June 29, 2011
Solar power—the conversion of sunlight into electricity—has received a lot of attention over the past several years due to a growing interest in renewable energy and the increasingly competitive prices of alternate energy sources. As the usage of solar power increases, there will be a growing need for more workers in the solar power industry.
The solar power industry employs a wide range of occupations in a number of major industry segments: research and development, manufacturing of solar power materials, construction and operation of solar power plants, and solar power installation and maintenance.
Physicists (median annual wage of $106,370) work in research and development along with chemists, materials scientists, and engineers to improve the efficiency of solar panels. Chemists work on developing new materials for making solar cells and improving solar cell design.
Real estate brokers (median annual wage of $54,910) in the solar industry must have specialized knowledge of property specifications for solar power plants and the regulations in place for obtaining the property on which the plants are built. Real estate brokers also consult with atmospheric scientists (median annual wage of $87,780), who help determine if solar power will be a cost-effective way to generate energy in a particular area by studying the atmosphere and weather patterns.
Wage data in this article are from the Occupational Employment Statistics program. For more information, see "Careers in solar power" (HTML) (PDF), by James Hamilton. The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not currently publish wage data specific to the solar power industry. The chart shows the median annual wage (across all industries) for each occupation.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Careers in solar power at https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2011/ted_20110629.htm (visited January 18, 2022).