes to renewable energy, this means anything from solar panels all the way to geothermal power stations. This makes them integral to the development of renewable energy sources, as without them we wouldn’t have any.

What qualifications do I need?

Postgraduate courses like the Master of Electrical Engineering are a great way to gain proficiency in the field. They provide knowledge of energy efficiency, photovoltaic systems, sustainable thermal systems, energy storage systems and much more. Each course allows students to learn more about their specific area of interest through the selection of electives. Not only then do they provide sound fundamental knowledge, but the ability to specialise for a future career.

What’s the pay like?

According to Payscale, electrical engineers earn $76,092 (AUD) per year on average. They can earn anywhere between $52,634 pa and $124,266 pa depending on experience. This does not necessarily reflect the full breadth of earning potential though, as highly experienced engineers can move into more lucrative roles. A principal electrical engineer in Australia, for instance, earns $159,021 pa. So, not only is it possible to help the environment in this career, but earn a solid salary too.

2 - Farmer

What do they do?

This ancient, highly important field needs no introduction. What’s curious about modern farming is how useful it is in producing renewable energy. With the advent of organic fuels such as bioethanol, farmers contribute not only to the food supply of populations around the world, but to sustainable energy as well. Their produce has the potential to both feed and fuel.

What qualifications do I need?

Many farmers inherit their land and skills are passed from generation to generation. These days however, it’s possible to gain a significant amount of knowledge in the field through postgraduate study. Taking a course in agricultural science, for instance, can provide knowledge of land and water management, plant physiology, plant microbe and insect interactions, principles of plant protection, animal nutrition and just about anything an aspiring farmer could need to know.

What’s the pay like?

Farmers tend to be subject to the change of seasons, droughts and natural disasters to a huge extent. As such, it’s hard to produce accurate salary figures, but Payscale puts the median annual salary of farmers at $59,736 (AUD). It can range anywhere between $37,524 pa and $112,624 pa.

3 - Architect

What do they do?

Architects design buildings using a combination of creativity, design skills, critical thinking and attention to minute details. Their knowledge allows them to design energy efficient buildings that can do things like passively retain heat, remain cool in harsh conditions or natively equip a building with solar power. They can work in conjunction with all manner of engineers to produce exceptional renewable energy outcomes.

What qualifications do I need?

Doing a Master of Architecture is a great way to learn some of the skills required to enter this field. These courses offer invaluable units in topics like fundamental architectural practice, architectural technology, an abundance of studio work and theory. Electives available vary between courses and institutions, but all serve to expand each student’s knowledge. It’s just a matter of choosing units that will contribute to a future career in energy efficient architecture.

What’s the pay like?

According to payscale, an Australian architect earns $62,992 (AUD) pa on average. This can range anywhere between $48,694 pa to $93,728 pa depending on experience.

4 - Project manager

What do they do?

As the name would suggest, project managers manage projects. This entails managing resources carefully, managing people, ensuring project deadlines are met, addressing logistical concerns and more. It’s a widely applicable skill that can be be used for the benefit of designing and implementing renewable energy solutions. This is often done with the aid of consultants, environmental officers, lawyers and a host of others. Being a project manager is almost like being the central nervous system of an initiative.

What qualifications do I need?

There are excellent project management courses available at all postgraduate levels. These equip students with the necessary skills to enter this field, offering units in big data visualisation, business leadership, global business management, professional communication, project leadership and more. With the vast array of electives available throughout, it’s possible to customise these programs for renewable energy careers. For instance, it’s often possible to take units in sustainable business and similar topics.

What’s the pay like?

According to Payscale, project managers in Australia make $96,279 (AUD) pa on average. This can range between $62,587 pa and $155,571 pa.

5 - Environmental officer

What do they do?

These professionals have a varied array of responsibilities depending on industry, so they can be employed to help manage sustainability initiatives, report on sustainability outcomes, ensure sustainability standards are met or manage events. They also liaise with donors or any other activities that may further these ends. As such, they can come from a variety of disciplines.

This career is relevant to renewable energy because it facilitates its use. Without sound policy and appeals to government as well as consistent advocacy, fields directly related to the design and production of renewable energy technologies can’t operate. If you’re less of a technical person but are charismatic and good at public speaking, this career’s a great way to make a contribution to the field.

What qualifications do I need?

There are a number of relevant postgraduate qualifications for this field. Some of these include:

  • Environmental health. Graduates from these courses gain broad knowledge of environmental law, public health, risk assessment, food safety and more. These are all relevant to this career because they can help inform crucial decisions of policy and goals regarding the improvement of living environments. With knowledge of all the benefits of a clean, liveable environment comes the ability to leverage support for renewable energy initiatives.
  • Environmental management. Graduates from these courses learn a little about public health, but unlike the previous courses this isn’t a heavy focus. Instead, they provide units in how groundwater flows, coastal management, Australian environmental change, population studies and more. This makes them an ideal way to become an environmental officer regarding specific environments. Knowledge of coastlines and how to preserve them, for instance, would naturally be invaluable to an environmental officer working on the preservation of a coastline.

What’s the pay like?

According to Payscale, these professionals make $68,397 (AUD) on average per year. Pay can be as low as $48,377 per year and as high as $90,817.

6 - Lawyer

What do they do?

Lawyers have always been a necessity to lawful societies, but with the rise of renewable energy and environmentally friendly initiatives they’ve gained a new career specialty. Lawyers who acquaint themselves with renewable energy law can help companies undergoing significant projects to navigate its murky waters.

What qualifications do I need?

The legal profession has strict requirements on what’s required to practice law. As such, most postgraduate legal programs do not provide the necessary accreditation. The only exception is the Juris Doctor, which is a three year program allowing students from any discipline to go from no legal knowledge to full accreditation. Once this is acquired, it’s possible to either work in a relevant field or study further to gain improved knowledge of environmental law. To see the huge array of study options available, click here.

What’s the pay like?

According to Payscale, laywers in Australia make $68,952 (AUD) pa on average. This can range between $49,128 pa and $118,282 pa depending on experience. Furthermore, a higher level of experience or type of law practiced can lead to a similar position with better pay. A corporate lawyer on average in Australia makes $77,695 pa, for instance. This may not necessarily align with ambitions to work in the renewable energy sector however, although it isn’t impossible.