The best courses for the solar industry


The best courses for the solar industry
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If you want to become a solar installer or start your own solar installation company, learning how to install solar panels is a must. While training courses are not required to get a job or open an installation business in some states, they give you a competitive advantage over other job applicants or a professional edge as an installer.

Plenty of class options are available, both in-person and online, ranging from entry-level to continuing education credits.

But be aware! There are plenty of spammy online courses that won’t teach you what you need to know. See if solar classes are offered at your local community college or vocational school, or look into the programs offered through trusted solar industry organizations like NABCEP and SEI.

Whether you’re looking to complete a DIY solar installation for your home or join the rush into the solar field, it’s a good idea to consider a solar panel training course.

Solar installation courses at a glance:

  • Solar installation training courses are the best way to learn how to become a solar industry professional, helping you apply for a job with the ability to get started right away.
  • Depending on the program, solar installation courses could cost between $2,000 and $5,000. But scholarships to help with costs are generally pretty accessible.
  • NABCEP and SEI are the best resources for solar energy training, with online and in-person courses available. While NABCEP does not offer courses and/or training directly, it is carried out through their ARTPs/RTPs, which you can find here.
  • Solar installer courses will cover topics including, but not limited to, how to size a solar system, wire a solar system safely, and incorporate solar battery storage into the system.

On this page

    Are installation courses required to work in solar?

    Short answer? No. Each state has different requirements for solar installation companies and for contractors that do the work installing solar panels. In some states like Georgia, there are no requirements at all. It is not technically necessary in every state to have the training to work in the solar industry, but these courses can help your résumé stand out.

    Solar installations are not regulated, but that might be changing soon to better protect consumers. At the same time, states like New Jersey require electricians and contractors that work on solar installations to be licensed with the state.

    Courses and licensing are implemented to ensure that complex electrical systems are installed correctly and safely on residential roofs. We advise students to check if these courses count towards their state licenses, such as for electrical certifications or contractor certifications.

    They are separate from certifications specific for certain solar jobs, meaning it can be easier to get a job in solar as a certified electrician or contractor coupled with a solar training course. However, you can pass solar certifications after completing a course, even with limited or no training. It is important to note that advanced-level certifications require more rigorous training than entry-level certifications.

    Some solar employers will pay for workers to get certified, but because they are a high upfront cost, an applicant already taking these courses is an asset. Some solar company owners will pay their workers for recertification credits for their NABCEP credentials and certifications.

    Trusted solar industry installation courses

    Two of the most reliable names in the solar industry regarding training and certificate programs are the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) and Solar Energy International (SEI).


    Technically, NABCEP does not offer its own courses but provides resources for Associate Registered Training Providers (ARTPs) or Registered Training Providers (RTPs). These are the entities that carry out the NABCEP training for their Associate Credential (e.g., PVA), and Professional Board Certifications(e.g., PVIP, PVCMS, PVTS, etc.) exams.

    NABCEP created its certifications and credentials with the help of many different solar industry professionals. Their certifications and credentials are considered the gold standard in the solar industry.

    The courses either qualify you for their Associate Credential, meant for entry-level solar workers, or their Professional Board Certifications for those who are more experienced and do not need basic course training.

    “At NABCEP, we consider our certifications and credentials to be the gold standard for the PV industry. The courses provided by our Registered Training Providers are of high quality and meet the training requirements for certification and recertification.

    The content of the NABCEP examinations is rigorous and is the result of the best subject matter experts in the field coming together to sharpen the minds of current and future certificates. The most satisfying part of my job is to see someone obtain our certifications and begin their journey towards a solar career.”, says Shawn O’Brien, NABCEP CEO/President.

    The organization is so well-respected that SolarReviews advises consumers to look for NABCEP-certified installers, and we allow companies to highlight their NABCEP certification status on their SolarReviews profile.

    A NABCEP certification signals to customers that your company is legitimate and is up to date with the latest rules and technology.

    As a solar worker, becoming NABCEP-certified makes you a more appealing candidate and can increase your chances of getting hired. Recertification training is necessary because solar is a constantly evolving field with new solar policies, solar equipment, and new rules for installers to remain knowledgeable.

    No matter what solar specialty you are interested in, NABCEP’s ARTPs and RTPs offer a course for it. There are a few avenues to choose from, from courses on properly designing a solar system to learning how to inspect and maintain solar arrays.

    You can easily research the best route to get started and work towards NABCEP examinations to become NABCEP certified.


    SEI's lab yard in Paonia, Colorado

    Solar Energy International (SEI) is another great solar training option that offers a wide range of solar certification courses in English and Spanish. SEI trains and empowers students, alums, and partners to participate in a diverse, inclusive, well-trained, and educated solar electricity workforce.

    “Don’t make the mistake of piecing together your solar education from questionable and unreliable sources. SEI has been providing industry-leading technical solar training for over 30 years now and, with our team of highly experienced instructors coupled with our constantly updated curriculum, students get the best solar training around,” said Chris Turek, VP of Marketing and Business Development.

    For courses where hands-on learning is essential, SEI has training facilities in Colorado, Costa Rica, and the Middle East. SolarReviews sent a few of our staff members to take a Solar 101 course in 2019 to learn about wiring a solar system, sizing a solar system, and other solar basics. Spots fill up quickly, so book yours soon!

    SEI courses can be a standalone personal achievement, or you can use these courses as credit towards taking NABCEP exams. Below, we highlight an SEI course so you can understand what to expect.

    What certification will these courses give you?

    The courses provided by SEI and NABCEP’s ARTPs/RTPs are not a certification in and of themselves, like obtaining an electrician’s license. The courses are primarily a source of education and study that includes the necessary contact training hours that qualifies someone to take the NABCEP exams for their Associate Credential and/or Professional Board Certifications.

    Once they pass, the individual must sign a code of ethics and take continuing education courses for recertification every three years. Some solar companies will pay for their installers to get recertified-certified.

    What will you learn in these courses?

    Like most things, it depends. Because there are so many course options and career pathways, each class will have different materials and requirements. Some courses from NABCEP’s ARTPs and RTPs, and SEI cover information for people who want to work in solar sales, solar installations, solar design specialists, and solar maintenance certificates.

    For example, if you are interested in becoming a solar installer, the Residential & Commercial Photovoltaic Systems Certificate from SEI is an excellent place to start. The tuition for the full certificate path, which includes five theory courses and one hands-on lab, is between $4,825 to $5,825, depending on if the theory courses are taken in person or online.

    If you decide to take the Residential & Commercial Photovoltaic Systems Certificate pathway, you can expect to learn about the topics below.

    How to size a solar system

    You will learn how to conduct site analysis, system sizing, array configuration, and performance estimation based on location and system wiring factors. This course will also teach students about mounting methods, inverter specifications, and the safety of installing grid-connected solar photovoltaic (PV) solar.

    Once the solar fundamentals are nailed down, the next course includes hands-on training, with the opportunity to practice installing a solar PV system on various roof types. Additionally, students will learn to decommission a system and ensure a safe working environment.

    How to safely wire the equipment

    Wiring a solar system correctly and safely is extremely important, so SEI teaches students about National Electrical Code (NEC® 2020) standards for installing a solar system. This includes instructions on calculations, interconnection requirements, and wire sizing.

    The basics of battery storage

    Battery storage is becoming more popular, so understanding how to install solar batteries is more important than ever. As part of the course, you’ll learn how to conduct a load analysis to find the right size battery system and the different battery chemistries available.

    These descriptions only account for a portion of the information that students will learn in these courses, so if you are interested, research the best courses for you. Some of the industry jargon might not make sense now, but that’s why these courses exist!

    Scholarships can expand access to solar training

    Salaries in the solar field are good, with the typical solar installer making about $75,000 at the start of their career. But, the cost of the solar installation courses to break into the industry is costly.

    As installation, manufacturing, electrician, and sales jobs in the solar industry become more common, increasing access to solar careers is necessary. Scholarships are making this happen.

    SEI offers scholarships to help offset the cost of their training courses. SolarReviews has even partnered with SEI to provide scholarships for Spanish-first speakers and women interested in solar.

    The need for renewable energy workers and installation professionals will continue to grow. SEI and NABCEP are ensuring that everyone wanting to work in the solar industry can do so.

    NABCEP and its Board of Directors have developed the Les Nelson Scholarship Fund for Volunteers as a tribute to Mr. Les Nelson, a passionate advocate of the renewable energy industry. The scholarship focuses on helping individuals with volunteer experience enter or expand their role in the solar PV or solar heating industries through credentialing, Board Certification, and continuing education.

    Why solar installation courses are important

    NABCEP estimates that if you become NABCEP Certified, you can increase your earnings potential by an average of $11,000. You might be able to go out and get an installation job or start your own solar installation company without formal training, but the monetary benefits are clear.

    As an applicant, being certified makes you a much more attractive and trustworthy candidate. Additionally, being a company with NABCEP Certified installers on staff makes it easy for potential customers to trust your company over another.

    There are a lot of spammy solar training courses online, but SEI and NABCEP’s ARTPs/RTPs are two that have industry recognition and trust. So if you want to get the best education and solar job placement potential, starting with one is the way to go.

    Find a local solar installer today
     - Author of Solar Reviews

    Ana Almerini

    Marketing & Communications Manager

    Ana is the Marketing & Communications Manager at SolarReviews, working within the solar industry since 2020. With a Master's in Climate and Society and professional experience within marketing, she helps communicate the value of solar to homeowners and build out awareness of the SolarReviews brand.

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