How to Become a Solar Panel Installer:
The Definitive Guide


With society’s attention becoming more focused on the way we gain energy, now is a great time to think about a career as a Solar Panel Installer.

Solar panels are becoming more popular worldwide because of the reduced electricity bills and free energy.

It’s important to have these panels installed correctly to have the maximum benefits, and that’s where a Solar Panel Installer comes in.

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What is a Solar Panel Installer?

As a Solar Panel Installer, it’s typical to work with solar panels, modules, and support structures.

Some of the things that a Solar Panel Installer may install are solar collectors, concentrators, pumps, and fans.

The maintenance of solar panels is also important, and many Solar Panel Installers also work as repairmen for solar modules as well.

There are many steps to installing solar panels, so it takes a well-educated person who understands how electricity works in order to maintain a good career as a Solar Panel Installer.

Duties

Installing solar panels and other modules is not as easy as it may seem, there are a lot of steps to ensuring that a solar panel is going to do what it’s supposed to.

A Solar Panel Installer must make sure that all electricity going to and from the solar panels is up to code, as well as:

  • Apply weather sealant to different modules
  • Install photovoltaic systems
  • Check electrical systems for correct wiring
  • Read and understand diagram layouts
  • Examine designs
  • Identify and resolve deficiencies in the photovoltaic system

Salary

On average in the United States, a Solar Panel Installer can make nearly $47,000 a year.

However, in some places, it is possible that a Solar Panel Installer will make less money.

In states like Iowa and Maine, the average Solar Panel Installer makes around $35,000 a year.

Also, those that are just starting out in the business will likely make less money per year as well.

After many years of hands-on experience, a Solar Panel Installer may make up to $63,000 a year in some areas.

People that work in higher populations with more energy conscious people will likely make more money, but in several years, many more homes will likely be using solar panels for energy.

This means that there could be a rise in salary in the next several years.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

Annually National Average Salary: $46,850

$31K
$36K
$46K
$55K
$63K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Annual Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Arizona$51,840
California$47,640
Colorado$47,370
Florida$35,330
Hawaii$56,920
Indiana$42,260
Iowa$39,350
Louisiana$50,740
Maine$39,710
Maryland$47,180
Massachusetts$53,180
Michigan$38,560
Missouri$45,560
Nevada$45,740
New Hampshire$47,020
New Jersey$50,990
New Mexico$43,260
New York$51,330
North Carolina$36,840
Oregon$58,180
South Carolina$39,530
Tennessee$41,200
Texas$53,700
Utah$35,610
Vermont$45,060
Virginia$40,930
Washington$48,880
Puerto Rico$28,160

Annual Average Salary: Top 5 States

The top earning state in the field is Oregon, where the average salary is $58,180.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Oregon - $58,180
Hawaii - $56,920
Texas - $53,700
Massachusetts - $53,180
Arizona - $51,840
*Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey.
Conducted by: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

How to Become a Solar Panel Installer

Step 1Meet the Requirements

If you plan to work as a Solar Panel Installer, it’s important to look at the requirements in your state, because they vary.

Most states allow Solar Panel Installers to work without a license, but there are some exceptions.

It’s also possible that your state does not require a formal degree, some states allow Solar Panel Installers to work with a high school diploma or a GED.

For those that are not looking to gain higher education, some of the skills needed to begin a career as a Solar Panel Installer are:

  • Active listening
  • Critical thinking
  • Reading comprehension
  • Language
  • Some building and construction knowledge

Many states also require Solar Panel Installers to be at least 18 years old.

Even if the state does not require a degree in order to work as a Solar Panel Installer, many employers will require some type of training program or education before they hire anyone.

Step 2Earn a Degree

It’s not legally required to have a degree in many states in order to work as a Solar Panel Installer, but formal education can help someone who is looking to gain employment and move up in this career field.

It’s possible to earn an Associate’s degree in renewable energy, which can take roughly two years to complete.

With an Associate’s degree, there is a wide range of opportunities to move up in this field.

Some of the careers that are possible with an Associates degree include:

  • PV Installer
  • Site Accessor
  • System Designer
  • Photovoltaic Technical Salesperson

In a degree program like this, students learn about photovoltaic energy, as well as use hands-on training to install and repair systems.

If this sounds like an interesting career path, some of the classes that you can take are:

  • Energy Physics
  • Electrical Circuits
  • Solar Construction and Safety
  • Alternative Energy Techniques
  • Business
  • Light Applications

And many more.

It’s also possible to find other training programs through technical schools and colleges, which will help you gain a certificate in solar panel installation.

Many training programs last anywhere from 9 weeks to 2 years.

There are Solar Panel Installer programs across the United States, and they cover many topics like:

  • PV Site Assessment
  • PV System Design
  • Basic Photovoltaics
  • Lab and Design scenarios

Whichever route you decide to take, it’s important to gain on the job experience as well as classroom time.

Step 3Gain Experience

An essential part of working as a Solar Panel Installer is to earn the hands-on experience needed to do the job right.

Much of a Solar Panel Installers’ job is meticulous and being off by even the slightest bit could mean trouble.

That’s why most Solar-Panel Installers gain at least one to two years of experience before they are able to become licensed if it’s required by the state in which they work.

Experience can be gained by working with solar panel installation companies or other electricians.

It’s possible to gain experience through system manufacturers as well.

Gaining experience can mean working on solar panel installation jobs or even working through different training programs that provide hands-on training.

Step 4Become Licensed and Certified

There are many states that do not require a Solar Panel Installer to be licensed, but for that states that do require it, there are some important steps to follow.

In many states, the requirements to gain authorization to become a licensed Solar Panel Installer include:

  • At least four years of experience as a Solar Panel Installer
  • Experience in designing, planning, and installing solar panel modules
  • Experience with supervising construction activities

Some states even require that Solar Panel Installers gain a separate, specialized license.

It’s important to take a look at your states licensing map to learn more about the credentials you need in order to work as a Solar Panel Installer legally.

Whether or not your state requires a license, there are some certifications that can be obtained in order to show competency in the field.

These are also voluntary certifications, but many employers look for extra qualifications in order to gain the best employees.

The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners is a nationally recognized certification board for Solar Panel Installers.

Some of the certifications that the NABCEP holds include:

  • PV Installation Professional
  • PV Technical Sales Professional
  • PV Design Specialist
  • PV Systems Inspector
  • PV Installer Specialist

Each of these certifications requires a training program as well as the passing of an exam in order to become certified.

Depending on where you gain the certification, the training program length can vary-however most of them are around 12-16 weeks.

After the exam is passed, you will be a certified Solar Panel Installer with the certification of whichever specialty you choose.


Education

There isn’t a legal requirement to earn a degree to become a Solar Panel Installer, however, many employers are now requiring some type of formal education.

This can come in the form of earning an Associate’s degree or finishing a training program that can be done through a local trade school or online.

An Associate’s degree in renewable energy can take around two years to complete.

There are certain courses that are to be expected in this type of program.

Some of the classes that you will likely take to earn an Associates degree are:

  • Introduction to Energy Management
  • Energy Physics
  • Data Analytics
  • Construction Project Management
  • Electric Circuits
  • Photovoltaic Systems
  • Sustainability and Society

It’s important to gain hands-on experience while working toward an Associate’s degree.

This way, you will have on the job knowledge before beginning your career.

If you are not interested in earning an Associate’s degree, there are other programs that will provide a certificate upon completion.

Depending on which state you live in and whether you go to online school, some programs can last a few weeks, while others can take up to a year to complete.

Most, if not all, of these technical programs, provide hands-on experience to learn the tricks of the trade.

Some of the classes that you will likely take in order to complete a program include:

  • PV Fundamentals
  • PV Design
  • PV Grid-Tie Systems
  • PV Stand-Alone Systems
  • PV Construction Management

Many programs require classroom time, lab time, as well as some type of internship or externship working in the field.

In a program for installing solar panels, there are several things that you will have the experience working on:

  • Developing solar-powered energy systems
  • Site analysis
  • System sizing
  • Array configurations

It’s important to check out the programs in your area, especially because some of them allow financial assistance.

Video About The Career


Licensing and Certification

There are laws in some states that require a Solar Panel Installer to become licensed, so you will need to check your state laws in order to find out more information.

Usually, to obtain a license as a Solar Panel Installer, you will need at least two years of experience on the job, as well as experience in designing and supervising.

A license can provide clients with the assurance that you know what you are doing, and that they will get the quality service they need.

In states where a license is not necessary, some Solar Panel Installers are opting for certifications instead.

There are many certifications to obtain as a Solar Panel Installer, and each accreditation will show the competency and knowledge of the credential holder.

This means that employers will look for Solar Panel Installers who have certifications before hiring ones that don’t hold any credentials.

Some of the certifications that are provided by the NABCEP are:

  • PV Installation Professional – This certification shows that the employee is competent in areas like PV design, installations, operations, etc.
  • PV Design Specialist – For those interested in designing solar panel modules, this is the certification for you.
  • PV Installer Specialist – This certification is for those who are highly competent in all areas of solar panel installation.
  • PV Technical Sales – If you have knowledge and experience in site analysis, performance analysis, and customer analysis, you may be perfect to earn the PV Technical Sales Certification.
  • PV System Inspector – The PV System Inspector certification is perfect for Solar Panel Installers who are interested in examining residential and commercial solar panel modules.

In order to gain certification as a PV Installation Professional, candidates must be:

  • At least 18 years of age
  • Have proper education for the job
  • Pay an examination fee of around $150
  • Pass an examination

The same requirements go for the rest of the certifications; however, it is important that the Solar Panel Installer has experience in that specific area in order to become certified.

For example, someone who wants to become a PV Design Specialist must have experience working with designs and have physically drawn and installed designs in the past.

Every three years, each of these certifications needs to be renewed.

Certification Example:

Solar Panel Installer Certificate

Average Training Program Duration: 1-2 Years

Whether you go to college online or in person, or if you’d prefer to start a technical school program, the time it takes to train to become a Solar Panel Installer may vary.

People that want to work in construction as Solar Panel Installers can earn an Associate’s degree, which can take about two years.

Sometimes, it’s possible to gain employment as a Solar Panel Installer with no training whatsoever, but most employers will not hire anyone that doesn’t have at least 6 weeks to two months of training.

This can be done through a trade school, online, or possibly through your prospective employer as well.

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Job Outlook

This job is one to look out for in the near future.

A Solar Panel Installer should not have an issue finding a career opportunity, as this career is expected to grow around 63 percent within the next decade.

That’s lightyears ahead of many other careers in the construction field.

Due to the dwindling cost of solar panel modules, many more people are becoming interested in this renewable energy.

The more customers mean more job opportunities for Solar Panel Installers.

There will likely be a rise in solar panel modules in places that are highly populated or have a green community.

Employment Growth Projection: 63%

9,700
2018
15,800
2028

That's a higher than average projected growth of 6,100 jobs.

Solar Panel Installer: Interest Over Time


Should You Become a Solar Panel Installer?

Overall Satisfaction: High

Overall Satisfaction

Those that work as Solar Panel Installers say that they have a calmer construction job than many others in the same field.

The work to life balance is perfect for those looking for a low-stress job, but still want to work with their hands in the construction business.

Even though there is not much upward mobility in this field, there are many opportunities to earn promotions and raises.

If you are looking for a job in construction but aren’t sure how much physical labor you can take, try working as a Solar Panel Installer first and see how well you do.

Average Salary: High

Average Salary

On average around the country, Solar Panel Installers make nearly $47,000 a year.

However, there are some Solar Panel Installers that make less, at around $35,000 a year.

Solar Panel Installers that are just starting out in the field with less experience, or ones that work in smaller populations will likely make less than someone working in a more populated area.

With many years of experience, certifications, and specializations, it’s possible to make upwards of $63,000 a year as a Solar Panel Installer.

Job Growth Outlook: High

Job Growth Outlook

The shocking news is that this career will boost employment opportunities over the next decade.

The career of a Solar Panel Installer is expected to grow at least 63 percent within the next several years.

This is due to the increased interest in renewable energy sources, as well as advancements in technology.

The cost of solar panels and modules has begun to decrease, which means more people are going to purchase them in the future.

This calls for more job opportunities for people who are interested in becoming Solar Panel Installers.

Education Duration: 1-2 Years

Education Duration

There aren’t many requirements in order to work as a Solar Panel Installer, but for those that want to continue their education, there are some options.

It’s possible to gain an Associate’s degree in renewable energy, which can take around two years to finish.

Also, there are several Solar Panel Installation programs to look into, many of which can be done online.

These programs can take anywhere from several weeks to several years to finish.

Depending on the requirements for your state, and how much education you want, it can take a few months to finish a program, or it can take several years.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

It’s important to remember that a Solar Panel Installer must have some skills before they enter the job force.

Some of the things that a Solar Panel Installer should know in order to make the best out of their career include:

  • Listening skills
  • Communication skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Ability to work alone and with others
  • Great math skills
  • Ability to read designs and implement them
  • Work with hands to determine technical problems
  • Customer service skills
  • Personable
  • Stamina
  • Physical ability
  • Logic skills

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the average salary for a Solar Panel Installer?

In the United States, on average, a Solar Panel Installer can make around $47,000 a year.

After many years of experience in the field, and certifications in special areas, it’s possible to make more than $63,000 a year as a Solar Panel Installer.

However, when just starting out in this field, it’s likely that you will make much less.

The average starting salary for a Solar Panel Installer is around $33,000 a year.

Q. How long does it take to become a Solar Panel Installer?

It’s possible to start working as a Solar Panel Installer as soon as you graduate from high school.

However, there are employers who require at least a two-year degree or certification from a solar installer program, which can take anywhere from several weeks to a year or more to complete.

If this is something that you are interested in, speak to the employer that you want to work for to see what their requirements are.

It can take several years to become a Solar Panel Installer, or it may just take a couple of weeks in order to learn the ropes of the career.

Q. What does a Solar Panel Installer do?

Well, the name speaks for itself, but there are some other things that a Solar Panel Installer may do besides installing solar panels.

These crafty individuals will likely design, create, and repair solar panel modules as well as other electrical modules that may be needed.

Those that gain formal education or certifications will likely work as Project Managers or supervisors to oversee the installation of solar panel modules.

Q. What is the demand for Solar Panel Installers?

With the world becoming more energy conscious, the rise in Solar Panel Installer jobs is going to skyrocket.

This is because of the use of technology and the shrinking cost of solar panel modules.

Within the next decade, the demand for Solar Panel Installers will rise by nearly 63 percent, which is astronomical compared to other careers in the same field.

If you are interested in this career, there should be no shortage of career opportunities in the near future.

Q. How much does it cost to become a Solar Panel Installer?

It’s possible that it may not cost you anything in order to become a Solar Panel Installer.

That doesn’t mean that there are employers who require at least a two-year education.

An Associate’s degree in renewable energy can take around two years to complete and costs anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000.

Many programs are available for people interested in working as Solar Panel Installers as well.

These programs can cost anywhere from $400 to $1,500 to complete.


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