Solar Photovoltaic Installers

Summary

solar photovoltaic installers image
PV panels are placed on specially built framework.
Quick Facts: Solar Photovoltaic Installers
2015 Median Pay $37,830 per year
$18.19 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2014 5,900
Job Outlook, 2014-24 24% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 1,400

What Solar Photovoltaic Installers Do

Solar photovoltaic (PV) installers, often called PV installers, assemble, install, or maintain solar panel systems on roofs or other structures.

Work Environment

Although most PV installation is done outdoors, installers sometimes work in attics and crawl spaces to connect panels to the electric grid. Installers must also travel to job sites. Most work full time during regular business hours, but some are required to be on call for emergencies.

How to Become a Solar Photovoltaic Installer

Although some installers need only a high school diploma and they typically receive on-the-job training lasting up to 1 year, many candidates take a course at a technical school or community college, or receive training as part of an apprenticeship program.

Pay

The median annual wage for solar photovoltaic installers was $37,830 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of solar photovoltaic (PV) installers is projected to grow 24 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. The continued expansion and adoption of solar panel installations will result in excellent job opportunities for qualified individuals, particularly those who complete a photovoltaic training course at a community college or technical school.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for solar photovoltaic installers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of solar photovoltaic installers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about solar photovoltaic installers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Solar Photovoltaic Installers Do About this section

solar photovoltaic installers image
Solar photovoltaic installers usually work as part of a team.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) installers, often called PV installers, assemble, install, or maintain solar panel systems on roofs or other structures.

Duties

PV installers typically do the following:

  • Plan PV system configuration based on customer needs and site conditions
  • Install solar modules, panels, or support structures in accordance with building codes and standards
  • Connect PV panels to the power grid
  • Apply weather sealing to equipment being installed 
  • Activate and test PV systems to verify performance
  • Perform routine PV system maintenance

Sunlight is considered an environmentally friendly source of energy. By way of photovoltaic panels, sunlight is transformed into electricity. Recent technological advances have sufficiently reduced the cost of solar panels to make it a viable source of electricity for businesses and homeowners alike. PV installers put these systems in place.

PV installers use a variety of hand and power tools to install photovoltaic panels. They often use wrenches, saws, and screwdrivers to connect panels to frames, wires, and support structures.

Many new workers begin by performing basic tasks, such as installing support structures and placing PV panels or PV shingles on top of them. Once the panels are in place, more experienced installers usually perform more complex duties, such as connecting electrical components.

Depending on the job and state laws, PV installers may connect the solar arrays to the electric grid, although electricians sometimes perform this duty. Once installed, workers check electrical systems for proper wiring, polarity, grounding, and integrity of terminations, and perform maintenance as needed.

Work Environment About this section

solar photovoltaic installers image
Some photovoltaic installers place thin solar film.

Solar photovoltaic installers held about 5,900 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most solar photovoltaic installers were as follows:

Plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors 39%
Electrical contractors and other wiring installation contractors 24
Power and communication line and related structures construction 6

Because photovoltaic (PV) panels convert sunlight into electricity, most PV installation is done outdoors. Residential installers work on rooftops and in attics and crawl spaces to connect panels to the electric grid. PV installers who build solar farms work at ground level and need to build structures to hold the PV panel framework.

PV installers may work alone or as part of a team. Installation of a solar array may require the help of roofers and electricians as well as solar photovoltaic installers.

PV installers must travel to job sites. Residential installers are likely to work at a different location every day.

Injuries and Illnesses

Solar photovoltaic installers risk falls from ladders and roofs, electrical shocks, and burns from hot equipment and materials while installing and maintaining PV systems. Those working on roofs must use required fall protection equipment.

Work Schedules

Nearly all solar photovoltaic installers work full time, which may include evening and weekend hours. They may be on call to handle emergencies, meaning they are not formally on duty but are available to work if necessary.

How to Become a Solar Photovoltaic Installer About this section

solar photovoltaic installers image
Most photovoltaic installers learn on the job working with experienced installers.

There are multiple paths to becoming a solar photovoltaic (PV) installer, often called PV installers. Some workers need only a high school diploma and receive on-the-job training lasting up to 1 year. Other candidates take a course at a technical school or community college. Some PV installers learn to install panels as part of an apprenticeship.

Education

Some PV installers take courses at local community colleges or trade schools to learn about solar panel installation. Courses range from basic safety and PV knowledge to system design. Although course length varies by state and locality, most usually last a few days to several months.

Some candidates may enter the field by taking online training courses. This is particularly useful for candidates with prior construction experience, such as former electricians.

Training

Some PV installers learn their trade on the job by working with experienced installers. On-the-job training usually lasts between 1 month and 1 year, during which workers learn about safety, tool use, and PV system installation techniques.

Solar PV system manufacturers may also provide specific training on a product. Such training usually includes a system overview and proper installation techniques of the manufacturer’s products.

Some large construction contractors provide training to new employees on their own. Workers learn basic PV safety and are given increasingly complex tasks as they prove their abilities.

The U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Defense launched the Solar Ready Vets program in 2014 to connect veterans with jobs in the solar industry.

Although there are currently no apprenticeship programs for solar photovoltaic installers, some learn PV installation through other occupational apprenticeship programs. Electrician and roofing apprentices and journey workers may complete photovoltaic-specific training modules.

In most states, an electrician is fully qualified to connect PV systems to electric grids. They are also able to connect panels to inverters and batteries.

Important Qualities

Customer-service skills. Residential panel installers must work in customers’ homes. As a result, workers must maintain professionalism and perform the work in a timely manner.

Detail oriented. PV installers must carefully follow instructions during installation. If they fail to do so, the system may not work properly.

Mechanical skills. PV installers work with complex electrical and mechanical equipment. They must be able to build support structures that hold PV panels in place and properly connect the panels to the electrical system.

Physical stamina. PV installers are often on their feet carrying panels and other heavy equipment. When installing rooftop panels, workers may need to climb ladders many times during the course of the day.

Physical strength. PV installers must often lift heavy equipment, parts, and tools. Workers should be strong enough to lift panels that weigh up to 50 pounds.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Experience in construction may shorten a new employee’s training time. For example, workers with experience as an electrician, roofer, carpenter, or laborer typically already understand and can perform basic construction duties.

In addition, those with knowledge of electrical work, such as electricians, are highly valued by contractors.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although not mandatory, PV installers may obtain certification from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. Certification can demonstrate professionalism and basic PV knowledge to employers. To qualify, workers must complete at least 58 hours of advanced PV training at an accredited school or organization, as well as a 10-hour construction safety course through Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). They also need to pass an exam and show documentation of having led three to five PV installation projects, depending on prior experience.

The Electronics Technicians Association, International (ETA) also offers photovoltaic installer certification. Education and training must be taken from an ETA-approved school.

There is also the Certified Solar Roofing Professional (CSRP) credential offered by Roof Integrated Solar Energy (RISE) Inc. In order to qualify, workers need to prove they have 40 hours of education or training related to basic competencies. Additionally, candidates need to have 3 years of roofing or PV installation experience and have completed at least five PV installations. They must also pass a test.

Pay About this section

Solar Photovoltaic Installers

Median annual wages, May 2015

Construction trades workers

$41,020

Solar photovoltaic installers

$37,830

Total, all occupations

$36,200

 

The median annual wage for solar photovoltaic installers was $37,830 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $27,540, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $56,670.

In May 2015, the median annual wages for solar photovoltaic installers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Electrical contractors and other wiring installation contractors $39,150
Plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors 37,970
Power and communication line and related structures construction 36,110

Nearly all solar photovoltaic installers work full time, which may include evening and weekend hours. They may be on call to handle emergencies, meaning they are not formally on duty but are available to work if necessary.

Job Outlook About this section

Solar Photovoltaic Installers

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Solar photovoltaic installers

24%

Construction trades workers

10%

Total, all occupations

7%

 

Employment of solar photovoltaic (PV) installers, often called PV installers, is projected to grow 24 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 1,400 new jobs over the 10-year period.

The expansion and adoption of solar panel installation is expected to create new jobs. As the cost of PV panels and shingles continues to fall, more residential households are expected to take advantage of these systems, resulting in greater demand for the workers who install them. The increasing popularity of solar leasing plans—in which homeowners lease rather than purchase systems—should create additional demand, as they no longer bear the upfront costs of installation.

The long-term outlook, however, is heavily dependent on government incentives, cost, and the continued improvement of PV panels. States and localities that provide incentives to reduce the cost of PV systems should experience greater demand for workers. Common incentives include tax rebates, direct subsidies, renewable energy purchase mandates, and net metering.

Job Prospects

PV installers who complete a course in photovoltaic systems at a community college or technical school will have the best job opportunities. Those with apprenticeship or journey electrician experience will also have very good job opportunities. Workers with experience in construction occupations, such as laborers, roofers, and carpenters, will have better job opportunities than those without construction experience.

Employment of PV installers fluctuates with the overall economy. On the one hand, there is great demand for PV installers during peak periods of building activity. On the other hand, workers may experience periods of unemployment when the overall level of construction falls.

Employment projections data for solar photovoltaic installers, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Solar photovoltaic installers

47-2231 5,900 7,400 24 1,400 [XLSX]

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of solar photovoltaic installers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2015 MEDIAN PAY Help
Construction laborers and helpers

Construction Laborers and Helpers

Construction laborers and helpers perform many tasks that require physical labor on construction sites.

See How to Become One $30,890
Electricians

Electricians

Electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical power, communications, lighting, and control systems in homes, businesses, and factories.

High school diploma or equivalent $51,880
Glaziers

Glaziers

Glaziers install glass in windows, skylights, and other fixtures in storefronts and buildings.

High school diploma or equivalent $39,440
Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters

Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters install and repair pipes that carry liquids or gases to, from, and within businesses, homes, and factories.

High school diploma or equivalent $50,620
Roofers

Roofers

Roofers replace, repair, and install the roofs of buildings using a variety of materials, including shingles, bitumen, and metal.

No formal educational credential $36,720
Sheet metal workers

Sheet Metal Workers

Sheet metal workers fabricate or install products that are made from thin metal sheets, such as ducts used in heating and air conditioning systems.

High school diploma or equivalent $45,750
Structural iron and steel workers

Ironworkers

Ironworkers install structural and reinforcing iron and steel to form and support buildings, bridges, and roads.

High school diploma or equivalent $49,970
Brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons

Masonry Workers

Masonry workers, also known as masons, use bricks, concrete blocks, concrete, and natural and manmade stones to build walls, walkways, fences, and other masonry structures.

See How to Become One $39,640
Carpenters

Carpenters

Carpenters construct and repair building frameworks and structures—such as stairways, doorframes, partitions, rafters, and bridge supports—made from wood and other materials. They also may install kitchen cabinets, siding, and drywall.

High school diploma or equivalent $42,090

Contacts for More Information About this section

For details about apprenticeship or other training opportunities in this trade, contact the offices of the state employment service, technical colleges, the state apprenticeship agency, local photovoltaic contractors, firms that employ PV installers, or local union-management apprenticeship committees. Apprenticeship information is available from the U.S. Department of Labor's ApprenticeshipUSA program online or by phone at 877-872-5627.

For more information about apprenticeships for solar photovoltaic installers, visit

IBEW – NECA Electrical Training Alliance

For more information about accredited training programs, visit

Electronics Technicians Association, International (ETA)

Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc.

North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners

NCCER

CareerOneStop

For a career video on solar photovoltaic installers, visit

Solar photovoltaic installers

Related BLS Articles

For more information on solar photovoltaic installers, see Green Jobs: Careers in Solar Power.” 

O*NET

Solar Photovoltaic Installers

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Solar Photovoltaic Installers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/solar-photovoltaic-installers.htm (visited September 27, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

What They Do

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Work Environment

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State & Area Data

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2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2014

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2014-24

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.