The Best Paying Jobs in the Energy Sector
As world economies slowly switch to renewable energy sources and a more circular economy, new energy jobs appear in the energy sector. While it is easy to talk about high salaries and low degree inflation in the field, it is also necessary to consider in-field data and testimonies from those working in that same market. As the oil and gas industry is entering its (hopefully) final Golden Age, due to the ongoing energy crisis, the governments of the world are likely to boost investment into renewable energy sources as they help save both money and lives.
The best example of the change that is taking place in the energy sector is the fact that the EU has saved over 20 Billion cubic meters of natural gas by relying on solar panels only. Amidst the current energy crisis, which seems to have no end, at least not before the winter ends, the EU countries are restarting their nuclear power plants and refitting their gas infrastructure – a trend that is likely to keep going for the next several years at least.
Future prospects for the current, fossil-fuel based, energy industry seem bleak in the face of climate change as well. Reservoirs and lakes across the US are drying up and the same is happening all around the world: the Italian Po River has almost dried up, the Danube water level is as low as it gets, and even China experiences massive droughts that warn that the (climate) clock is ticking.
For all these reasons, the renewable energy sector is likely to experience a boom in the upcoming decades. Needless to say, the educational field will have issues producing as many graduates as are needed for the energy industry needs, and the demand for renewable energy and sustainability degrees is likely to go up.
The emergence of new technologies, such as molten metal batteries, sand batteries, pumped hydro (oldie-goodie, but it is making a comeback) and Perovskite solar cells all create new renewable energy jobs, not just in-field, but in the research part of the job market as well. As wind energy grows and expands its offshore capacities, and solar panels keep getting closer to the 30% efficiency mark, renewable energy demand will skyrocket.
Careers in the Energy Industry
Considering all of the above, the energy sector will experience unprecedented changes. It is not only the pressure from the environmental groups that will be a big driver of the changes in question but the economies themselves. Several past decades have seen an increase in both fertilization and irrigation rates. It seems that all the water that is pumped into the fields as we speak is not there to simply aid the rain in providing water for the thirsty crops, the pumped water is supposed to substitute for it, as there is less rain now than ever. Considering the economic damage from extreme weather events, governments will have to rethink their employment report format and start opting for sustainable solutions only.
Amidst all these (global) events, it is necessary to consider the wages in the oil and gas industry, as well as in the renewable energy industry. These jobs and the salaries offered here depend on a multitude of factors, including:
- The supply of degrees and workers with experience,
- The demand for degrees and experienced workers in the field,
- Political changes,
- Raising awareness of the importance of green energy and its further integration into the grid,
- Raising political pressure,
- Subsidies in the energy sector (such as the Federal ITC program and many other local and utility programs), etc.
Although it may seem that many of these factors do not contribute to the changes in the energy sectors, the fact is that even a 1% spike in demand for energy production using solar panels raises the need and the salaries for solar project developers, solar energy technicians, solar photovoltaic installers and is likely to be felt in the imports and domestic production of solar panels as well.
Average Salary in the Energy Industry
The average salary in the energy industry tops the average US salary. At $85,000 per year on average, the jobs in this industry are likely to keep attracting many young and talented. Considering that labor statistics say that this field of jobs grows at a staggering rate, needless to say, the demand for degrees in the field will keep growing, too.
Pros & Cons of Working in the Energy Field
As the energy field is too big of a term to be covered lightly, it is necessary to divide it into two (at least) subfields, and observe the pros and cons of working in these energy fields. For the sake of keeping things simple, we will divide this field into no less than 3 subcategories: non-renewable energy sector, renewable energy sector, and green energy sector. The green energy sector is made up of non-renewable, but nonpolluting energy producers – nuclear power plants.
Non-Renewable Energy Sector
The non-renewable energy sector is currently powering the planet and making the world revolve. With massive infrastructure, from pumping stations, refineries, international gas pipes, and residential natural gas supply networks to a staggering number of 1.4 Billion internal combustion engines on the roads of the world today, the industry seems to be well-off. High salaries, especially in executive positions are lucrative to many, and the ongoing energy crisis only increases the demand for such jobs.
On the other hand, the cons of working in the oil and gas industry are many. Decreased interest in the field and energy sources, a growing number of electric and hybrid vehicles on the roads, and a general electric grid switch from fossil fuels to hydro, solar, and wind energy reduce the attractiveness of the field. A massive environmental footprint does not go in line with the general attitude of the public, either.
Renewable Energy Sector
Where all the attention is going, right now is the renewable energy sector. One of the fastest growing sectors (and employers), globally speaking, the renewable energy sector seems to have all it needs for high resiliency and a bright future: it offers decentralized energy production and scalability like never before. Furthermore, mixing it with other forms of production seems to boost yields on both ends: be it increased tomato harvests in Spanish agrivoltaic experiments, or reduced water evaporation rate in Singaporean water reservoirs.
On the other hand, the high initial investment for even a simple residential solar PV system is upwards of $10,000. With an average US family not being able to cover $400 of emergency costs, this is hardly a feasible option for most. With the decline in the percentage of Federal Tax Credit from 2023 onwards and the majority of investment coming in from business investors, the field will grow, but at a slower rate than has previously been thought. All this limits one’s chances of finding the best paying jobs among the renewable energy jobs currently offered.
Green Energy Sector
The green energy sector or nuclear energy sector is the third fundamental way that we can get electricity. Although nuclear energy has been around for decades now, the sheer issues with safety (although very low) and high initial investment cost make the field less prospective. However, nuclear energy engineers are not so numerous and every nuclear power plant needs to be manned – usually for high wages.
However, clean energy jobs in the field seem to be facing harsh public opinion – the previous issues with some nuclear plants around the world seem to have left a lasting mark on the thoughts of many. It seems that the idea of being anti-nuclear got a bit of a political charm as well. As is usually the case, the popular opinion wins and the current interest in nuclear energy does not have to be long-lived, it may be that nuclear energy is used as a transitional fuel on the way to a renewable economy and renewable power grids.
Typical Educational Background for Energy Jobs
Whatever the state oil and gas industry may be in, the fact is that energy jobs pay well. Some of the best paying jobs in the world, and we are not talking about CEO positions, can be found in the energy sector. Energy companies pay massive amounts of money every year because the financial return of keeping only the best employed is so high. With this in mind, let’s consider what education you may need for some of the thousands of work positions you can assume in the energy sector.
Engineering is at the heart of any industry. Engineers design machines and solutions for moving energy around, extracting fossil fuels, and storing extra energy that is produced. As in the energy sector, there is no one-size-fits-all type of solution, engineers are heavily sought after. They are involved in planning, designing, and execution of energy projects and are in charge of maintenance, regular controls, and overseeing the operation of all the machinery.
IT and networking are not usually seen as an integral part of an industry as old as the energy industry. However, with the increasing complexity of energy solutions, more software (and hardware) is needed to oversee all important parameters without overstaffing facilities. Furthermore, complex problems can both be discovered and
Sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, etc.)
Other sciences can form a base for your career in the energy sector. Namely, chemistry is widely used to enhance the energy output of fuels, as well as to create new products, including batteries and other forms of energy storage. New developments in the field of fuel production by more natural means, such as using biomass to make natural gas, electrolysis of garbage to create new fuels, as well as using algae to grow fuels are powered by biology.
Many of the equations that we did not like in school find their way into the engineering and designing aspects of the energy industry. Not only that, but large volumes of data that are cranked every day to ensure the grids and the energy market stay stable are all done by no else than mathematicians. This is another field of education that you can pursue if you would like to work in the energy field.
Management & Business
Of course, some of the most prospective jobs in the energy industry are related to management positions. Every entry-level position worker has to be managed somehow, and all the energy careers have to gravitate towards something. As energy companies become larger, energy efficiency is not the only thing that has to be managed. As energy jobs pay well, it is necessary to ensure that every man’s hour is utilized.
Best Paying Jobs in Energy
Among all these energy workers, with different educational backgrounds and diverse job positions that they fill, there are those that are paid more and those that are paid less. Here are some of the best-paying jobs in the energy sector, and a possible end to a good career path:
- Agricultural Engineer,
- Nuclear Technician,
- Power Plant Operator,
- Environmental Engineer,
- Materials Engineer,
- Atmospheric Scientist,
- Chemical Engineer,
- Aerospace Engineer,
- Petroleum Engineer, and
- Architectural Manager.
With an annual salary of $80,000, an agricultural engineer is one of the lowest-paid employees on our list. As these jobs pay well, this may be worth considering. An agricultural engineer got in important as one of the energy careers with the rise of biofuels. Being able to grow enough of the produce used in making biofuels, knowing degradation principles and speeds, as well as different ways to obtain these fuels all fall down into this position.
Nuclear Technician is a sought-after job title. As solar installations around the country take over the available roof space, nuclear technicians are there to fight the issue of climate change from a different perspective. That of offering transitional fuels to the world in need. As France has recently decided to redeploy 23 of its nuclear power plants to ensure an energy-stable future, this job position is likely to keep gaining in both prominence and importance. With a median annual salary of $88,000, it also pays well.
Power Plant Operator
All electric energy that is used around the globe has to be produced somewhere. This is done in power plants, massive facilities that can turn fuel into electricity that we can all use. As the energy demand around the globe keeps growing, so does the need for more power plants and more power plant operators. Annual salary: $85,000.
All large-scale projects in the US need to be cleared of their environmental impact. With the rising awareness of climate and environmental issues, the regulations in the field get tighter year after year. With this in mind, it is clear that an environmental engineer is a necessary occupation, and it pays $88,000 per year.
Materials engineers are involved in the energy sector in more than one way. On the one hand, they are involved in the making of new, lightweight materials that can be used to make more energy with less fuel or less input of any kind. On the other hand, they are also involved in producing new materials from the residues of the oil refining process. Plastics, for example, are the invention of a materials engineer. This position pays $93,000 per year.
Atmospheric scientists indirectly contribute to the energy sector. Energy jobs that an atmospheric scientist deals with include analyzing and predicting weather patterns both globally and locally. They are concerned with how weather patterns may influence energy production, especially from renewable sources. Solar panel output, wind turbine energy production, and the level of water in hydro accumulations all depend on the weather, after all. This position pays around $99,000 per year.
Chemical engineers deal with chemical engineering and manufacturing and optimize the existing processes in the same niche. Although energy generation is not as much concerned with chemicals, it is important to note that some plants depend on bio and chemical processes to work. Large-scale anaerobic digesters, after all, can produce 2 MW of electricity, which is not a small contribution to any grid, as it can power almost 2,000 homes. This position pays around $108,000.
An aerospace engineer understands the laws of fluid and gaseous matter and can help design improved blades for both water and wind turbines. This kind of engineer can also identify issues and can oversee the maintenance teams. Far from a scientist dealing with the shape and size of turbines, they are usually acquainted with electronics that power and control generating capacities. They are paid around $118,000 per year.
Petroleum engineering is concerned with oil detection and extraction. As no two locales for oil extraction are the same, it is necessary to say that this type of engineer also designs practical solutions and ensures that the whole operation is done in a safe way. They usually collaborate with geologists, to ensure minimum settling of the land around the extraction site. A petroleum engineer is usually paid an average of $138,000 per year.
Architectural managers work closely with energy companies. They are required to develop complex and detailed plans for every energy project that the energy company, be it a power generator or a utility company undertakes. They construct parts of the grid, and can even design industrial energy generation capacities, such as large-scale solar farms. They are compensated $150,000 per year.
How to Find the Best-Paying Jobs in Energy?
Regardless of the pay, the best way to earn a high-paying spot in a good company is by loving what you do. Although it may sound cliche, this is a great way to ensure that you keep progressing in your field. Besides this, there are many more ways to ensure a good energy job.
Network with People with Energy Jobs
To ensure good energy careers, many start networking early on – already during their studies. This is the best chance to meet the oil and gas think tanks of the future. Civil engineering, nuclear science, and other programs related to the energy sector are all great places to meet a lot of people. In addition to this, you should also be visiting important events, such as job fairs and conferences.
Attend job fairs frequently
Attending job fairs will ensure you get to meet the best that every energy company in the fair has to offer. It is also a great way to hit up a conversation and to ensure you get to meet as many people as you can. Do not focus on job seekers only – talk to the people behind the companies as well.
Do an internship to gain relevant experience
Doing an internship is the fear of many, but it is the best thing you can do to ensure you get to see how energy companies work inside and out. Many interns are not paid, so you may want to save up. Coal companies (usually dealing with transportation and extraction), the coal industry in general, nuclear science facilities, and others offer internships to anyone who has a high school diploma – as this is often all you need to start working for them.
Use job search website
Using a job-search website is another great way to make contacts with people from the energy industry. It is here that you will be able to see exact job positions, salaries, and requirements. A bonus tip: use those same websites to search for ideas on where to take your education, and to specialize in a field that is sought after – such as a specific energy source.
Visit the company website or contact human resources
Cold emailing and cold calls are another way to show a growing interest in the field of energy. This way, you get to initiate contact with the company and ensure that you leave a good first impression. Do not hesitate to make another call, to a different company, if you get declined by the first one. It just may happen that they are not hiring at the moment.
Is the Energy Sector a Good Career Path?
As the energy sector is undergoing massive changes, it is worth noting that many questions the reality of pursuing a career in a job like this. The fact is that these changes leave many without any income and these many are likely to be looking for continuing education programs, at least in the engineering and development sphere of the energy sector.
However, even jobs in the fossil-fuels-dependent portion of energy sectors, are still good-paying jobs. This isn’t a sector that will be shut down within a decade. Even the most ambitious goals that energy companies and entire countries set before themselves are set for 2050, which leaves some good 30 years for the fossil fuels industry to rethink its approach and find ways to decarbonize the industry.
On the other side of the energy spectrum is the renewable energy sector. Indeed, massive investments, regulatory and financial subsidies, and tax breaks all push investors from all over the world, and most notably, from Asia, to invest their money into high-cost, low-maintenance, government-backed programs we call renewable energy projects. With all this in mind, the need for people holding a degree in the renewable energy sector is likely to go up, and salaries can only follow.
The Future of Jobs in the Energy Field
There is a future in the energy field. Developing nuclear equipment, and transportation fuels, as well as designing complex coal mines and other structures used in the energetics is essential for the world we live in. Furthermore, with many programs that enable you to enter the field, it should be fairly easy to make your choice – as there are so many possibilities.
As with any other market, energy the energy market is constantly changing. Aerospace engineers, civil engineers, and many other careers in the energy field demand continuing and permanent education, so that you can stay on top of all the new technologies and developments happening in the field.
The next decade will be a crucial decade, especially considering the current energy crisis and political instability. However, the interest in cheap energy has been renewed by many factors that brought about higher energy prices in the first place. As many careers and people depend on the field of energy generation and transmission, the field is certain to keep receiving subsidies from the governments and will provide you with a stable career once you set your mind on it.
Considering international experience in the field, the demand for energy-related jobs is constantly on the rise, especially as many smaller countries, such as Singapore and Japan look forward to importing highly educated individuals to help them transition their own economies and grids to renewable energy sources.
How much Commission Does a Solar Salesman Make?
When thinking of the commission a solar salesman could make, it is important to note a stark contrast between small-scale and large-scale solar projects. Namely, smaller projects usually have a much higher commission rate per kWh installed. On average, you will be able to make around $0.30 per Watt of installed solar capacity.
What is the future of renewable energy?
Wind and solar are the future of renewable energy. As these two power sources are currently cheaper than installing any other kind of renewable or non-renewable capacity. With massive space for expansion, both in terms of efficiency and spacing (with off-shore wind farms), most of the renewable energy of the future will be coming from these two sources. However, other forms of renewable energy should not be forgotten as decentralized power production is the key to renewables.
How big is the energy industry?
The energy industry is huge. In fact, it is one of the largest employers in the US, with almost 5% of the total US workforce working in the field. Everything we know, from healthcare equipment, production, and even food making, demands electricity – this is a part of the reason why the energy sector is so big. In addition to this oil and gas exports also contribute to the industry, as they are a considerable source of electricity in the country.
Does the solar industry pay well?
The solar industry pays very well. In fact, the average salaries in any energy industry are higher than the US average – $83,000 per year. Needless to say, the higher the education level, the better you will be paid, with a Master’s degree making more money than a Bachelor’s degree, for example. If working as a salesman, you can expect a fixed salary, plus commission.
The energy industry is expanding at unprecedented rates. In fact, it is one of the fastest-growing industries out here. As the field is constantly changing, and the median salary growing, the energy sector keeps employing more and more educated people. Despite the expected switch to renewables in the upcoming decades, it remains to be seen how the industry will compensate for the change in the interest point.