How to become a renewable energy engineer (plus skills)

Updated 1 August 2023

Renewable energy is gathered from natural and often sustainable resources. Renewable energy engineers operate as innovators in renewable energy, designing and guiding new ways to collect and use it. Becoming an engineer in this field is suitable for anyone concerned with the environment. In this article, we explore how to become a renewable energy engineer and list the skills most suitable for an engineer in this vocation.

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What is a renewable energy engineer?

A renewable energy engineer is involved in producing and harnessing forms of energy from natural, renewable sources. Also known as green energy, renewable energy is a popular topic today and is widely regarded as an important area of focus. An engineer in renewable energy sits at the forefront of discovering and designing new ways to utilise green energy for the betterment of the world.

Forms of green energy include biofuels, wind, hydro, geothermal and solar power. An engineer focuses on finding efficient, clean, innovative ways to extract power from these resources. Expected duties of the role include:

  • designing and testing machinery

  • enhancing existing processes and ideas

  • converting alternate forms of energy to replace fossil fuels

  • researching new ways to generate energy

  • reducing the impact of fossil fuel emissions

  • minimising environmental damage

Related: UK's green companies (sustainable business examples)

How to become a renewable energy engineer

There are certain beneficial skills that many renewable energy engineers possess. Among the most common are creativity, maths, problem-solving and analysis. A natural curiosity and passion for science, technology and the environment also support this vocation. Developing these skills can best be achieved through the following steps:

1. Achieve entry-level requirements

It is important to work towards gaining entry-level requirement grades to get you onto a professional degree (or equivalent) program. Different universities and colleges have separate prerequisite grades to enter their program. The important A-Level subjects to attain for an engineering-specific degree are Maths and Physics. Students can also opt for Further Maths instead of Maths. An A-Level in Chemistry or a technical science can also be highly useful, as they feature heavily in engineering courses.

2. Earn a relevant degree

Choosing the right course is always an important step. Engineering is a highly specialised vocation and requires fundamental knowledge and skills. Courses most worth contemplating cover both engineering and the sciences, including:

  • earth science (the study of our planet)

  • electrical, mechanical or chemical engineering

  • environmental engineering

  • environmental science

  • mining or petroleum engineering

  • renewable or sustainable energy

Related: How to choose a university course in 5 simple steps

3. Apply for work placements

Finding and working placements while studying for a degree is a common practice and highly recommended. Many employers expect candidates to have some work experience on their CV. It demonstrates the ability to deal with a high volume of work and a passion for the vocation. It also provides practical application of the theories and information being studied.

Begin by making speculative applications for work experience with employers in the energy sector. Renewable energy is a popular and expansive industry today with many possibilities available. Alternatively, your university may offer advice or even actual placements as part of the course. Enquire with your lecturers and course leaders to see.

Related: What are work placements? (And the benefits of doing them)

4. Gain a postgraduate qualification

While not a necessary step, there is a lot of value in undertaking a postgraduate qualification. Achieving a relevant qualification demonstrates a commitment to the field and helps further develop the expertise in the subject. The following types of qualifications can be considered:

  • Master's degree: A qualification of academic study, which takes at least 12 months of full-time study to complete.

  • Postgraduate diplomas and certificates: Academic or vocational qualifications, which normally take nine to 12 months to complete full-time.

  • Doctorate: Qualification earned through a research project, which takes at least three years of full-time study to complete.

Looking for accredited courses is also a valuable consideration. These courses are recommended and backed by professional bodies representing the energy field, including the Energy Institute (EI) or the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). Accredited courses can help you achieve chartered engineer status at a later stage.

Related: A complete guide to an MSc degree (plus definition and FAQs)

4. Craft a CV

Once you have all the required qualifications, it is time to start crafting a CV to send out to potential employers. A CV provides an overview of your skills, education and work experience to highlight why you are suitable for a particular role to a recruiter. Tailoring your CV to the job specification is a useful tactic to employ as this allows the reader to quickly identify how you match the job requirement. A basic CV template covers:

  • personal statement (a paragraph or two about who you are, in a professional sense, and what your goals are career-wise

  • skills

  • work experience

  • education and qualifications

  • other relevant information, such as awards or relatable hobbies

Related: How to write an engineering graduate CV that gets you hired

5. Search for working opportunities

With renewable energy being an important topic on a global scale, demand for energy engineers remains high. There are many companies and industries to consider when starting your job search, including:

  • industrial firms

  • fuel production businesses (including oil, gas and nuclear)

  • manufacturers

  • government departments and bodies

  • mining companies

  • research & development (R&D) organisations

  • energy agencies

  • green energy and sustainability charities

  • higher education

Related: 8 renewable energy careers (descriptions and salaries)

6. Become professionally registered as an engineer

After gaining your degree and practical experience with an employer, you can look into registering with the Engineering Council. They are the UK regulatory body for the engineering profession. As a member, it is possible to apply for professional registration to become either a Engineering Technician (EngTech), Incorporated Engineer (IEng) or Chartered Engineer (CEng). Benefits of professional registration include:

  • improved career prospects and employability

  • greater earning potential

  • international recognition

  • proof of expertise

Key skills for a renewable energy engineer

In addition to a passion for sustainability and the environment, there are several soft and hard technical skills for renewable energy engineers to possess to succeed in their roles. The range of skills is wide to reflect the variety of energy engineering roles across several industries. Some of the key skills required for an energy engineer include:

Appreciation of the sciences

Demonstrating a love for the subject can go a long way. Energy engineers consider science and technology and how these subjects can be applied in the world to create renewable forms of energy. Ultimately, the discipline is focused on the betterment of the planet and providing cleaner alternatives to the destructive forms most commonly used.

Related: Popular science and research jobs (with salary info)

Knowledge of the energy market

A comprehensive understanding of the energy market is beneficial for an energy engineer. It provides context to what they do and why. Supplying energy can be split into three categories:

  1. making electricity through generation

  2. transportation

  3. how energy is supplied

An energy engineer can find their role heavily involved in any of these topics (and potentially all three). Learning more about the energy market and how it evolves is fundamental for how the engineer can likewise adapt. Among current trends in renewable energy is wind power, bioenergy, hydroelectricity and solar PV (photovoltaics).

Excellent communication

Engineering is a highly technical and complex vocation. It requires the ability to convey complicated information in a more accessible language. This is both verbally and written. For example, an engineer may be instructed to draw and explain a blueprint for a renewable energy project. A blueprint is a very technical document and many may struggle to fully comprehend it.

Related: How to start a career in renewable energy in the UK

Strong science and maths ability

Underpinning engineering is science and maths. It is a vital subject to master and be supremely confident in. Many elements of engineering design rely heavily on intricate equations, so a deep understanding of physics, maths, chemistry and technology science can help when developing and designing.

Problem-solving and analytical skills

At the heart of engineering is the desire to solve real-world problems, so an aptitude for problem-solving and analysis is crucial. Adaptability and learning quickly align neatly with problem-solving as a skill, giving the engineer a more flexible approach to how they approach issues. Possessing a strong knack for analysis helps identify trends and formulate conclusions which lead to solutions.

Related: Problem-solving skills: definitions and examples

Organisational skills

Many engineers work on many projects simultaneously and to specific deadlines. Being able to juggle multiple assignments and stick to a timeline is led by organisation skills. This aptitude can be developed through practice and by employing several processes in your daily work routine.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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