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The energy sector is on the rise again in the U.S. after a sudden decline due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, the growth of employment in the industry outpaced that of the overall U.S. workforce. This comes as little surprise given recent trends in the sector. According to ZipRecruiter, many workers in the industry are starting to retire, and there is a growing need for new blood with advanced engineering expertise.
To help you find the best-paying jobs in energy, we’ve compiled a list of exciting positions that are in demand. Read on to learn more about the earning potentials and requirements of each job alongside some useful facts about the industry.
Our Top 7 Picks for the Best-Paying Jobs in Energy
- Petroleum engineer
- Wind farm site manager
- Nuclear engineer
- Renewable energy consultant
- Atmospheric scientist
- Solar energy technician
- Civil engineer
Petroleum engineers design and develop plans and equipment for extracting oil and gas from underground reservoirs. They assess the production of wells and research new methods and techniques to reduce costs. Some of the most common types of petroleum engineers are completion engineers, drilling engineers, production engineers and reservoir engineers.
To become a petroleum engineer, you’ll typically need a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering or a related field. Some employers prefer candidates with a master’s degree. You’re not required to obtain a license to start working as an entry-level petroleum engineer. However, you may want to get a Professional Engineering (PE) license later in your career, as it allows for more independence to choose the roles and responsibilities that fit you best.
The average annual salary for a petroleum engineer is $145,720. Most professionals work full-time with some occasional overtime and in offices or at well and drilling sites. The position requires sharp interpersonal, analytical and problem-solving skills, as well as the willingness to travel frequently.
Wind farm site manager
Wind farm site managers work on the construction and maintenance of wind plants. They manage the systems, employees, contractors and activities associated with the wind farm.
To pursue a wind farm site manager career, you need a high school diploma and three to five years of experience, preferably in the renewable energy sector. Some employers may require you to hold a bachelor's degree.
Power plant operators — the broader category for wind farm site managers — earn $83,740 on average per year. Succeeding in wind energy jobs requires constant attention and alertness, as you're working with rotating electrical equipment and are exposed to high voltage levels. Also, most wind farm professionals work on rotating shifts, which can be quite demanding.
Nuclear engineers design and develop nuclear equipment, research ways of managing nuclear materials and nuclear fuel and address problems concerning nuclear energy. According to their area of interest and expertise, professionals can operate in defense, medical production, research and regulation, space exploration or utility power generation.
You’ll typically need a bachelor’s degree in engineering or a related field if you plan to become a nuclear engineer. Some employers prefer candidates with a master’s degree or Ph.D. As a new employee at a nuclear power plant, you’ll need to take onsite job training. To ensure that engineers stay up to date on regulations, they need to complete continuous courses.
Nuclear engineers in the U.S. earn $121,760 on an average annual basis. Most of them work full-time in office settings. To thrive in their roles, nuclear engineers need to possess a detail-oriented, problem-solving attitude and a deep knowledge of science and math.
Renewable energy consultant
Renewable energy consultants aim to reduce or eliminate the environmental impact of businesses. They conduct energy surveys and audits and analyze data to advise their clients on sustainable energy solutions.
To pursue a renewable energy career as a consultant, you’ll typically need a bachelor’s degree in a related field. Some employers require a postgraduate qualification and relevant experience. Renewable energy jobs are best for people with excellent analytical, critical thinking, communication and project management skills and demonstrated environmental knowledge.
Environmental scientists and specialists — the broader category for renewable energy consultants — make $81,240 on average per year. They can work for private consulting firms, corporations and the government or as independent contractors. Depending on their specialization, some consultants spend most of their time in the office, while others work in the field.
Atmospheric scientists measure and analyze atmospheric data, conduct research and report weather conditions. They use scientific instruments and graphics software to prepare weather forecasts and warnings. Some of the most common types of atmospheric scientist jobs are broadcast meteorologist, climatologist, forensic meteorologist, research meteorologist and weather forecaster.
To become an atmospheric scientist, you’ll typically need a bachelor’s degree in meteorology or a related field. If you plan to specialize in research, you might want to pursue a master’s degree or Ph.D. Some professionals are required to undergo training after they’re hired, and while certifications aren’t a must, they definitely increase your chances of getting hired.
Atmospheric and space scientists earn $96,880 on an average annual basis. Some atmospheric scientists have a full-time, standard work schedule, while others work in shifts. As they need to monitor the weather and report severe conditions continually, some overtime is expected.
Solar energy technician
Solar energy technicians are responsible for assembling, installing and maintaining photovoltaic (PV) systems. From planning the configurations to performing regular checks and identifying safety hazards, they carry out a wide range of duties. The profession is one of the moderately dangerous solar energy jobs, as technicians risk potential burns, falls and shocks. Because of this, they must wear safety equipment and learn about the safest ways to work.
You don’t need a bachelor’s degree to become a solar energy technician. Most entry-level employees learn on the job while working with skilled professionals. In some states, you might need a license to install PV systems. Additionally, some employers require you to hold a driver's license.
Solar photovoltaic engineers earn an average of $50,710 per year. Most of their work is done outdoors, usually on rooftops. Professionals can work alone or on a team with the occasional help of electricians and roofers.
Civil engineers in the energy industry design, construct and maintain energy infrastructure plans and systems. Their work includes analyzing plans, maps and data, considering costs and testing construction materials before presenting findings to clients.
To pursue a career in civil engineering, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in a related field. Further education can help you get hired as a manager. Professional engineer licenses are necessary for some energy engineering jobs and to work as a contractor. Besides strong problem-solving and decision-making skills, civil engineers need to be excellent leaders and communicators.
The average annual salary of civil engineers in the U.S. is $95,490. The majority of civil engineers work full-time with occasional overtime. Some professionals spend most of their time outdoors at construction sites, while others work from an office. Travel and relocations can be frequent.
Best-Paying Jobs in Energy Guide
The energy industry is a complex one, so it’s perfectly understandable if you still have some questions about it. Now that you know what energy jobs pay — with salaries on ZipRecruiter as high as $141,500 — and some basic facts about careers in this sector, let’s take a look at the energy industry in general and how you can find the best-paying jobs.
What is the energy industry?
The energy industry is one of the largest industries in the world and plays a huge role in everyday life. It refers to all the economic activities and companies related to the production and sale of energy. Some of the most important parts of the energy industry are:
- Fossil fuel industries, including petroleum, coal and natural gas industries
- The nuclear power industry
- The renewable energy industry
- The electrical power industry
- The traditional energy industry
Types of energy jobs
The energy sector provides a great variety of exciting job types to choose from — including our top picks for the highest-paying ones. Although the industry is traditionally centered around engineers, scientists and technicians, there are many positions available for candidates from other fields. People with a financial, management or IT background can find their career path in the sector just as easily as a chemist or a machine operator.
On most job search sites, you can find energy jobs that require a lot of physical activity and positions that involve working in an administrative or management setting. Some professionals work from offices, whereas others spend most of their time at a power plant or construction site.
Requirements for an energy job
Most energy jobs require you to hold a high school diploma and, in some special cases, you may need to obtain a professional license. A bachelor’s degree is typically a must for engineering, scientific and consultant positions. Some employers prefer candidates with a master’s degree or Ph.D.
To apply for a job, you’ll need to create a CV demonstrating your most relevant experiences and an excellent cover letter that gets the attention of employers. Before you apply, find out the most successful ways to write a cover letter for a job that fits you.
How to find the highest-paying jobs in energy
If you want to find the best-paying jobs in energy, you should first examine the average annual salary of your desired positions. Try to visit some trustworthy salary checker websites, as finding out how much a job pays isn’t always easy.
Take a look at some existing career opportunities near you or seek out renowned companies. If you plan to work remotely, you might want to check out the top companies for remote jobs.
Best-Paying Jobs in Energy FAQ
How stable are environmental jobs in the energy industry?
How many jobs are available in the energy sector?
How does renewable energy create jobs?
Is energy a good career path?
Energy is a quite lucrative career path that provides financial stability and growth. According to your interests and expertise, you can find many exciting positions in the industry.
While energy can be an excellent career path, most jobs in the sector require a great level of responsibility, attention to detail and flexibility. Some positions can be physically tiring or risky. For many, these prove to be reasons for leaving a job in the industry. Before applying for a position, try to compare the earning potential and benefits of the job to the possible negative sides and requirements.
How We Chose the Best-Paying Jobs in Energy
When creating our list of the best-paying jobs in energy, we aimed to collect positions from a range of areas. Our goal was to find quality jobs with excellent earning potential for everyone interested to work in the industry.
To provide you with the most accurate data about salaries and requirements, we examined official statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor. We also analyzed key trends and predictions in the hope that you can make an easier decision about your career path in the energy sector.