Guide to On-Campus & Online Solar Technician Training Programs

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Sunlight is an ongoing supply and solar energy technicians help to convert this natural resource to electricity by installing solar panels on roofs or other types of structures, such as free-standing arrays. Because they are employed in solar power, much of their work occurs outside or even in an attic or crawl space of the place where they are installing solar panels. Exciting, right?

As it turns out, the United States has installed over two million solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, and that number is expected to double by 2024 if the current pace of demand continues.

In addition to installing solar panels, solar energy technicians (also referred to as solar photovoltaic installers) may be responsible for assembling, maintaining, or repairing panels on grids, and could work under the guidance of an engineer or advanced technician. Travelling is an important part of the job as work is typically done on a client’s site. Most work is done during regular full-time hours although some solar energy technicians may need to be available for emergencies during weekends or evenings.

Do you want to learn how to become part of the growing solar panel installation field? Are you excited about the opportunity to work at a different job site and mostly outdoors in the sun?

Read on in this solar energy technician training guide to discover more about the occupational opportunities and the various steps, including training, that you could take to gain entry into the field.

What Kind of Job do Solar Energy Technicians Have?

Solar energy technicians must have a wide range of knowledge, which they can gain through solar panel installation training or even on the job. Responsibilities can vary but include the need to be able to read drawings and schematics, knowing about local code and regulations, and understanding the current requirements for the electrical circuit of a solar panel system.

Installing a panel or panels may be more in-depth than it may seem at first. According to O*NET (2021), solar energy technicians must know how to apply weather sealing to the panel or system, put in interconnected wiring, and test voltages to ensure the system operates within acceptable limits.

Solar Energy Technician Salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2019) reported that there were 11,080 solar photovoltaic installers across the country, making an annual average salary (annual mean wage) of $46,850; furthermore, the number of positions nationally was expected to increase a whopping 51 percent between 2019 and 2029 (BLS 2021).

This increase is due to a decrease in the cost of panels and systems for residential homes and thus more need for the installation of systems. Government incentives and improved efficiency of these panels could also impact the demand.

Here is a detailed breakdown of how much solar energy technicians can expect to make (BLS May 2019):

United States
Number of HVAC Professionals Employed 11,080
Annual mean wage $46,850
10th Percentile $31,600
25th Percentile $36,310
50th Percentile (Median) $44,890
75th Percentile $55,680
90th Percentile $63,880


The national figures were slightly different according to another source of data, PayScale (2021), which relies on self-reported salaries. Among the solar technicians reporting their annual salaries, Payscale found these percentiles:

  • 10th percentile: $29,000
  • 50th percentile (median):$46,362
  • 90th percentile: $77,000

How Do You Become a Solar Technician?

A high school diploma or its equivalent is generally needed to enter the field, but job prospects could be best for those who have a two-year degree, according to the BLS. Community colleges and trade schools often offer programs through which students are trained in basic solar power knowledge as well as safety and system design. Online opportunities may also be available and particularly helpful to workers who have former construction or electrical experience.

Of course, there are other ways to become a solar energy technician. A few of these are listed below.

  1. On-the-job training: Solar energy technicians can learn about the occupation via on-the-job training lasting anywhere from one month to one year, according to the BLS. This allows them to gain hands-on solar energy technician training and learn about solar panel installation techniques, safety, and tool use. They may be given increasingly difficult responsibilities as they gain more skills on the job.
  2. Systems manufacturers: Solar panel installation training can also be obtained through solar photovoltaic systems manufacturers that want to provide specific skills about installing and maintaining their products.
  3. Related apprenticeships: While there are no apprenticeships available to solar energy panel installers, students could be trained in solar panel installation through an apprentice program in another field, such as for an electrician. This could be a good career choice because, in many states, an electrician has the qualifications to be able to connect photovoltaic systems to an electrical grid.

Solar Panel Installation & Maintenance Training Programs

From certificates to two-year degrees, the options that are available to those interested in solar panel installation training vary. Below, we provide a look at some of these options and hope through them you can gain a better understanding of some of your choices:

The Training Center

The Training Center, in Harker Heights, Texas, offers a certification for solar energy technicians that is 6 weeks in length. Students learn how to apply basic engineering principles and technical skills in a hybrid laboratory and classroom environment. They also learn about solar energy principles, inspection and testing procedures, energy storage and transfer technologies, report preparation, and system maintenance procedures.

Comprising 120 clock-hours, this program includes the following six modules:

  • Photovoltaic fundamentals – Students in this module will learn about performing hazard analysis, identifying job site hazards, implementing ladder safety, implementing fall protection plans, and understanding the fundamentals of electric utility system operations, among others.
  • Photovoltaic system design – This includes understanding basic electrical parameters such as electrical charge, voltage, current, resistance, and power, identifying electrical test equipment, performing site analysis, designing rooftop photovoltaic solar systems, and performing system sizing.
  • Photovoltaic grid-tie systems – The objectives for this module include performing the installation of a rooftop grid-tied system, understanding the requirements for roofing systems, and comparing and contrasting the benefits and features of different photovoltaic arrays mounting systems.
  • Photovoltaic stand-alone systems – This involves installing a stand-alone system, understanding the operation of batteries, and identifying the requirements for charge controller installations and applications.
  • Photovoltaic construction management – This construction project management module involves performing a survey, preparing a proposal, plan an installation, and identifying safety practices.
  • Photovoltaic system interconnection – The final module in this program includes identifying code requirements, identifying all required tests, identifying all required inspections, and understanding the maintenance and operations of a photovoltaic solar system.

Students are prepared to enter the workforce immediately after graduation and support engineers and other professionals in installing photovoltaic systems.

  • Location: Harker Heights, TX
  • Accreditation: N/A
  • Expected Time to Completion: Six weeks
  • Estimated Tuition: $5,998.99

Indian River State College

Indian River State College in Fort Pierce, Florida, offers an electronics engineering technology degree that includes several specializations such as biomedical electronics, computer technology, laser-photonics, robotics-manufacturing, solar energy, and telecommunications.

The associate degree in electronics engineering technology solar energy specialization consists of 68 credits and includes courses such as AC and DC circuits, electronic devices, introduction to photonics, troubleshooting and repair techniques, programmable logic controllers, and solar thermal systems, among others.

Students here will also have the option to earn technical certificates at the same time they’re completing their AS degree. The solar energy technical certificate is a 12-credit where the coursework will include four three-level classes that include DC circuits, AC circuits, solar thermal systems, and solar photovoltaic systems.

  • Location: Fort Pierce, FL
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: AS degree (five semesters)
  • Estimated Tuition: Florida Resident ($103.83 per credit); Non-Florida Resident ($390.49)

Midwest Renewable Energy Association

Midwest Renewable Energy Association’s Solar Training Academy offers a certificate program to become a solar installer at seven campuses across Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois. For professionals starting their solar careers, the Solar Training Academy offers engaging industry-leading solar technical training through online coursework via Moodle, Zoom meetings, and in-person labs.

With no prerequisites required this program is for anyone interested in learning about designing and installing their PV system. Upon completion, graduates will be qualified to sit for the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) PV Associate Exam, a credential valued by the industry.

Classes include PV site assessment, PV system design, basic photovoltaics, PV exam prep, PV labs and design scenarios, working with electricity, and navigating the NEC.

  • Location: Milwaukee, WI
  • Accreditation: N/A
  • Expected Time to Completion: Contact MREA for details
  • Estimated Tuition: MREA members ($1,799); Non-members ($1,899)

Delaware Technical Community College

Delaware Technical Community College offers a renewable energy solar associate degree that can prepare students for employment positions such as PV Installer, PV technical salesperson, or solar thermal technician. The program helps students in developing energy analysis skills for improving energy efficiency and the application of renewable energy solar systems. They will also learn about designing and installing solar photovoltaic systems and solar thermal applications.

This degree requires a minimum completion of 66 credits and features courses such as introduction to energy management, safety basics, electrical safety, solar policy and financing, lighting applications, sustainability and society, and photovoltaic systems.

The program will prepare students to take the NABCEP entry-level exam. Graduates will be able to calculate and verify the energy use of buildings, make recommendations for optimized building performance by evaluating residential buildings, present technical reports, analyze the environmental, business, and economic implications of energy measures, and perform in-depth site and customer suitability evaluation.

  • Location: Dover, DE
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: 2 years
  • Estimated Tuition: In-state ($152.50 per credit); Out-of-State ($381.25 per credit)

Crowder College

Crowder College in Neosho, Missouri, actually offers both an associate of arts and an associate of applied science (AAS) degree in alternative energy (solar), as well as a certificate that could be of interest to those wanting solar energy technician training. These programs provide students with a solid applied foundation in solar applications and technologies.

The associate of arts (AA) degree is made up of 65 credits, while the associate of applied science (AAS) degree requires completion of 64 credits. The active solar technician consists of 23 credits.

The curriculum includes courses such as occupational safety, solar thermal systems, passive solar, solar electric energy, trigonometry, and fundamentals of speech, among others. Students will be required to take the NABCEP Solar PV exam as part of the solar electric energy course.

  • Location: Neosho, MO
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association
  • Expected Time to Completion: Associate degree (two years); certificate (one year)
  • Estimated Tuition: In-district ($114.00 per credit); out-of-district/state ($184.00 per credit)

Clinton Community College

State University of New York’s Clinton Community College offers an associate of applied science and a certificate program in renewable energy technologies preparing students for entry-level positions by teaching them about the construction, installation, and maintenance of wind and solar electricity generating systems which apply to both light commercial and residential systems.

The certificate consists of 32 credits involving courses in maths, English, science, computer science, electrical circuits, photovoltaic systems theory and design, photovoltaic systems installation and maintenance, industrial electricity, blueprint reading and technical schematics, and safety at height and rescue. All courses in this certificate can be applied to the AAS degree.

The associate’s degree comprises 60 credits with additional coursework in electronics, industrial health and safety, instrumentation, and power generation and delivery.

Graduates of the AAS degree program ready for immediate employment in the renewable energy field. They can take up roles such as wind turbine technician, solar systems installer, assembler, and electrical technician.

  • Location: Plattsburgh, NY
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: AAS (two years); certificate (nine months)
  • Estimated Tuition: NY State residents ($230 per credit); non-residents ($400 per credit)

Greenfield Community College

Greenfield Community College offers a full-time certificate program in renewable energy/energy efficiency providing students with a comprehensive introduction to renewable energy and energy efficiency. They will be prepared for entry-level employment opportunities in the renewable energy/energy efficiency field.

The program requires successful completion of 28 to 29 credits including courses such as residential energy efficiency and energy auditing, sustainable landscape design, fundamentals of wind energy, solar thermal systems, and applied residential energy auditing.

The college also offers an associate in arts degree in renewable energy/energy efficiency which consists of 60 to 62 credits. All courses earned in the certificate can be applied towards this degree.

  • Location: Greenfield, MA
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: AA (two years); certificate (one year)
  • Estimated Tuition: $26 per unit

Salt Lake Community College

Salt Lake Community College offers an associate of applied science degree in energy management preparing students to identify and implement energy efficiency measures through sustainable practices. Providing hands-on experience, the program will help students learn about the fundamentals of energy and gain a solid understanding of the energy systems in commercial, industrial, and residential facilities. This program can also be a good fit for working professionals as some of its classes are offered entirely online.

Consisting of 67 credits, the program includes courses such as residential building energy, clean energy technologies, energy accounting for business, selling energy efficiency, energy auditing field methods, basic photovoltaics systems, and industrial energy efficiency, among others.

At the end of the program, graduates can pursue opportunities such as Energy Manager, Facilities Operator, Energy Auditor, Energy Efficiency Consultant, Renewable Energy Specialist, sustainability Manager, and more.

  • Location: Salt Lake City, UT
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Expected Time to Completion: 18 months
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($238.75 per credit); non-resident ($669.75 per credit)

Shoreline Community College

An associate in applied arts and sciences (AAAS) degree and a certificate in clean energy technology and entrepreneurship offered by Shoreline Community College prepares students with the practical and theoretical knowledge necessary for careers in firms that design, manage, build, operate, or market clean energy technologies in the built environment.

The certificate is made up of 45 credits and all courses earned in the certificate can be applied towards the AAAS degree which consists of 90 credits. The curriculum includes courses such as Introduction to battery technology, solar electric design and applications, advanced PV design, battery-based PV system design, and sustainable business strategies, among others.

On successful completion of the program, graduates can take up roles such as building energy analysts, renewable energy or high performing systems designers, energy management specialists, facilities operations, commissioning specialists, and project managers.

  • Location: Shoreline, WA
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Expected Time to Completion: AAAS (two years); certificate (one year)
  • Estimated Tuition: WA-Resident ($152.13 per credit); Non-WA resident ($243.46 per credit)

Mid-State Technical College

Mid-State’s associate in applied science degree in renewable energy technician program prepares students to design a portfolio of traditional and renewable energy-producing systems. They will be prepared for a variety of tasks such as performing site assessments, selling and marketing renewable energy technologies, managing installation projects, and recommending appropriate renewable energy technologies.

Made up of 60 credits, the program includes courses such as renewable energy overview, piping applications, photovoltaic system design and installation, electrical controls and systems for buildings, sustainable heating system design and installation, and HVAC air conditioning fundamentals, among others.

The program opens up several opportunities for graduates. They can take up roles such as customer service representative, installation assistant, renewable energy specialist, solar applications technician, site assessor, and project manager, to name a few.

  • Location: Wisconsin Rapids, WI
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two years
  • Estimated Tuition: $10,925.75 for the entire program

Online Solar Technician Training

Distance-based programs for aspiring solar technicians will vary just like they do with campus-based programs. Below, you can peruse some of the programs available online, or through a mix of online and campus-based learning (hybrid or blended):

Solar Energy International

Solar Energy International is a membership-based association that offers several classes that are available online in durations of three to six weeks. Some of these courses include an introduction to renewable energy, solar electric design and installation, advanced PV system design and the NEC, PV system fundamentals, solar business and technical sales, and advanced PV stand-alone system design.

Every course has its own set of benefits ranging from six hours to six weeks. The tuition for each course is also different. For instance, the introduction to renewable energy is a free course covering the basics of renewable energy and providing a great introduction for those who are new to the field. The “solar training in solar electric design and installation (grid-direct)” provides students with a solid understanding of the various components, applications, and system architectures for PV systems.

Solar Energy International also offers several certificate programs in solar energy such as the residential and commercial photovoltaic systems certificate, battery-based photovoltaic systems certificate, solar business and technical sales certificate, and renewable energy applications certificate, to name a few.

These certificates include online courses mentioned above. For instance, the residential and commercial photovoltaic systems certificate features five courses—four of which can be completed online.

  • Location: Paonia, CO
  • Expected Time to Completion: Online courses (six weeks); certificates (varies)
  • Estimated Tuition: Online courses ($395 to $ $845); certificates (depends). For example, the solar professional trainer certificate will cost $8,555 to $10,805, while the renewable energy applications certificate will cost $2,230 to $3,180.

SolPowerPeople

SolPowerPeople offers online courses of 24 to 40 hours in length, including photovoltaic systems foundations, technical sales training, and advanced PV design and installation. Prices vary. SolPowerPeople also has free massive open online courses (MOOC) through its Solar MOOC Academy.

Finally, free, short online micro-classes, such as Introduction to solar energy, PV system components, and solar design tools are also available.

  • Location: Del Valle, TX
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 to 40 hours
  • Estimated Tuition: Varies

Century College

Century College, in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, provides an energy technical specialist associate of science degree as well as certifications in advanced photovoltaic energy systems, solar assessor, and solar sales and marketing. The associate degree is a hybrid program, meaning that it provides a combination of daytime, evening, and online classes.

The solar assessor certificate can be completed entirely online and is made up of 16 credits. Helping students in becoming solar energy installers or assessors, the program includes courses such as advanced photovoltaic systems, solar energy construction projects, introduction to solar assessment, construction fundamentals, and facility workplace safety.

The energy technical specialist AAS degree helps students in developing the knowledge and skills required for becoming successful in both the renewable and traditional energy fields. The program comprises 60 credits involving courses such as energy concepts, basic electricity, mechanical fundamentals for process control, and introduction to process controls and instrumentation.

Graduates of these programs can take up roles such as solar assessor, industrial technician, installation supervisor, and solar/photovoltaic installer.

  • Location: White Bear Lake, MN
  • Expected Time to Completion: Solar assessor certificate (four months); AAS (two years)
  • Estimated Tuition: $189.94 per credit

Solar Energy Technician Certification

Certification is not necessary to work as a solar energy technician, but it is available through various organizations.

The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP), for example, offers credentialing to ensure that students have the necessary skills and knowledge for meeting the demands of renewable energy projects and employers across the world. NABCEP offers board certifications in PV Design Specialist, PV Installation Professional, PV Installer Specialist, PV System Inspector, PV Commissioning & Maintenance Specialist, and Solar Heating Installer, among others.

To be eligible, candidates need a minimum of 58 hours of advanced photovoltaic training available through an accredited school and 10 hours of construction safety through OSHA. Students can also take the NABCEP entry-level exam, which is not the same as a certification but provides a way for them to demonstrate that they have obtained basic PV systems.

The benefits of these certifications exist for both consumers as well as solar professionals. Solar professionals with certification will be much more valued by consumers. Consumers generally have confidence in certified installers for getting their work done.

Electronics Technicians Association (ETA) International also offers numerous certifications including for the photovoltaic installer and at the apprentice, specialist, and technician levels also referred to as I, II, and III. These certifications generally cost $155 to $205 and last for four years. The association also offers three levels of certification for renewable energy integrators, who are capable of including residential renewable energy systems with home management systems.

Additionally, the National Roofing Contractors Association that specializes in rooftop and large-scale solar energy installation, offers three different Roof System Installer Certifications (Asphalt Shingle systems, EPDM systems, and thermoplastic systems) for those who wish to expand their rooftop solar knowledge and provide tangible evidence of their knowledge for consumers and employers.

To be eligible, students must have at least 18 months of experience for the Asphalt Shingle systems installer certification and at least 24 months of experience for EPDM systems, and thermoplastic systems.

Also, solar energy technicians must travel to job sites, so employers may require them to have a driver’s license.

Solar Energy Program Accreditation

Prospective students should ensure that the schools they choose to attend for solar panel installation training have received accreditation.

Accreditation means that a school or program has undergone a rigorous assessment process to ensure that quality education is being provided and meets specific standards in education. For example, Delaware Technical Community College has accreditation through the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, which is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and U.S. Secretary of Education.

You can also check to see if the program you are considering is accredited through the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), which has been providing training accreditation for more than 30 years to trade associations, private organizations, labor unions, and colleges and universities that have clean energy programs. According to the IREC website, accreditation means that a rigorous standard of quality has been met and could be advantageous to a school’s enrollment numbers.

Sandra Smith

Sandra Smith was introduced to the HVAC industry when she worked as a bookkeeper and secretary for a small air-conditioning contractor. She eventually became a CPA and started her own practice specializing in small business taxes and accounting. After retiring from business, she began writing articles for newspapers, magazines, and websites. She also authored four books. Sandra makes her home in the mountains with a rescue dog that naps on her lap as she writes.

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