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The outlook of future energy systems is in an ongoing and accelerating state of flux. This transition will require a growing workforce to tap into new skills, notably energy management professionals capable of installing, monitoring, upgrading, and generally understanding these new, smarter, and cleaner energy systems.
Whereas in the past, energy may have been a secondary area of concern when planning the built environment and management of facilities, today the most advanced stakeholders recognize the opportunities for energy management.
When it comes to elevating energy systems to the next level, education for those in the energy management field has advanced such that graduate degrees specializing in various aspects of energy management have become commonplace.
This article provides background information needed for anyone considering a master’s degree in energy management, including a comprehensive list of master’s in energy management degree programs.
- Smart energy systems, automation, IoT, and the development of new power sources are driving the need for energy management professionals with high-level training.
- Master’s degrees in energy management in our listings are geared towards students who are interested in combining their practical knowledge of energy science with business principles (e.g. budgets, risk assessment, investment strategy, etc.).
- Prices for an MS, MBA, or related degree in energy management range from $23,650 on the lower end to $71,698 on the higher end. But you can offset the cost by studying online or negotiating with your employer for a pay raise.
The Role of Energy Managers
For professionals working at power plants or with utilities, their jobs are well trod, but energy management is somewhat more amorphous and less understood. Roles in energy management combine a comprehension of the technical aspects of energy technologies with a classic business perspective. Graduates with their master’s in energy management may be involved in
- evaluating potential land use for energy extraction technologies
- the design of a building and the types of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) that are optimal for the space
- the maintenance of smart energy systems to maximize what a facility receives while working with the utility to minimize costs
As advanced energy technologies become more common, the Internet of Things (IoT) grows; and as on-site power generation increases in prominence, so too does the need for professionals focused on energy management. Organizations that are most likely to experience an increased demand for energy management include
- energy-intensive industrial enterprises, where energy consumption is a major percentage of their monthly budget
- facilities with high energy consumption spread over big areas, such as large office or government buildings or even school campuses
- technologically advanced commercial spaces that want to lean into automation and dynamic energy management
The specifics of an energy manager’s role vary based on the unique priorities of these organizations, which can range from simply mitigating costs to a mission-driven focus of reducing their carbon.
For that reason, energy managers are an unquestioned source of job growth. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) reports that energy jobs have been growing at a faster pace than the rest of the economy, with energy management playing a key role. Further, according to a 2021 report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research
Energy management will be vital as the US decarbonizes its electricity generation through increased deployment of distributed energy sources and electric vehicles. A study on artificial intelligence and big data by IRENA estimates that 50 billion devices will be added to the electric system by 2025 compared to 2018 when there were 25 billion devices (IRENA, 2019). These changes in grid architecture and generation are also changing the skills needs of the workforce in this area.
How Do Master’s in Energy Management Programs Work?
Master’s degrees in energy management assume that the student’s undergraduate work will have prepared them to understand the technical and scientific principles of energy, as well as business building blocks like economics and accounting.
The master’s degree, then, builds upon that knowledge and truly molds what an energy management professional will need. In the course of that process, students are taught
- deep dives into the most important technologies, from HVAC to electrical design to automation and IoT
- higher understanding of the principles of risk assessment, long-term decision-making based on expected values of investments and payback periods, and other principles needed to make right decisions regarding ongoing facility needs
The prospective student who’s well suited for a master’s degree in energy management will naturally be curious and technologically inclined, just like the typical engineer, but they will also yearn to move outside the lab or computer simulations into the relevant, real-world application. The right students will be financially minded as well, inclined to building personal budgets for decision-making in their own lives.
Some energy management graduate degrees may lean into a unique and specific focus area. For example, students may choose from the following more directed programs:
- A Master’s in Global Energy Management will build upon the global trends in the energy marketplaces, such as how international policy and geopolitical trends influence the economics of energy.
- A Master’s in Energy Systems Management looks at the entire lifecycle of energy, from generation to transmission into the specific uses and what the impacts of those energy systems are on the surrounding environment.
- A Master’s in Sustainable Energy Management, meanwhile, emphasizes the conservation and efficiency in energy use and how systems can be made to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, pollutants, or other environmental impacts.
Program Length and Structure
The average master’s in energy management degree typically takes two years to complete, though that can be spread out longer if the student is on a part-time schedule.
Further, the growth in interest in energy management as a graduate degree has had the benefit of creating many different options that may fit varying student needs. So students can find some degree programs that may potentially be completed in less than a year or others that can take up to three years.
Master’s in Energy Management Curriculum and Coursework
Just as the time for completion can vary, specifics of the curriculum and coursework will, of course, change from program to program. Typically, the credits required to graduate with a master’s in energy management range from 30 credits to 36 credits.
Most programs will have common areas of focus that those pursuing a master’s in energy management can expect to cover, including
- Environmental Finance and Economics
- Program and Project Management
- Technical Aspects of Energy Science
- Energy Technologies
On top of those essentials, though, the detailed and advanced courses that can be expected will once again vary by program, especially when the degree is taking a specific corner of the energy management world:
- Endangered Species and Wildlife, where the environment is particularly of focus
- Water Quality Management for a program centered around building systems
- Geographic Information Systems, when digitalizing the sector is a high priority
Lastly, these master’s programs aren’t meant to be theoretical; rather, they are intended to take pupils as close to on-the-job training as possible. Given that, students can expect to find some real-world experiences baked into their curriculum, such as Eastern Illinois University’s Practicum Experience, Tulane University’s Industry Immersion, University of San Francisco’s Capstone Project, and Oklahoma City University’s Virtual Residency.
How Much Do Master’s in Energy Management Degrees Cost?
Typical master’s in energy management programs will mirror the costs of other graduate/master’s programs at the same schools, meaning students will find a range of price points depending on the length, format, and institution.
Examples of tuition costs covering the spectrum from low to high include
- Oklahoma City University at $23,650
- New York Institute of Technology at $35,850
- University of Denver at $38,688
- University of Colorado Denver at $54,000
- Tulane University at $71,698
Online Master’s in Energy Management Programs
As energy management graduate programs rise to prominence, so too does the availability of online courses (partially or in full).
The list at the end of this article highlights online offerings available today. Looking through it will drive home the reality that online availability is no longer a niche or hard-to-find option. Half of the programs listed offer online flexibility, including some of the most reputable and respected schools:
- George Washington University offers portions of the required classes in person and other portions online, though the school is increasingly adding fully remote programs like its MS in Engineering Management.
- University of Denver offers all evening or online classes for its Master’s in Energy and Sustainability degree, which allows professionals already working in this field to complete the program while staying employed full time.
- University of Colorado offers its MS in Global Energy Management, combining the best of both worlds: 100% online with classes but with two Colorado in-person residency seminars.
More online offerings are expected to become available in the future as
- energy becomes more of a core focus for organizations globally,
- modern remote learning technologies improve, and
- virtual options continue to reduce the associated costs (for both the school and the students).
Is a Master’s in Energy Management Worth It?
Overall, pursuing a master’s in energy management, like any graduate degree, comes with costs and sacrifices: time and money must be invested to get the desired outcomes. But in the fast-moving world of energy, these programs are sure to elevate graduates to the next level when it comes to career opportunities and the impact they can make in the world of energy.
Further, the average salary for professionals graduating with a master’s in the energy management field demonstrates the value, with University of Texas at Dallas reporting that the salary upon graduation for their master’s in energy management graduates averages $125,000.
All these benefits are already available while the entire energy management field is still on the upswing: this workforce will need to grow, the scope of the jobs will expand, and the impact a professional in this space can make is becoming clearer— benefits already available while the entire energy management field is still on the upswing.
If all these opportunities described are appealing, peruse the list of master’s in energy management programs section below.