Summary

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Quick Facts: Solar Photovoltaic Installers
2016 Median Pay $39,240 per year
$18.87 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, 2016 11,300
Job Outlook, 2016-26 105% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 11,900

What Solar Photovoltaic Installers Do

Solar photovoltaic (PV) installers, also known as PV installers, assemble, install, and maintain solar panel systems on rooftops or other structures.

Work Environment

Most solar panel installations are done outdoors, but PV installers sometimes work in attics and crawl spaces to connect panels to the electric grid. Installers must also travel to jobsites.

How to Become a Solar Photovoltaic Installer

Although most installers need a high school diploma and typically receive on-the-job training lasting up to 1 year, some candidates take courses at a technical school or community college.

Pay

The median annual wage for solar photovoltaic installers was $39,240 in May 2016.

Job Outlook

Employment of solar photovoltaic (PV) installers is projected to grow 105 percent from 2016 to 2026, 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 photovoltaic training courses 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, also known as PV installers, assemble, install, and maintain solar panel systems on rooftops or other structures.

Duties

PV installers typically do the following:

  • Plan PV system configurations based on customer needs and site conditions
  • Measure, cut, and assemble the support structure for solar PV panels
  • Install solar modules, panels, and support structures in accordance with building codes and standards
  • Connect PV panels to the electrical system
  • Apply weather sealant to equipment being installed
  • Activate and test PV systems
  • Perform routine PV system maintenance

Solar PV panels convert sunlight to electricity, and PV installers put these systems in place. PV installers use a variety of hand and power tools to install PV panels. They often use drills, wrenches, saws, and screwdrivers to connect panels to frames, wires, and support structures.

Many new PV installers 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 panels to the electric grid, although electricians sometimes perform this duty. Once the panels are installed, workers check the electrical systems for proper wiring, polarity, and grounding, and they also perform maintenance as needed.

Work Environment About this section

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

Solar photovoltaic installers held about 11,300 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of solar photovoltaic installers were as follows:

Plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors 43%
Self-employed workers 20
Electrical contractors and other wiring installation contractors 20
Hardware, and plumbing and heating equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers 2
Utilities 1

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 solar panels may require the help of roofers and electricians, as well as solar photovoltaic installers.

Injuries and Illnesses

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

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 a PV installer. Most workers need a high school diploma and receive on-the-job training lasting up to 1 year. Other candidates take courses at a technical school or community college. Some PV installers learn to install panels as part of an apprenticeship.

Education

Most employers require PV installers to have a high school diploma. 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 lengths vary 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 option 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 training, PV installers learn about safety, tools, and PV system installation techniques.

Electrician and roofing apprentices and journey workers may complete photovoltaic-specific training modules through apprenticeships.

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

Military veterans may benefit from the Solar Ready Vets program, which is a joint effort of the U.S Departments of Defense and Energy to connect veterans with training and jobs in the solar industry.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. PV installers often need to communicate effectively with clients to ensure customer satisfaction and with other workers to ensure that proper safety and installation procedures are followed.

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 in order to build support structures for solar panels and to 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 throughout the day.

Physical strength. PV installers often lift heavy equipment and materials weighing 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

Most employers require PV installers to have a driver’s license.

Certification is not a requirement but can demonstrate a PV installer’s competency in solar panel installation. The Electronics Technicians Association, International (ETA); the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners; and Roof Integrated Solar Energy (RISE) Inc., all offer certification for PV installers.

Pay About this section

Solar Photovoltaic Installers

Median annual wages, May 2016

Construction trades workers

$42,310

Solar photovoltaic installers

$39,240

Total, all occupations

$37,040

 

The median annual wage for solar photovoltaic installers was $39,240 in May 2016. 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 $27,970, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $60,570.

In May 2016, the median annual wages for solar photovoltaic installers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Utilities $52,310
Plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors 39,710
Electrical contractors and other wiring installation contractors 39,600
Hardware, and plumbing and heating equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers 39,510

Job Outlook About this section

Solar Photovoltaic Installers

Percent change in employment, projected 2016-26

Solar photovoltaic installers

105%

Construction trades workers

11%

Total, all occupations

7%

 

Employment of solar photovoltaic (PV) installers, often called PV installers, is projected to grow 105 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations.

The continued 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 apprenticeships 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 projections data for solar photovoltaic installers, 2016-26
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Solar photovoltaic installers

47-2231 11,300 23,200 105 11,900 employment projections excel document 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.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop 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 2016 MEDIAN PAY Help
Carpenters

Carpenters

Carpenters construct, repair, and install building frameworks and structures made from wood and other materials.

High school diploma or equivalent $43,600
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 $41,330
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 $32,230
Electricians

Electricians

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

High school diploma or equivalent $52,720
Glaziers

Glaziers

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

High school diploma or equivalent $41,920
Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration and mechanics and installers

Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers

Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers—often called heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVACR) technicians—work on heating, ventilation, cooling, and refrigeration systems that control the temperature and air quality in buildings.

Postsecondary nondegree award $45,910
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 $50,830
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 $51,450
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 $37,760
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 $46,940

Contacts for More Information About this section

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

For details about apprenticeships 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

CareerOneStop

For a career video on PV 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, Solar Photovoltaic Installers,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/solar-photovoltaic-installers.htm (visited November 01, 2017).

Last Modified Date: Tuesday, October 24, 2017

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2016 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 2016, the median annual wage for all workers was $37,040.

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, 2016

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2016, which is the base year of the 2016-26 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2016-26

The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2016-26

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

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 2016-26

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2016 to 2026.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

2016 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 2016, the median annual wage for all workers was $37,040.