If you’re ready for a career change, just starting out, or generally just want to know more about becoming a solar energy installer, you’ve come to the right place.
We’ll be taking a look at the basic ins and outs of the job, average salaries, state requirements, and more.
You’ll know the general info on how to get certified to install solar panels, as well, and where to look. By the time you’re done reading this, you should be able to determine if you’re ready to start pursuing your education, or if you’ve got a little more prep to put in.
Solar Installer Job Description & Duties
First off, let’s start with a generalized job description and list of duties performed by a solar installer.
A solar installer or contractor puts solar systems in at residential and commercial locations so that businesses and homes can convert to solar power.
The solar installer must have up to date knowledge on safety concerns, installation practices, best techniques, and current equipment and products available. The solar installer must meet all state requirements for certification and licensing (see state requirements below).
A solar installer is responsible for any or all of these tasks:
- Configuring, installing, inspecting, and maintaining solar PV systems
- Assessing the environment and detect hazards where systems are to be installed
- Mapping out locations and placement for each component of each system
- Sealing the system against weather
- Adhering to all safety codes and manufacturer specifications
- Labeling, installing, and terminating electrical wiring
- Testing the system and measuring the grounding systems
- Making any adjustments as necessary to the system controls
How to Become a Solar Contractor
You don’t legally need to be licensed to install solar energy in every state, but many places require very specific training to be able to do installations anywhere but home.
It’s important to review your state’s regulations and understand what’s required.
If you live in a Tri-state area, you may wish to become certified and licensed in all of the states you’re local to. However, you may want to give yourself time to first get licensed in your own state and get established before expanding into other states. Licensing can expensive up-front.
Specific laws and regulations for solar installer licensing can be found on various websites, but the basic breakdown is below.
What is the NABCEP?
As you look below, you’ll see some initial attached to requirements for various states. The most common is NABCEP. This stands for the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners.
This is the global certification leader in renewable energy, and getting certified usually means you can work anywhere in the world where NABCEP certification is required.
State by State Licensing Requirements
To make it a little easier to sort, I’m providing a basic rundown on licensing requirements in alphabetical order. Please continually check laws for any changes that may occur, though we strive to keep this page as up to date as possible.
- Alabama – NABCEP or SRCC licensing
- Alaska – no requirements
- Arizona – non-specific agency certification required
- Arkansas – no requirements
- California – California solar contractors’ license or A/B general building contractors’ license plus education requirements
- Colorado – no state requirements, but some counties require specific licensing
- Connecticut – each business must have at least one NABCEP certification & licensed contractor with PV-1 or E-1 license
- Delaware – NABCEP license preferred to qualify rebates
- Florida – solar contractor license
- Georgia – no requirements
- Hawaii – solar energy systems contractor license – automatically granted to any licensed general contractor in Hawaii
- Idaho – NABCEP or similar license, plus Idaho solar photovoltaic license
- Illinois – no requirements
- Indiana – no requirements
- Iowa – no requirements
- Kansas – no requirements
- Kentucky – no requirements, but licensed electrician required as part of team
- Louisiana – contractors must hold licensing from approved body
- Maine – licensed electricians only
- Maryland – no requirements, but licensed electrician required as part of team
- Massachusetts – licensed electricians only
- Michigan – requires state-specific licensing
- Minnesota – state licensing
- Mississippi – no requirements
- Missouri – no state requirement, but some counties require NABCEP certifications
- Montana – no requirements
- Nebraska – no requirements
- Nevada – state contractors’ license
- New Hampshire – requires electrician’s license
- New Jersey – requires home improvement license
- New Mexico – state contractor license, which covers solar installation
- New York – NABCEP certification or IBEW-NECA training
- North Carolina – requires electrician’s license
- North Dakota – no requirements
- Ohio – state contractor electrician or HVAC license
- Oklahoma – no requirements
- Oregon – no requirements
- Pennsylvania – NABCEP, IBEW, NECA, ISPQ, or IRED certification
- Rhode Island – state licensing
- South Carolina – licensed electricians only
- South Dakota – licensed electricians only
- Tennessee – licensed electricians only
- Texas – licensed electricians only
- Utah – contractor’s license
- Vermont – certified solar partnership
- Virginia – state alternative energy systems specialization
- Washington – licensed electricians only
- West Virginia – licensed electricians only
- Wisconsin – no requirements
- Wyoming – licensed electricians only
Where to Get the Training to Become a Licensed or Certified Solar Installer
Obviously, the various requirements of each state will have an impact on this licensing, education, certification, and other forms of training. But the basic understanding of programs looks like the below breakdowns.
You can start your search for education directly through the NABCEP. Their site provides a number of courses, including some training programs that are free for your continuing education purposes.
Since this is the organization most recognized in the United States how to get certified in solar panel installation, it’s recommended you start your search here and expand outward to find what best suits your particular needs.
The best and easiest way to find solar panel installation training centers is by doing a Google search.
This search will produce a range of options near you – searching in Illinois I found about 10 solid options, including online training – that will provide you with general training in solar installation.
Some will be more specialized, but that depends highly on state requirements.
Certification programs are going to be pretty similar to training centers.
Do a quick Google search to see which programs are available in your area or online, and verify these programs work for the requirements in your state before you pursue one.
In order to become a licensed solar installer, you’ll need to take a state-accepted exam.
Your training center or program is likely to provide the information for this, as well as information on practice exams, but you may need to find the most current information for your state on this.
Trade schools are a potential option for learning solar installation in your state.
These schools – often referred to as vocational school – will be up to date on state regulations, licensing requirements, and more, and will provide you with hands-on training in solar installation, possibly better than any other option out there.
In the states where licensing isn’t required or has fluctuating standards, the company you work with may well be able to provide the necessary training. These companies typically state “training provided” in the job descriptions when they list a new opening.
This kind of training will meet the standards of the company and any regulations that the industry may require of companies.
For those “no requirements” states, this is a great way to get the training and experience, but the information may not transfer as well to other positions in the future. Seeking verifiable certification apart from the company you work for is always recommended as well, when possible.
How Long Does Solar Energy Technician Training Take?
Solar panel installer certification or licensing has a variable timeframe. This will heavily depend on the type of training you do. The general timelines will probably look like those below.
General courses are going to be your basic certification programs, online courses, and similar choices. These are not going to be the trade school programs or degree programs.
Basically, general courses are going to take you between 18 and 25 hours – actual time – in your course work, plus reading time, study and preparation, and examination time.
There are some courses that jam the work and study into a single week, as well. Expect long hours and intense learning during this period. If you’re in a hurry for some reason, though, this may be your best bet for getting that education in time for that job interview or start date.
Advanced courses through online programs and many hands-on programs will generally run about 40 hours online or classroom time – literal hours – with upward of 100 hands-on hours of actual training.
You’ll have another 40 or so hours of advanced contact hours, plus exam preparation and examination time involved. This could be another 10 to 20 hours of actual time work.
In-House Training Programs
For companies that offer their own in-house training programs, you’ll find the time varies greatly. It’s likely to be closer to the advanced training course time but will be more compact and not as much on your own schedule.
Instead, you’ll probably do two to six weeks of in-house, on-hands training with reading, courses, exam and preparation time.
How Long is a License Valid?
Generally speaking, you’ll need to practice continuing education throughout your career as a solar installer. You’ll also need to re-certify every three years or so, depending on the state and programs in place.
How Much Can You Earn as a Solar Installer?
Once you’ve received your solar installation certification or licensing, you’ll be eligible to earn up to $74,000 per year.
This is the high-end of the salary range, according to Glassdoor.
Your actual salary will vary greatly upon location – states with higher demands for solar installation will pay better – and experience and source of your certification.
The national average salary for a solar installer is about $54,000 per year, while the low end is closer to $33,000 per year.