Become a Solar Professional: Page 2 of 3

Intermediate

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Become a Solar Professional
Solar careers are on the rise. Here’s how you can prepare to join the renewable energy workforce.
Solar Career Map
Access the Solar Career Map at bit.ly/SolarCareerMap.
Hands-on classes
Hands-on classes offered by qualified training programs, such as Solar Energy International, will help you gain confidence as you expand your knowledge base.
Solar Instructor Training Network
Find a list of partnering institutions at the Solar Instructor Training Network (sitnusa.org).
Classroom Training
Adequate training of a renewable energy industry professional usually requires both theoretical training (shown here) and hands-on experience.
Hands-on Training
Adequate training of a renewable energy industry professional usually requires both theoretical training and hands-on experience (shown here).
Licensed electricians training in renewable energy
Even licensed electricians find solar-specific training important to expanding their career into the renewable energy industry.
NABCEP logo
NABCEP offers the most widely recognized certifications in the industry for solar heating and PV installation professionals.
Penn State University offers RE-specific degrees
Penn State University offers RE-specific degrees, including an online masters program.
SEIA logo
SEIA is a membership organization that may provide you with valuable connections to others in the solar industry.
ASES logo
ASES is a membership organization that may provide you with valuable connections to others in the solar industry.
Online job board
Online job boards and industry databases can be great places to research both local and national job openings.
Become a Solar Professional
Solar Career Map
Hands-on classes
Solar Instructor Training Network
Classroom Training
Hands-on Training
Licensed electricians training in renewable energy
NABCEP logo
Penn State University offers RE-specific degrees
SEIA logo
ASES logo
Online job board

Upon completion of training from a NABCEP Entry Level provider, you can take the PV or Solar Heating Entry Level exam. If you successfully complete this exam, NABCEP sends you an acknowledgement of your passing score, which can be used to demonstrate your knowledge to prospective employers.

Achieving an Entry Level ack­nowledgment is an appropriate first step for a career in installation, design, manufacturing, and sales. It is also great for complementary industries that may encounter solar projects. For example, architects and engineers in a market with numerous solar installations can benefit greatly from increasing their solar literacy through the NABCEP Entry Level program. Find a current list of approved Entry Level providers at nabcep.org.

Licensing & Certification

In some locales, an installer is required to be licensed. A license is issued by a jurisdiction (typically a state licensing board). Most jurisdictions require an electrical or plumbing contractor’s license if they are being paid to install wiring or potable water piping. This helps protect public safety by assuring training, experience, and knowledge of the regulations.

Solar contractors in some jurisdictions must pass a business exam and a solar exam, as well as document the minimum amount of field experience for the credential. Different states have different requirements of their licensed contractors. For example, licensed electricians in Florida may install PV systems, but they may be required to subcontract roofers to install the PV array. Visit irecusa.org to access the Interstate Renewable Energy Council’s solar licensing database, which details the local licensing requirements for installing solar energy systems.

Certification, on the other hand, is voluntary. But the line between voluntary and required can be thin in jurisdictions where certification qualifies installers for utility or state incentives. In these cases, while a license might be sufficient to legally install a system, it would be difficult for an installer to compete with the access to incentives covered by certification. Also, policies such as this promote quality by offering solar-specific credentials in areas where solar licensing is not available. 

NABCEP offers the most widely recognized certifications in the industry for solar heating and PV installation professionals. To become certified, installers must document field experience and pass a rigorous exam based upon a job-task analysis developed by experts in each discipline. These analyses describe the specific skills required to install and maintain solar energy systems. The PV Installation Professional Certification requires that participants document training in workplace safety and solar technology to be eligible for the exam. NABCEP certification is valid for three years and can be renewed by fulfilling requirements for continuing education and work experience.

While the NABCEP Entry Level exam is offered by individual training institutions upon completion of their courses, the NABCEP Certification exams are proctored twice per year at select regional sites. To qualify for the exam, applicants must document their professional experience and training prior to an application deadline. For example, installers who would like to take the October 4, 2014, certification exam must submit their applications by July 18.

Solar sales professionals, site assessors, financial analysts, or application engineers may pursue NABCEP PV Technical Sales certification, which requires solar sales experience and some formal training. The type and extent of required training depends upon the applicant’s professional experience. NABCEP has seven qualifying categories that are a combination of experience and training. An applicant needs to meet one of these categories to qualify to take the exam.

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