According to the most recent data from the U.S. Energy & Employment Jobs Report, there were 7.8 million jobs in the energy sector in 2021 with a predicted 10% growth by 2031. This industry includes jobs in five sectors: fuels, vehicles, energy efficiency, electric power generation and the combined transmission, distribution and storage sector.
The states with the most job openings in clean energy are California, Texas, Florida and New York, reports US News. The report also notes that these are the four most populous states, so it makes intuitive sense that there are the most opportunities there. However, you can live anywhere in the US and work in this industry. Energy employees work in virtually every type of workplace, because virtually all workplaces have power and electric requirements.
What Types of Jobs Are in Energy?
The energy industry requires many different skill sets and has a wide variety of job titles. These positions range from skilled laborers to highly technical specialists. If you have experience in some of these fields, the energy industry may be your next employer. Here’s a list of some of the most common energy careers:
Engineers use math and science to solve an incredible number of problems. There are different types of engineers working on all sorts of problems, so there are plenty of opportunities to work in the energy industry for engineers. Some of the most common engineering job titles in the energy industry are:
- Civil Engineer
- Chemical Engineer
- Industrial Engineer
- Environmental Engineer
- Machine Learning Engineer
- Nuclear Engineer
- Reservoir Engineer
- Petroleum Engineer
- Electrical Engineer
- Plant Engineer
- Computer Engineer
- Renewable Energy Engineer
Most of these job titles are self-explanatory. For instance, an environmental engineer studies a particular environment before and after new projects. Their primary goal is to protect human health and the environment by reducing the effects of pollution.
Laborer and construction workers
Laborers and construction workers are essential to energy operations. EESI estimates that 50% of energy efficient employees work in construction. Laborers use power tools and heavy equipment to install, repair, and maintain power industry infrastructure. There are several types of laborers; for example, a pipeline laborer operates machinery like bulldozers, backhoes and cranes that dig trenches for pipelines. Construction workers work on energy-related construction sites. They build supporting infrastructure such as the foundations that support wind turbines. Construction equipment operators, with help from construction laborers, are also involved in building accessible roads directly to construction sites. They are also responsible for many basic tasks that require manual labor on construction sites.
A licensed electrician designs, tests, repairs and implements electrical systems and components. Electrical technicians perform preventative maintenance on electrical equipment and work with electrical circuits and wiring. When something goes wrong involving energy in your home, an electrician is the person to call.
In the energy industry, researchers study ways to produce and improve energy. One particularly innovative field of study is renewable energy sources to power our vehicles without releasing greenhouse gasses. An example of this is hydrogen fuel cells, where hydrogen and oxygen atoms are combined to produce electricity. The end result is clean energy. Other applications include biofuels created by breaking down cellulose to make ethanol.
If you want to learn more about green technology, then a career in renewable energy could be right for you.
>> Read More: Best-paying jobs in energy
What Is the Future of Energy Production?
The future of energy production must be renewable energy that does not contribute to climate change. This is not just a matter of protecting our planet, though that should be reason enough. Energy production needs to be converted to renewable sources because our current system is a threat to public health—particularly our most vulnerable populations.
Climate change has disproportionately affected disadvantaged and marginalized communities. A 2021 report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that “racial and ethnic minority communities are particularly vulnerable to the greatest impacts of climate change” and “the most severe harms from climate change fall disproportionately upon underserved communities who are least able to prepare for, and recover from, heat waves, poor air quality, flooding, and other impacts.”
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences describes the importance of studying climate change and human health by stating, “Certain populations— including children, the elderly, the poor, and those with underlying health conditions—are at increased risk for health impacts from climate change.” These health impacts include asthma, deaths from extreme temperatures, and natural disaster devastation.
Replacing fossil fuels with clean energy technology will go a long way to mitigate further risk and future damages. Here are the most promising energy technologies for a greener future:
1. Solar Power
Solar power is a renewable source of energy that utilizes the sun's rays to create electricity. There are two main types of harnessing solar power: photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar power (CSP). PV systems use solar panels that convert sunlight directly into electricity. This is what you’re used to seeing on rooftops. CSP uses mirrors and lenses to direct sunlight to a fluid, which then releases energy as heat. This is the principle behind solar cookers and solar furnaces.
Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages. While both produce clean energy, they require different materials and technologies. The biggest hindrance of solar energy is that we need a way to store it when the sun isn’t available. If we could solve that problem, solar energy would power the world indefinitely.
Examples of solar energy industry employment:
- Solar Panel Installer
- Solar Energy Consultant
- Solar Engineer
- Solar Site Survey Technician
- Solar Technician
2. Wind Energy
Wind power is generated by the wind blowing over wind turbines. The force of the wind pushes a turbine connected to a generator, which converts the energy to electricity. Wind farms are often built on land with steady winds, but some countries are looking at building offshore wind farms in oceans with stronger winds.
Wind energy requires lots of space, which is often not available where the electricity is needed. Similar to solar power, wind energy has one major drawback: there isn’t always wind to harvest. Regardless, wind power is endlessly renewable since no material is used up in the process.
Examples of wind energy jobs:
- Wind Turbine Technician
- Aerodynamics Engineer
- Turbine Mechanic
- Geotechnical Engineer
- Wind Site Project Manager
3. Geothermal Energy
Geothermal energy is produced by heat circulating deep inside Earth. Geothermal heat pumps use this renewable heat source to bring heat to the surface. Alternatively, geothermal heat pumps can transport hot air at the surface using the same energy system in reverse. The heat is naturally occurring, though accessing it requires drilling deep underground.
Examples of job titles in geothermal energy:
- Reservoir Engineer
- Geothermal Operator
- Drilling Engineer
- HVAC Technician
4. Hydroelectric Power and Wave Energy
Hydroelectric power is produced by harnessing the kinetic energy of flowing water to generate electricity. Hydroelectricity is considered clean energy because it uses plain water. Water is a renewable resource in that it cycles from liquid to gas to liquid again; however, hydroelectric power is limited to use near large sources of freshwater.
Wave energy is distinct from hydroelectricity because it involves ocean waves instead of a stream of water. A wave generator is a machine that uses the force of ocean waves to produce electricity. A buoy is anchored to the seabed and hooked up to a turbine. As the waves move the buoy, the energy moves the turbine similar to wind turbines. The amount of energy generated by a wave farm depends on many factors including the height of the waves, the length of time the waves are active, and the number of turbines.
Examples of employment opportunities in hydroelectric or wave energy:
- Hydroelectric Mechanic
- Survey and Mapping Technician
- Hydropower Program Analyst
- Water Power Engineer
5. Nuclear Energy
Nuclear energy is produced by nuclear fission, a process of splitting atoms in a controlled environment to release massive amounts of energy without pollution or greenhouse gasses. While the technology has been around for about 90 years, it is not currently a viable solution to replace fossil fuels. It is expensive, potentially explosive and not actually renewable at this time.
Uranium is the most common element used to create nuclear energy. Specifically, nuclear power plants use a rare type of uranium called U-235. Uranium is technically a nonrenewable energy source, because when we use it for fuel it is destroyed and we have no way to create more. It is also not a completely green energy, as it produces radioactive toxic waste that must be disposed of properly. However, it is still preferable to coal power plants in terms of environmental impact, assuming proper precautions are taken. This is why nuclear power is often grouped with renewable energy options.
Examples of jobs in nuclear energy:
- Nuclear Power Plant Manager
- Nuclear Physicist
- Nuclear Engineer
- Reactor Operator
6. Fusion Energy
Nuclear fusion is the process where two hydrogen nuclei combine. Contrast that with nuclear fission, in which the nuclei split apart. Scientists believe that fusion could provide an unlimited amount of energy for humanity. Fusion reactors surround super heated plasmas until they reach temperatures of up to 150 million degrees Celsius. At that temperature, energy is released. For context, nuclear fusion is what creates a star, and the 150 million degrees Celsius temperature is ten times hotter than our favorite star, the sun.
Fusion reactors are also theoretically limitless since the energy output is so vast.
Unfortunately, this technology is still years away from practical applications. If scientists do figure out fusion reactors, though, they would be even cleaner than nuclear power plants with far less radioactive waste.
Examples of jobs in nuclear fusion:
- Research Scientist
- Nuclear Fusion Engineer
- Plasma Science Nuclear Engineer
Biomass is derived from materials like corn, sugar or wood chips. It can be an efficient way to utilize agricultural byproducts that would otherwise be wasted, like corn stalks. Typically, biofuels are converted to liquids for use in vehicles. However, biomass can also be used as solid matter to produce heat.
Examples of jobs in energy that work with biomass:
- Biological Scientist
- Biotechnology Engineer
- Biofuels Product Development Manager
- Plant Scientist
- Biofuel Technician
Do any of these job titles or energy technologies inspire you to work in the field? There are tons of opportunities to improve our current energy production systems while earning a living. If you've decided a career in the energy industry is right for you, consider Teal's Job Application Tracker to power your job search. With Teal's Job Application Tracker, you can bookmark jobs as you browse the web. When you're ready to apply, use Teal's suite of tools to optimize your resume, prepare for interviews, and more.
Frequently Asked Questions
What types of jobs are there in the renewable energy sector?
There are many types of jobs in renewable energy. There are lots of opportunities for engineers and construction laborers in particular. The energy sector encompasses full-time, part-time, and contract roles in both private and public sectors. State and federal governments are adding jobs that involve clean energy. Many nonprofit, startups, and corporations are venturing into renewable energy solutions, too.
Are there remote jobs available in energy?
Yes, though they are harder to find. Your best bet for finding a remote job in the energy industry is to make a list of energy companies that already allow employees to work off-site. Then, examine the career pages for the energy companies on your list to find out what roles they’re looking to fill. Some jobs are not compatible with a work-from-home model, such as a repair technician or equipment operator. However, most jobs that only require a computer and an internet connection can be done from home. Look for open positions in marketing, business management, accounting, or customer service departments. If you have the right experience, you can land a remote job in the energy industry.