Online Master’s Degree in Renewable Energy

Ten years ago, a degree in renewable energy was almost unheard of. But during the past decade, schools have implemented programs at universities and colleges across the country in such areas as solar, alternative, renewable, and clean energy, to meet the anticipated demand for skilled, trained labor in “green” jobs. Those interested in gaining technical and policy skills in renewable energy fields and in working on the frontlines of an emerging field may be interested in earning a masters degree in renewable energy. The lengths of these programs tend to be about one year, though that will vary depending on the program, course load, internship requirements, and whether it’s full time or part time.

Classes for an Online Masters Degree in Renewable Energy

When you talk about renewable energy, that can mean different things and different perspectives, from solar power and clean energy to economics and public policy. An online masters degree program in renewable energy may encompass all angles and types of green energy, while others may focus on just one. The options are growing, too, as more schools add renewable energy programs to their graduate departments. In a solar energy program, you may study solar energy policies, such as land usage and government funding, as well as more technical solar engineering skills, while a more generalized renewable energy program may look at several renewable energy systems, such as solar energy, wind power, hydrogen fuels, fuel cells, and nuclear energy, as well as how to use existing energy sources more efficiently. In either case, key points and problems a student in these types of master degrees programs learns to solve are integrating renewable energy systems into existing infrastructure, designing low-energy products, and developing renewable energy technologies. Some typical classes you may take during a master degree in renewable energy include:

  • Solar Energy and Public Policy
  • Applied Photovoltaics
  • Energy Conversion
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Advanced Thermodynamics

In addition to classes, online masters programs typically include a graduate project, such as a thesis. In the case of master’s degrees in renewable energy, these projects tend to favor an applied research project over a thesis, where the student addresses a relevant renewable energy program. In the University of Dayton‘s master’s degree program in renewable and clean energy, for instance, student research projects have included developing concepts for low-speed wind turbines for use in the Midwest, researching supercapacitors and battery systems for renewable energy storage, and researching use of the Miami Valley aquifer as a renewable geothermal energy resource on a utility scale.

A Career as a Graduate with an Online Masters Degree in Renewable Energy

Given that graduate programs in renewable energy are relatively young, the prospects for graduates of these programs vary. But it is a growing, dynamic field that will require experts to meet demand and follow regulations, especially thanks to the $90 billion earmarked for clean-energy efforts in the federal stimulus package. Graduates of renewable energy programs may go on to work in industry, government, or nonprofit sectors that involve renewable energy and its utilization, pursuing design, engineering, installation, auditing, or programming careers. Areas of employment can range from wind farms and utility companies to green design and manufacturing.

A recent study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) took a look at employment in “green goods and services.” It found that 3.1 million people were employed in green jobs in 2010, accounting for 2.4% of total employment – a higher percentage than in the oil and gas industries. The majority of these jobs fell into production of energy from renewable sources; energy efficiency; pollution reduction and removal, greenhouse gas reduction, and recycling and reuse; natural resources conservation; and environmental compliance, education and training, and public awareness. California had the largest number of green jobs, according to the report, while Vermont had the highest percentage. This was the first report of its kind, so growth of green jobs could have be gauged by the study.


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