Monday, July 2, 2012

Green Jobs Series: Careers in Wind Energy

With the hot winds of summer blowing across the United States, we at The Daily Leap thought it would be fitting to begin a new green job series on high-growth careers in wind power.

Visually identifiable by its characteristic turbines, wind power has been used on an electrical utility scale for only a few decades. However, it is expected to grow more rapidly as demand for renewable energy increases. As the wind energy industry continues to grow, it will provide many opportunities for workers in search of new careers.

Manufacturing—Research and Development Jobs

Occupations in wind power are separated into three phases: manufacturing, project development, and operation and maintenance. However, occupations are not always limited to one phase. For most positions, wind companies hire people with experience in other industries and give them wind-specific training.

In today’s green jobs series installment, we will focus on typical research and development jobs in the manufacturing phase—engineers, including engineering technicians.


Job Duties

Engineers in the wind power industry are involved in the design and development of wind turbines. In addition, they also work in testing, production, and maintenance. Engineers may also supervise production in factories, test manufactured products to maintain quality, and troubleshoot design or component problems. They also estimate the time and cost required to complete projects and look for ways to make production processes more efficient.

Education and Training

Engineers typically enter the wind power industry with at least a bachelor's degree in an engineering specialty. However, a significant number of jobs require more education, such as a master's or doctoral degree. In addition, engineers typically are licensed and are expected to complete continuing education to keep current with rapidly changing technology.

Wind turbine manufacturers prefer to hire engineers with 3–5 years of experience in their respective field and knowledge of commonly used systems and processes. Engineers are then given additional training lasting several weeks or months prior to assignment, and then they undergo extensive on-the-job training.

Entry-level engineers may also be hired as interns or junior team members and work under the close supervision of more senior engineers. As they gain experience and knowledge, they are assigned more difficult tasks and given greater independence.

Certifications are usually required, depending on the systems used by a particular manufacturer. Licensure as a professional engineer (PE) is desirable, but is not required for many wind turbine manufacturers. Engineering technicians typically have an associate's degree or a certificate from a community college or technical school.


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not currently publish earnings data specific to the wind power industry, but earnings for engineers are comparable to earnings for engineers in general. The following tabulation shows annual wages for engineers in selected specialties.

Occupation Median annual wage
Aerospace engineers $94,780
Civil engineers $76,590
Electrical engineers $83,110
Electronics engineers $89,310
Environmental engineers $77,040
Health and safety engineers $74,080
Industrial engineers $75,110
Materials engineers $83,190
Mechanical engineers $77,020
Engineering technicians $50,130

Earnings are dependent on a number of factors, such as experience, education and training, licensure and certifications, the size and type of company, geographic location, and the complexity of the work.

For more detailed information on wind energy engineering occupations, follow the Occupational Outlook Handbook link.

Tomorrow’s series installment: Occupations in Wind Power—General Manufacturing Jobs

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