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Renewable Energy

Small States: Big Impact In Clean Energy Education

University of South Dakota

The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines a green job as one that “produces goods or provides services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources.” And there’s no doubt that green jobs are on the rise. Solar jobs are one of the fastest-growing industries according to Renewable Energy World. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that opportunities for wind turbine service technicians will increase 108% through 2029.

As the energy industry shifts into renewable power sources like wind and solar, a wealth of career opportunities are being created for those with the right training.  Whether you’re looking for a technical certificate, a bachelor’s, or a graduate program, we’ve created a definitive guide to the nation’s educational programs in renewable energy and sustainability. Career prospects include not just energy technicians but also environmental analysts, green construction managers, and renewable energy consultants. 

Arizona State University pledged to become carbon neutral by 2020, and they’ve proudly achieved that goal. Maine recently approved contracts for no less than 17 renewable energy projects. Small states are making huge strides in the clean energy sector and creating jobs along the way. 

Alaska

Through an Occupational Endorsement program, students at the University of Alaska Fairbanks can earn an O.E.C. in Sustainable Energy. Occupational Endorsement programs are meant to prepare students for professional jobs across a variety of specialized industries. The O.E.C. in Sustainable Energy will help students obtain entry-level positions within the field. Students may also use their coursework as preparation for associates or bachelor’s degree programs. 

Many educational displays, such as this one by USDA Agricultural
Research Service, provided free gifts and information

The University of Alaska Anchorage offers a number of courses in renewable energy including solar photovoltaic systems, solar hot water systems, small wind systems, and biodiesel and vegetable oil fuel systems. Students can use coursework to prepare for entry-level opportunities in the renewable energy sector. 

Student speaker Kelsey Waldorf addresses her graduating class at the University of Alaska Anchorage commencement ceremony at Sullivan Arena Sunday, May 5, 2013. (Erin Hooley/University of Alaska Anchorage Office of Advancement)

Arizona

Established in 2006, The School of Sustainability at Arizona State is the nation’s first school devoted entirely to sustainability. The school offers both a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Bachelor of Science degree in Sustainability. According to the program’s website, the BA program is best suited to students interested in the humanities, social sciences or planning, whereas the BS program is tailored to those drawn to natural sciences, economics, or engineering. 

Maine

Unity College in southern Maine offers a Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Business Management: Renewable Energy. The program combines traditional business education with professional skills and knowledge of the renewable energy sector, thus preparing students to run their own renewable energy businesses, obtain positions within established organizations or further their education with an M.S. in Professional Science or a Sustainable Master of Business (MBA). 

The minor in Renewable Energy Engineering at the University of Maine covers topics such as the production, distribution, consumption, and impacts of energy “with a particular focus on the design and implementation of existing and emerging technologies.” Engineering students can add the minor as a complement to their primary studies.

Idaho

The Continuing Education Workforce Training division at Idaho State University offers a few online courses in renewable energy: Introduction to Renewable Energy, Introduction to Solar Thermal Hot Water Heating, and Solar Site Assessment. Students can use these courses to advance their skills or explore new topics within the energy sector.  

The Bachelor of Science in Renewable Materials is accredited by the Society of Wood Science and Technology and aims to teach students how to “create and design new products from bio-based materials, from wood to recycled materials.” In Idaho, the renewable materials and wood products industry is a $3 billion industry making this degree a potentially lucrative choice for students. Potential career paths include environmental restoration planner, commercial or industrial designer, and manufacturing engineer. 

The Energy Systems Technology and Education Center (ESTEC) was established to meet the growing demand for engineering technicians in the energy sector. The program combines traditional classroom instruction with hands-on training in a laboratory setting. ESTEC offers a Basic Technical Certificate, two Intermediate Technical Certificates, and six AAS degrees in focused areas such as Mechanical Engineering Technology, Nuclear Operations Technology, and Industrial Cybersecurity Engineering Technology. 

South Dakota

  • South Dakota State University – Sustainable Energy Systems Minor

The Sustainable Energy Systems minor is available to any student “interested in gaining a background in sustainability, energy efficiency, and renewable energy technologies.” The program offers courses in a traditional classroom setting as well as lab exercises, internship and research experiences and design projects. Graduates can pursue careers in energy production and efficient energy technologies. 

Sustainability studies at the University of South Dakota require students to select a specialization in Human and Natural Systems or Environmental Science. The program results in one of three degrees: a Bachelor of Arts in Human and Natural Systems, a Bachelor of Science in Human and Natural Systems, or a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science. Potential career paths include natural resource management, community planning, or leadership roles at government or private-sector organizations.

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