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Whether your interests lie in helping humanity solve the looming threat of climate change or building knowledge and experience to advance in an innovative and in-demand field, a bachelor’s degree in renewable energy is an exciting, growing, and fulfilling area to devote your studies.
This guide will give you an introduction to renewable energy, the different types of degrees in the field, what your studies will cover, and the careers that can come from this degree, including project management, engineering, system design, analysis, and many more. Or you skip ahead to the listings of degree programs in renewable energy in the U.S.
- Renewable experts focus on energy sources that can be replenished in a natural & sustainable fashion—think solar, wind, hydropower, and more.
- Many renewable energy bachelor’s programs are built around engineering. However, you could also be exposed to coursework in business & economics, analytics & technology, policy & regulations, and operations management.
- Depending on the focus of your major, an undergraduate degree in renewable energy might set you up for jobs in engineering, policy, analysis, and project development. View the curriculum links in our listings to learn where your interests lie.
What is Renewable Energy?
Renewable energy is energy produced from sources that can be replenished naturally and sustainably. Some types of renewables include solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal, and biomass. The technologies associated with these energy sources generate electricity or heat without producing harmful emissions or depleting finite resources.
Over a century of humankind releasing greenhouse gases (GHGs) has resulted in the destructive effects of climate change. The generation of electricity alone causes 27% of GHG emissions in the U.S. Unless renewable energy—the most viable of many possible solutions—is adopted at a mass scale, the effects of a warming planet from GHG emissions will only worsen.
Additionally, as renewable technology continually improves, the costs of renewable energy dramatically decline, approaching or passing the cost of fossil fuel energy generation.
The shift toward renewable energy represents a global transition to a more sustainable and resilient energy system, offering reduced emissions, macro and micro energy independence, economic opportunity, job creation, and improved public health.
What Is a Renewable Energy Degree?
A renewable energy degree is an academic program that educates students on renewable energy technologies, their development and management, and their application in creating sustainable energy systems. These degree programs have existed for decades with dozens of universities offering a bachelor’s in renewable energy and hundreds more offering related degrees. They vary in their scope; for example, degrees can be highly technical to prepare students for an engineering career, or more business focused to prepare for a career in project management.
Types of Renewable Energy Degrees
Some examples of renewable energy programs include
- Renewable Energy Management and Finance programs address the financial and business aspects of renewable energy projects to prepare students for careers in project development, investment, and finance.
- Sustainable Energy Management programs cover the management of sustainable energy resources, preparing students for careers in energy efficiency, resource management, and policy development.
- Renewable Energy Technology and Operations programs handle the technical aspects of renewable energy systems that equips students for careers in renewable energy operations and maintenance.
- Environmental Management and Sustainability programs focus on sustainability, environmental management, and renewable energy, helping prepare students for careers in policy development, sustainable development, and corporate social responsibility.
- Energy Policy and Planning programs concentrate on the development and implementation of energy policy, including those related to renewable energy, which readies students for careers in government, nonprofit organizations, and consulting firms.
What Will You Learn in a Renewable Energy Degree Program?
Renewable Energy Program Curriculum
Bachelor’s degree programs in renewable energy are not as standardized as more established degrees. Therefore, the degree curriculum varies dramatically from each other, depending on the program’s level of technicality. However, most program curriculum covers the following:
- Renewable energy technologies
- Power generation
- Energy policy
- Energy efficiency
- Energy storage
Practical Skills Earned
Students can gain real-world skills in system design, analysis and implementation, project management, communications, and the environmental, social, and economic impacts of renewable energy systems.
Everglades University’s Bachelor of Science Degree with a major in Alternative and Renewable Energy Management offers diverse areas of learning objectives:
- Management skills
- Renewable energy technical understanding
- Construction safety
- Energy regulations
- Operations management
Since many of these programs vary markedly from one another, they can require different background coursework in various fields: accounting, business management, sustainability, finance, political science, and statistics, among others. However, most universities require that their core general education requirements—including courses in math, science, humanities, social sciences—are met prior to beginning the coursework in renewable energy. Other students can also complete an associate’s degree before transferring into the program.
Sample Coursework: Technically-Oriented Renewable Energy Program
The Oregon Institute of Technology, a more technically-oriented university, was the first to offer a BS in Renewable Energy Engineering. Its diverse curriculum of coursework includes
Undergraduate – Lower Division
- Technical Writing
- Electric Power
Undergraduate – Upper Division
- Engineering Mechanics
- History of Energy
- History of the Electrical Grid
- Photovoltaic Systems
- Fuel Cells
- Power Electronics
- Hydro Energy
Sample Coursework: Business-Focused Renewable Energy Program
Illinois State University, while still a technically inclined, offers a more business-focused renewable energy degree that includes courses in
- Professional Development in Technology
- Fundamentals of Power Technology
- Energy Planning and Management
- Research And Analytical Tools in Renewable Energy
- Managing Technological Systems
- Environmental Health
Costs of a Renewable Energy Degree
Just as these degree programs differ in their scopes, so do their costs. Illinois State’s tuition and fees for in-state residents run $15,483 per year. Oregon Institute of Technology costs $11,101.20 per year for tuition and fees at their Portland-Metro location.
What Can You Do with a Renewable Energy Degree?
Graduates of renewable energy programs can pursue careers in engineering, consulting, construction, policy, education, and research, among others. They are equipped with the knowledge and skills to develop, design, and manage renewable energy projects that contribute to a more sustainable future. Some sample careers that graduates can launch into include
- Project Developer
- Project Manager
- Construction Manager
- Policy and Planning Manager
- Finance Analyst
- Solar System Analyst
- Operations and Maintenance Manager
- Site Assessor
- Safety Engineer
- Power Engineer
Renewable Energy Careers Outlook
Renewable energy professionals are very much in demand. With the passage of the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act, which aims to invest heavily in climate change reduction and building a clean energy economy, the outlook for this field is very rosy, with the creation of nine million green jobs anticipated by the end of the 2020s. Wind turbine technician jobs, for example, are estimated to increase 68% by 2030.
Depending on the nature of the career path a graduate wants to pursue, median salaries can vary significantly:
- Solar Installer: $47,670
- Wind Turbine Technician: $56,260
- Training and Development Specialist: $61,570
- Green Construction: $64,000
- Environmental Scientist: $75,000
- Industrial Engineer: $95,300
- Operations Manager: $97,970
- Construction Manager: $98,890
- Economist: $105,630
Regardless of which path you choose in renewable energy, the different programs and degrees can meet your personal interests, offering you a career in a rewarding and growing field.