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Is Energy a Good Career Path?

The energy sector is an increasingly popular choice for jobseekers. Why? No matter what part of the world you live in, energy is an essential market. For instance, China’s energy consumption is exceptionally high. So high, in fact, that the entire world’s energy usage would need to double to match it.

The United States uses even more energy than China. The rest of the world would need to quadruple their own energy consumption to even come close to our usage. These facts alone indicate that energy plays a substantial role in our world’s economy and the job market.

Why else are more employees looking toward the energy sector?

This field has been around for years and is only getting stronger. With climate change at a critical point, the energy sector is likely to be overhauled in the future. This reevaluation of the industry means more researchers, designers, manufacturers, and other professionals are needed.

There’s been a push for companies to reach zero emissions in recent years. This move will require increased amounts of renewable energy and biofuel. It’s anticipated that global renewable electricity capacity will have risen 60% in 2026 compared to 2020 data.

If you’re interested in an energy career, you already have a long list of jobs to choose from, and this selection is only going to expand.

Many of these careers are lucrative, often earning six figures a year.

In this post, we’ll explore the many reasons why energy isn’t just a good career path, it’s a great one:

Why You Should Consider Working in Energy

There’s a permanent need for jobs in the energy industry. As mentioned above, the energy sector will need to reinvent itself to combat climate change. Whether you take a job researching renewable energy sources or designing software systems to address the crisis, it’s likely more jobs will open in the next few years.

Another perk of working in the energy field is that there are jobs for virtually any personality and interest. Do you gravitate toward numbers? Renewable energy companies are always looking for financial analysts. Prefer more hands-on work? Solar energy technicians are often out in the field instead of cooped up in an office. If you’re more of a people person and like interacting directly with others, consider becoming a safety and environmental coordinator.

There’s even better news. Jobseekers in the energy field have their pick of both blue- and white-collar jobs. This selection means there’s a range of jobs to fit multiple educational and professional backgrounds.

With this variety of careers, you won’t feel pigeonholed. For example, some power plant distributors may only need a high school diploma while many nuclear technician positions only require an associate degree.

Similarly, petroleum engineers, geoscientists, solar project developers, and site assessors often only need bachelor’s degrees to get their first entry-level position. If you pursue a master’s degree, you’ll have a better chance of negotiating a hire salary.

What else should you consider when choosing your career path?

Make sure your field has growth opportunities. You can start with an entry-level job (or even an internship) and work your way up, eventually getting jobs with more responsibility. The energy sector has tons of jobs with career paths that help employees advance.

Some companies may even pay tuition costs for additional schooling, helping you earn even more money over time with a more skilled position.

Sample Career Paths in Sales

If you’re interested in sales, you’re in luck. There are several opportunities to climb the ladder, each higher position building on the skills you learned in the previous one. Similarly, if you want to pursue a career in maintenance, banking, or engineering, most entry-level positions offer a convenient path to a high-paying career.

Overview of the Energy Sector

The energy industry has undergone many changes throughout its history, and it’s in the process of major restructuring today. As you’re considering your specific line of work, spend some time exploring the different fields within the industry.

Fossil fuels

Fossil fuels are a huge source of the world’s energy supply, although burning and producing them are known to create significant environmental problems such as air pollution. Examples of fossil fuels include natural gas, coal, and petroleum (oil). While there is a push to turn away from fossil fuels because of their harmful effects, as of 2019, 84% of the world’s energy supply was still coming from fossil fuels. Currently, around 211,000 people work in the coal mining and fossil fuel extraction field.

While these jobs will likely be phased out or significantly altered in the near future, they remain the bulk of the industry.

Examples of jobs working with fossil fuels include:

  • Offshore technician: These technicians install and maintain equipment for the oil and gas industry. This job can average up to $130,000 each year.
  • Oil well site manager: A person in this position will oversee projects carried out at an oil well site. They earn around $71,000 annually.
  • Reservoir engineer: If you’re a reservoir engineer, you’ll spend most of your time calculating how much oil is available in an underground reservoir and the most efficient way to remove this supply. Expect to earn an average of $123,000 each year.
  • Exploration geologist: Exploration geologists work to find valuable deposits of rocks and minerals, determining which sites are most likely to contain rich resources. It’s not uncommon for these scientists to bring in approximately a salary of $124,000.
  • Carbon and sustainability manager: If you’re passionate about the environment, consider becoming this type of manager in the energy industry. Carbon and sustainability managers ensure that projects are compliant with environmental regulations. This position can earn you around $72,000 each year.

Renewables

With the environmental impacts of fossil fuel-derived energy sources becoming more apparent, renewable resources are at the forefront of the energy industry. A renewable energy source is one that doesn’t become depleted over time. Wind and solar energy are two popular examples that have led to the creation of many jobs.

These jobs are likely to see a boom in the future as stricter energy regulations are in place for many businesses.

  • Building energy engineer: Like problem-solving? Building energy engineers look for innovative ways to cut down on energy usage through research and design practices. It’s normal to earn approximately $75,000 each year in this role.
  • Environmental solutions manager: An environmental solutions manager is responsible for finding environmentally-friendly answers to problems on the job. Typically, this role averages a yearly salary of $80,000.
  • Hydrogeologist: Hydrogeologists study underground water supplies and can lend environmental insights for renewable energy research. Someone in this position can expect to earn around $89,000 each year.
  • Sustainability specialist: The main responsibility of this role involves determining whether buildings and programs meet sustainability requirements, such as those for leadership in energy and environmental design (LEED). This position earns an average of $67,000 each year.

Software

If you’re interested in working with or designing software, there are tons of jobs open in the energy field. These jobs may appeal to you if you enjoy working indoors and like to stay up to date on the latest technology. As with virtually any industry these days, the energy field can heavily utilize computers.

  • Front-end software developer: Energy companies hire front-end software developers to design websites that are easy for users to navigate. Average salaries for this position are around $102,000.
  • CAD designer: In this role, you will create engineering documents using computer-aided design (CAD) software. You could be involved in the creation of products or buildings related to energy management. Your salary will likely be around $75,000.
  • Automation engineer: This type of engineer often designs electrical controls for energy systems. They may be involved in the design and testing of automated systems. Salaries are around $99,000.
  • Software architect: If you are a software architect, you’ll spend much of your time designing software and finding solutions for issues within software applications. A very high paying field, this role’s typical salary is $170,000.
  • Performance assurance consultant: This position tests software systems to ensure they are functioning correctly and information within them is protected. If you take this role, you could earn around $101,000 annually.

Installation and Servicing

The energy industry uses many products. Whether it’s a transformer, a set of solar panels, or even a wind turbine, each product requires an expert to install it. Additionally, a skilled technician must be available to keep the product running smoothly. If you like technical work, you may enjoy a position within installation and servicing.

These jobs allow you to work with your hands and mostly take place out in the field:

  • Wind turbine service technician: You can’t be afraid of heights in this role. These technicians troubleshoot wind turbine issues, conducting research and repairing parts as needed. With a $66,000 average salary, this job is a popular choice for many workers in the energy industry.
  • Solar photovoltaic installer: Love the sunshine? A solar photovoltaic installer spends much of their time on rooftops, connecting solar panels to the grid. They also perform routine maintenance to keep the panels working correctly. Salaries are around $79,000.
  • Quality assurance technician: If you’re a process-oriented person, consider becoming a quality assurance technician. You’ll be responsible for ensuring products and processes meet expectations through rigorous testing. A typical salary is around $54,000.
  • Other installation and servicing jobs include: Transformer field technician, HVAC technician, and Heat pump technician.

Utilities

Utilities are services that the public use, such as oil, gas, and electricity. Since most homes in the U.S. use a combination of these services, many jobs in the energy industry focus on utilities. Like in the previous subsectors, there are several types of jobs in utilities which suit different personalities.

  • Fleet manager: A fleet manager keeps a business’ vehicles in good condition. They purchase and maintain vehicles to ensure they’re in optimal order. Salaries are around $66,000.
  • Marketing manager: Like all businesses, utility companies have to advertise their services to reach the public. As a marketing manager, you will develop communications about your company’s product. Expect a salary of around $95,000.
  • GIS technician: If you’re a GIS technician with an energy company, you’ll spend time designing utility maps using software and updating data periodically. Salaries average $71,000 each year.

Manufacturing

People that enjoy working with technology and new products should consider manufacturing. In this subsector, you’ll deal with the technical aspects of putting products together, managing the product inventory, and gathering information about the manufacturing process.

  • Renewable energy supply chain manager: This role involves purchasing supplies, identifying efficient production methods, and maintaining supplier communications. Average salaries near $100,000.
  • Manufacturing technician: Manufacturing technicians assemble products that a company creates. They also often perform quality checks to ensure machine-made products are up to standard. Typical salaries are around $55,000.
  • Safety manager: The manufacturing process often uses heavy, sharp, or otherwise dangerous equipment. A safety manager’s role is to ensure employees are meeting safety standards and develop correction action plans if necessary. Salaries are $72,000 on average.

Sales

Do you like working with a wide range of people? A career in sales may fit your personality. Outgoing jobseekers who are strong communicators will likely excel in an energy sales position. Some of the jobs available include:

  • Solar sales specialist: The role of a solar sales specialist is to inform potential customers of the advantages of a business’ products. This role involves an understanding of sales strategies and the cost-effectiveness of solar energy. Average salaries are around $99,000.
  • Energy sales account manager: Energy sales account managers are responsible for maintaining sales accounts for an organization, including drafting sales proposals, and communicating with clients. Salaries are around $54,000 for account managers.
  • Energy sales consultant: If you’re an energy sales consultant, you’ll spend most of your day assisting potential customers with information about your business, traveling to sites, and developing a client base. Normal salaries for this position are around $92,000.

Startups

If you’re an “ideas person,” you may have considered starting your own business in the energy industry. Startups, while a sometimes-risky financial move, can also have exceptional benefits when done right. What are some of the positions you can have in an energy-related startup?

  • Founder: It goes without saying that the founder of the startup typically reaps the highest salary. Average salaries are $73,000 but can be much higher depending on the business’ success.
  • Chief technology officer: A chief technology officer with a startup helps to determine the technological strategy of the business. In other words, they help keep the business’ phones, computers, etc. running while strategizing for further growth. Glassdoor salary estimates are $214,000.
  • Product manager: This person is responsible for determining the pricing of a startup’s product as well as its market. Product manager salaries average $120,000.

Finance

Jobseekers that gravitate toward numbers and like working with money have several options in the field of energy.

  • Senior financial analyst: Senior financial analysts track sales and customer data to inform future business decisions. Duties often include constructing budgets and preparing financial reports. They average $104,000 annually.
  • Financial controller: This role ensures a business is handling its money wisely. A financial controller manages cash flow and identifies areas to cut costs. A typical salary is $149,000.
  • Senior accountant: Someone in this position often handles preparing tax returns, generating reports, and posting accounts receivable and payable. Senior accounts can make around $99,000v per year.

Top Entry-Level Energy Jobs

Need help deciding on an entry level job in energy? Review the list below for some ideas. As you can see, the energy industry is well-known for its above-average salaries, even when just starting out in the field. The further you climb up the ladder, the more you can expect your pay to increase.

Fossil Fuels

An entry-level petroleum engineer’s average salary is $73,904. There are currently around 28,500 jobs available.

Renewables

An energy analyst typically makes around $84,858 per year, but the lower end (entry-level) is around $49,000. North Carolina State University cites just over 4,300 jobs available in the United States.

Software

A typical starting salary for a software developer is around $48,000, capping out at $111,091. The number of jobs varies depending on the specific field, but Indeed currently lists around 12,000 of these jobs available.

Installation and Servicing

An entry-level wind turbine technician can expect to make around $38,399, eventually earning $66,276. Approximately 6,900 of these jobs were available in 2020.

Utilities

An oil and gas analyst may start out making around $30,000 but later earn an average of $74,688 per year. LinkedIn lists around 10,000 of these jobs available in the United States.

Manufacturing

A renewable energy engineer can often start off making around $39,000 per year, ultimately averaging around $93,386 annually. Around 400 jobs are available. The BLS estimates around 107,000 people are employed in the petroleum and coal products manufacturing subsector alone.

Sales

Energy sales consultants earn an average of $92,430, with a starting salary of about $54,000. 1,500+ jobs are currently listed on Indeed.

Startups

Thinking of starting up your own energy business? Glassdoor estimates that a typical CEO/Founder makes an average of $224,202 each year, often starting out at $120,000. Of course, there’s no limit on the number of jobs available, as you’ll be in charge of creating your own job.

Finance

Entry-level financial managers begin earning salaries of around $51,712. Long-term averages vary, but at a company such as Duke Energy, they can top out at around $150,000. Around 64,200 financial manager positions are open across multiple industries.

How to Begin Your Energy Career Path

The energy industry offers a range of jobs to suit virtually any personality type. How do you know which path to pursue? The easiest way to begin is to consider which entry-level jobs sound most interesting. Is there one you’re immediately drawn to? Consider the work you’ll be doing, the possibilities for advancement, and your starting and ending salary expectations.

Then, you can begin to schedule informational interviews with current employees in the field to get behind-the-scenes details about the job. This style of interview is an informal way to ask questions about the industry and get specifics about the job position. It’s also a way to network and possibly land an informal internship.

After conducting a few informational interviews, search for entry-level positions. Consider a traditional paid position or even an internship. Prepare for your interview by doing research about not only the position but the company you’re applying for, too. Use this cold email resource for tips on finding the right internship.

By Taylor Thompson

Taylor is a co-founder at Purpose Built Ventures, where he helps launch mission-driven companies. Before Purpose Built, Taylor led growth at Almanac, strategy for Curious Learning, and product at PharmaSecure. His work helps 100,000s of people collaborate at work, 4 million children learn to read, and protects billions of medicines from counterfeiting. He has hired dozens of people, helped raise more than $50 million, and contributed to HBR.org as a researcher with Clay Christensen. Taylor is an Echoing Green Fellow, and he has degrees from Dartmouth College and Harvard Business School.

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