Solar photovoltaic installers held about 17,100 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of solar photovoltaic installers were as follows:
|Electrical contractors and other wiring installation contractors||52%|
|Plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors||14|
Because photovoltaic (PV) panels convert sunlight into electricity, most PV installation is done outdoors. Residential installers work on rooftops but also sometimes work in attics and crawl spaces to connect panels to the electrical grid. PV installers who build solar farms work at ground level.
PV installers may work alone or as part of a team. Installation of solar panels may require the help of roofers and electricians.
Injuries and Illnesses
Solar photovoltaic installers risk falls from ladders and roofs, shocks from electricity, and burns from hot equipment and materials while installing and maintaining PV systems. To reduce the risk of injury, PV installers must wear safety equipment, such as harnesses, gloves, and hard hats.
There are multiple paths to becoming a solar photovoltaic (PV) installer, or PV installer. These workers typically need a high school diploma, but some take courses at a technical school or community college; they also receive on-the-job training lasting up to 1 year. Some PV installers learn to install panels as part of an apprenticeship.
PV installers typically need a high school diploma. Some PV installers take courses at local community colleges or technical schools to learn about solar panel installation. Courses range from basic safety and PV knowledge to system design. Although course length varies, most usually last a few days to several months.
Some candidates, especially those with construction experience, enter the field by taking online training courses.
Some PV installers learn their trade on the job by working with experienced installers. On-the-job training usually lasts between 1 month and 1 year. During training, PV installers learn about safety, tools, and PV system installation techniques.
Electrician and roofing apprentices and journey workers may complete photovoltaic-specific training modules through apprenticeships.
Solar PV system manufacturers may also provide training on specific products. Such training usually includes a system overview and proper installation techniques for the manufacturer’s products.
Military veterans may benefit from the Solar Ready Vets program, which is funded by the U.S Department of Energy and prepares veterans to connect with training and jobs in the solar industry.
Work Experience in a Related Occupation
Experience in construction may shorten a new employee’s training time. For example, workers with experience as an electrician, roofer, carpenter, or laborer typically already understand and can perform basic construction duties.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Some states require a license for PV installers. Contact your state’s licensing board for more information.
PV installers must travel to jobsites, so employers may require them to have a driver’s license.
Although not required for employment, certification demonstrates competency in solar panel installation. The Electronics Technicians Association, International (ETA) and the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners offer certification for PV installers. Some states require that for projects to qualify for solar-related subsidies, all PV installers working on the projects must have certification.
PV installers may advance to become a project supervisor or project manager after gaining experience in the trade. PV installers may also transition to sales roles within the industry, given their knowledge of and experience with PV installation. They also may choose to start their own PV installation business.
Solar photovoltaic (PV) installers typically have an interest in the Building and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.
If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a solar photovoltaic (PV) installer, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Solar photovoltaic (PV) installers should also possess the following specific qualities:
Customer-service skills. Residential panel installers must work in customers’ homes. As a result, workers must maintain professionalism and perform the work in a timely manner.
Detail oriented. PV installers must carefully follow instructions during installation. If they fail to do so, the system may not work properly.
Mechanical skills. PV installers work with complex electrical and mechanical equipment. They must be able to build support structures that hold PV panels in place, and properly connect the panels to the electrical system.
Physical stamina. PV installers are often on their feet carrying panels and other heavy equipment. When installing rooftop panels, workers may need to climb ladders many times during the course of the day.
Physical strength. PV installers must often lift heavy equipment, parts, and tools. Workers should be strong enough to lift panels that weigh up to 40 pounds.
The median annual wage for solar photovoltaic installers was $47,670 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $36,320, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $72,080.
In May 2021, the median annual wages for solar photovoltaic installers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors||47,930|
|Electrical contractors and other wiring installation contractors||47,610|
Employment of solar photovoltaic installers is projected to grow 27 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.
About 2,500 openings for solar photovoltaic installers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
The continued expansion and adoption of solar PV systems is expected to create jobs for their installation and upkeep. As the cost of PV panels and shingles continues to decrease, more households are expected to take advantage of these systems, resulting in greater demand for the workers who install and maintain them. The increasing popularity of solar leasing plans—in which homeowners lease, rather than purchase, systems—should create additional demand, because homeowners no longer bear the upfront costs of installation.
Demand may be greatest in states and localities that provide incentives to reduce the cost of PV systems.
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For details about apprenticeships or other training opportunities in this trade, contact the offices of the state employment service, technical colleges, the state apprenticeship agency, local photovoltaic contractors, firms that employ PV installers, or local union–management apprenticeship committees. Apprenticeship information is available from the U.S. Department of Labor's Apprenticeship program online or by phone at 877-872-5627. Visit Apprenticeship.gov to search for apprenticeship opportunities.
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