Ahead of the Curve: Solar Installer 2009

A career as a solar installer is a natural for electricians looking for more work.

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Solar Installer. Until now, most owners of homes and businesses considered solar energy a cost-ineffective proposition and a luxury, especially with the economy slow and the price of oil down dramatically from its 2008 high.

But President-elect Barack Obama has promised to create 5 million green-collar jobs, and the recently enacted solar tax credit may make solar installing a sustainable career.

A career as a solar installer is a natural for electricians looking for more work (like the many electricians laid off by the auto industry). But thanks to the high demand, the career may be viable for any green-minded person who's mechanically and electrically inclined and willing to spend most of the workday on a roof, often a pitched one. You must be in great shape: You'll be hauling heavy equipment from ground to roof.

Avuncular tip: To avoid skin cancer and looking as weathered as driftwood, make good friends with sunblock. You'll be spending a lot of time in the sunniest spots.

If you get tired of all the hauling and rooftop balancing, a typical next step is to become a repairer. It's less physically demanding but, because it requires more technical expertise, may pay better.

Or work your way into being a supervisor: bid the jobs, coordinate product and labor to the job site, and help workers solve tricky problems. That may be a particularly renewable energy career.

Learn More: Photovoltaics: Design and Installation Manual by Solar Energy International (revised edition, 2007.)