10 Best Paying Jobs in Energy

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September 23, 2022
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What to expect from a career in the energy industry

A career in the energy sector offers diverse opportunities and challenges in a rapidly evolving industry. Professionals can expect to work on innovative projects focused on renewable energy development, energy efficiency, and sustainable technologies. Roles in energy may involve research and development, engineering, project management, policy analysis, and consulting.

Expect to collaborate with multidisciplinary teams, engage with cutting-edge technology, and contribute to addressing global energy challenges such as climate change and energy security. With growing emphasis on clean energy transitions and technological advancements, a career in energy promises meaningful work with significant impact on society and the environment.

Is the energy industry bad for the environment?

While it’s true that burning fossil fuels contributes to pollution, the energy industry has been increasingly shifting to clean and renewable energy solutions. To satisfy the power generation needs of the United States, the energy industry is working on solar installation projects, wind farms, geothermal HVAC systems for commercial and residential use, and hydropower in addition to improving the efficiency of coal and gas powered equipment. Other people are studying ways to capture carbon from the atmosphere and better ways to store energy to use when there is no sun or no wind. 

All of these factors mean the energy sector is in a period of growth, innovation, and transformation that a savvy job seeker can leverage to find a new career.

Types of careers working in energy

In addition to electrical, chemical, solar and civil engineer jobs in this industry, there are also business leaders, researchers and experts working for energy companies, local energy groups and power plants across America.

Do I need to have an engineering degree to work in the energy industry?

Not necessarily. There are many opportunities to work in energy that don’t require you to be an engineer or have a degree at all. The job titles on this list are focused on highest compensation averages, but there are plenty of lucrative jobs for business managers, lawyers, installation technicians, architects and other passionate professionals. All that’s required is an interest in energy and a smart job search strategy.

Best paying jobs for a career in energy

1. Nuclear Engineer

Average salary: $120,000

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Nuclear engineering is the first job on this list for good reason. The average annual salary is $120,000 per year, with a positive job growth outlook. Nuclear Engineers are responsible for designing and building components that harness the energy created in subatomic nuclear reactions. They solve problems in fields like medicine and energy. You’ll find Nuclear Engineers in industrial power plants, laboratories, government buildings and corporate offices. 

To become a Nuclear Engineer, you need an engineering degree and several years of experience. Nuclear Engineers are required to undergo rigorous training, which typically takes 10 years or more, before working independently. Engineers with at least four years of experience can earn a Professional Engineering (PE) license, which permits them to supervise other engineers, submit new project plans for approval and teach engineering classes. 

2. Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility

Average salary: $115,000

Source: Glassdoor

The energy industry faces a number of challenges, from ensuring reliable supply to managing consumers’ environmental concerns. Energy companies today are expected to take responsibility for their impact on society and the climate. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) leaders are tasked with addressing these issues. While some companies consider CSR as philanthropy, others see it as a way to create goodwill. Vice Presidents of CSR need to manage both sides of the equation: the corporation’s financial interests and the public’s perception. Their job is to balance the two, making sure the company’s activities benefit stakeholders while upholding its responsibility to society.

There is no specific education requirement to become a corporate social responsibility specialist, though most have a bachelor’s degree. To reach a leadership position like a VP, you’ll need 8 to 10 years of experience. Experience in nonprofit, legal, or business settings is beneficial, as is training in public speaking and public relations. A good CSR leader should also have the ability to communicate clearly, engage in conflict resolution and present data in an effective manner. 

3. Biofuels Technology and Product Development Manager

Average salary: $115,000

Source: SalaryExpert

Biofuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel, are fuels that come from agricultural products or byproducts. As opposed to fossil fuels, biofuels are considered better for the environment because they are created from renewable sources and burn cleaner. Biofuel Product Development Managers supervise teams that research and develop these substances. In the energy industry, Biofuel Product Managers aim to improve existing systems or create new commercial applications. 

Many Biofuels Technology And Product Development Managers have a master’s degree in addition to a bachelor's degree in math or science. To reach a management position, you’ll need several years of experience. A product manager in this specialization should possess strong analytical and critical thinking skills, and have a solid foundation in engineering and technology concepts.

4. Reservoir Engineer

Average salary: $114,000

Source: Glassdoor

Reservoirs–large storage facilities for liquids or gasses–need to collect and hold water, oil and gas until it’s pumped out and delivered to homes and businesses. Reservoir Engineers design these infrastructure projects, oversee their construction and test their ongoing operations. A Reservoir Engineer is responsible for ensuring that the resource supply is reliable and accessible. In addition, they protect the reservoir’s environment and ensure water stays clean and safe. Their work involves many different aspects of engineering including civil, mechanical, electrical, chemical, geotechnical, environmental, hydraulic, structural, computer-aided design (CAD), surveying, mapping, land planning, finance, construction management, project management and economics.

Reservoir Engineers need a bachelor's degree in either civil engineering or environmental engineering and a license to practice as a Reservoir Engineer. Some have advanced degrees and additional licensure, such as a PE certification. Reservoir Engineers usually work for oil and gas companies, utility corporations or state governments.

5. Senior Chemical Engineer

Average salary: $114,000

Source: LinkedIn Salary

Senior Chemical Engineers lead people and projects to produce energy from chemical reactions. They usually work closely with other professionals who specialize in materials science, chemistry, mechanical engineering or electrical engineering. The demand for these highly skilled professionals has increased because of the growing population and increasing demand for energy from alternative sources. Process Engineers, a subset of Chemical Engineers, specialize in one type of chemical reaction, such as working with hydrogen and fuel cell technology. Other Chemical Engineers work more broadly to achieve specific goals, such as improving the efficiency of a current process.

This job requires a high level of technical knowledge and skill in addition to a four-year engineering degree. Chemical Engineers have expertise in chemistry, engineering, and physics. This profession is highly collaborative, so interpersonal skills are important. To supervise other engineers, you should earn a Professional Engineer (PE) license and more than 6 years of experience. 

6. Principal Electrical Engineer

Average salary: $105,000

Source: Glassdoor

Electrical Engineers specialize in developing electrical systems or components. They may work for any number of different industries, including aerospace, telecommunications, technology and energy. A Principal Electrical Engineer manages teams and projects related to testing and improving energy efficiency, installation and implementation.

Electrical Engineers need a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering or a similar field of study like computer science or mechanical engineering. Principal Engineers should also have a Professional Engineer (PE) license to supervise engineers. Some principal electrical engineers have an advanced degree. They should be logical thinkers, effective communicators and excellent problem-solvers. Principal Electrical Engineers would also benefit from experience with computer-aided design (CAD) and programming languages, as well as an understanding of electrical standards, regulations, laws and policies. 

7. Senior Environmental Consultant 

Average salary: $110,000

Source: LinkedIn Salary

Environmental consulting is a term applied to the practice of conducting studies on how humans impact nature and vice versa. These studies may involve identifying problems, developing solutions, implementing actions, or any combination thereof. In essence, it’s a service where a company hires someone to help them understand their impact on the environment. Companies hire Environmental Consultants for many reasons, including to increase profits, decrease costs, protect the environment, and improve quality of life. However, they often use these services to fulfill a legal requirement, such as obtaining permits or certifying products.

In energy innovation contexts, a Senior Environmental Consultant evaluates everything from the way a product is designed to what type of materials are used and whether those materials were properly disposed of. They also look at the effects of manufacturing processes and transportation methods. Ultimately, they try to determine if the company is doing enough to protect its customers’ well-being and the environment.

You don’t need to have a degree in science or even experience in business to become an Environmental Consultant, though both are likely to help you find work faster. A good Environmental Consultant is simply someone who is passionate about the environment and wants to leverage their skillset to protect it. Research skills are important to this role, because staying on top of trends is beneficial to clients. A Senior Environmental Consultant should also have the ability to learn and remember policies, exceptions and relevant regulations. There are several certifications that can benefit Senior Environmental Consultants, though there is no one industry-standard. Instead, look at options from the Academy of Board Certified Environmental Professionals, the EPA certification programs, and OSHA to learn what aligns with your interest and chosen career path.

8. Nuclear Physicist 

Average salary: $107,000

Source: Glassdoor

Nuclear physics is the study of atomic nuclei, their movements, and their interactions. Nuclear Physicists in the energy industry work with slow nuclear fission to produce heat and electricity. In the USA, nuclear power accounts for about 20% of the electricity we use. Nuclear Physicists study how we can improve the use of nuclear energy in medical, research, equipment and other contexts.

You need a master’s or a doctoral degree for most Nuclear Physicist positions. Students interested in pursuing careers in nuclear physics should take courses in classical mechanics, special relativity, quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, statistical mechanics and wave theory. After obtaining a bachelor's degree, students can apply for graduate programs in nuclear physics. 

9. Director of Business Intelligence

Average salary: $104,000

Source: Glassdoor

Business Intelligence (BI) is a term that describes a set of tools, methods, processes and techniques used to collect, analyze and interpret data in order to make informed decisions. These tools may include reporting systems, dashboards, scorecards, performance metrics, and others. Directors of Business Intelligence provide data analysis services to help their employers make informed decisions. Energy firms may use BI tools to analyze market conditions, identify potential opportunities for expansion and evaluate customer satisfaction levels.

Director-level professionals need at least 5 years of work experience. Business intelligence requires you to know how to collect, analyze and interpret data using tools including databases, spreadsheets and other digital formats to create reports that highlight trends and patterns. Most Business Intelligence Directors have a bachelor’s degree in business or a related field. Some have advanced degrees, such as an MBA, to further education in leadership and analysis.

10. Machine Learning Engineer in Energy, Mining, and Utilities Industry

Average salary: $101,000

Source: Glassdoor (filter by industry)

Machine learning (ML) is an emerging field with exciting implications for the renewable energy industry. It involves big data analytics and AI. A Machine Learning Engineer can analyze huge volumes of data to gain valuable insights, such as identifying problems and opportunities to reduce costs or improve efficiency. They build models to predict future trends based on input including everything from atmospheric temperature and pressure to radiation levels and seismic activity. In the energy industry, predictive maintenance can save time and money by predicting when equipment is likely to fail, so repairs can be scheduled accordingly, avoiding service interruptions or preventable fires.

Machine Learning Engineers usually have advanced degrees–either a master’s or a Ph.D.–on top of a computer science or IT bachelor’s degree. Machine Learning Engineers should have skills in problem-solving, analytical thinking, data science, and software engineering. This would be a good job for someone who is curious and creative.

Final Thoughts

The energy industry is growing rapidly due to the increasing demand for cleaner energy. Read our full guide on how many jobs are available in the energy industry. Many of these jobs require an advanced degree, but some are possible to transition to from a different industry. To land a job in the energy industry, you need to keep your job opportunities organized. Teal's Job Application Tracker tool can help you do that!

>> Read More: Is energy a good career path?

Frequently Asked Questions

What qualifications are typically required for the highest paying jobs in the energy sector?

The highest paying jobs in the energy sector often require a combination of advanced education and specialized training. For example, roles such as petroleum engineers and energy traders typically need a bachelor's degree in engineering, geosciences, or business, respectively. Additionally, positions like energy lawyers may require a law degree and a license to practice. Industry certifications and several years of experience are also highly valued for senior roles in energy companies.

Are renewable energy jobs competitive in terms of pay compared to traditional energy sectors?

Yes, renewable energy jobs are increasingly competitive in terms of pay, especially as the demand for sustainable energy solutions grows. Roles in solar and wind energy, for instance, can offer salaries that are on par with or even exceed those in traditional energy sectors like oil and gas, particularly for positions in engineering, project development, and management.

How has the shift towards sustainable energy impacted job salaries in the energy sector?

The shift towards sustainable energy has created new high-paying job opportunities as the industry demands skilled professionals in emerging technologies. Salaries for jobs in clean energy, such as wind farm site managers or solar project engineers, have seen a significant increase due to the specialized skills required and the growing investment in renewable energy infrastructure. This trend is expected to continue as more countries commit to reducing carbon emissions and increasing renewable energy production.

Caitlin Huston

Caitlin is a career advisor and certified professional resume writer who has been quoted in Business Insider, Fortune, Forbes, and The Muse on topics related to remote work and landing the right job.

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