Colorado School of Mines Graduate School Insights

Advanced energy systems job prospects

Your advanced degree is a lot more than just a few extra letters next to your professional title. A graduate degree in Advanced Energy Systems vastly improves your job prospects and opens up a world of career opportunities in fields like solar power, natural gas, wind and thermal energy. In this Grad School Insights post we’re taking a hard look at the value of a graduate degree in AES; whether you’re thinking of getting a degree, are in the process of getting one, or have already graduated, you’ll know what’s in store for you out in the professional world. We’ll cover:

  • Your Job Prospects After You Graduate
  • The Value of Your Degree in Advanced Energy Systems
  • Common Job Titles and Salaries
  • Job Satisfaction

Spoiler alert: it’s more than just a good deal. It’s nearly future-proof.

Your Job Prospects After You Graduate

Solar panels and wind turbineWe’ve got good news and more good news for you if you have a graduate degree in Advanced Energy Systems or are working toward one: your career prospects are good, and so is your earning potential. Twenty years ago, advanced energy technologies like solar and geothermal were underdeveloped and thus underutilized. Since 1982, however, the demand for peak energy has outpaced current production by as much as 25%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Recent advancements in solar technology, according to a study by Harvard University, will help boost demand to over 700% of what it is now.

Let’s put that 700% increase into perspective. Allied Market Research predicts that the solar industry alone will be worth $226 billion by the end of 2026, and demand for highly educated, highly skilled workers in alternative energy is booming. In 2011, the BLS reported about 1,100 jobs in geothermal. As of 2019, that figure is over 100,000 globally. Solar has about 335,000 jobs and is growing 12 times faster than the U.S. economy. Natural gas is no slouch either, clocking in at 271,000 positions nationwide.

The Value of Your Degree in Advanced Energy Systems

Job prospects aside, let’s talk about the value of an advanced degree in AES. When you participate in an AES graduate program, you’re contributing to mankind’s understanding of our natural world and its resources. You will be, quite literally, at the forefront of a booming industry, backed by one of the best STEM colleges in the country—and we haven’t even talked about the return on investment with a degree from Mines, which is, by the way, $1.996 million dollars over 30 years.

But 30 years is a quite a large time frame, and while most degrees provide a pretty substantial value, STEM degrees themselves are even more potent. In order to talk more about the value of a master’s or doctorate in AES, we need to first examine how STEM degrees play an important role in adding that value.

The Power of a STEM Graduate Degree

Regardless of what you study, STEM graduate degrees pay big dividends, and that’s been universally true since the 1980s. STEM jobs are projected to grow up to 13% from 2017 to 2027, and salaries are expected to follow suit, jumping to $40/hour at the graduate level. For comparison, those with only STEM bachelor’s degrees make $25/hour on average. The average 2019 starting salary for Mines graduates? $73,000, compared to the average of $46,301.

Common Job Titles and Salaries

Historically, those with master’s or doctoral degrees in AES hold a variety of titles and salary ranges, but most of them earn above $75,000 annually. Common job titles include:

  • Environmental Scientist – $87,160
  • Geoscientist – $77,460
  • Hydrologist – $75,680
  • Physicist – $122,220
  • Chemist – $68,320
  • Materials Scientist – $84,720
  • Materials Engineer – $86,380
  • Atmosphere and Space Scientist – $87,780
  • Construction Managers – $83,170
  • Power Plant Operators – $64,270

All data and titles sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Business Insider.

Job Satisfaction

Job satisfaction is pretty well-established. Numerous studies, including ones done by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, show that people holding graduate degrees “report more job autonomy, variety, job satisfaction, and status.”

The average STEM graduate degree holder also reports much higher levels of job satisfaction, due to the fact that they often work in positions that more closely align with their degree.

Your Future as an Advanced Energy Systems Graduate

If scientists are correct, by 2050 we’ll be using a blend of renewable (solar, wind, geothermal) and finite resources, such as fossil fuels. The future needs highly educated, highly motivated scientists and engineers to guide us through the transition to using safer, cleaner energy sources. A graduate degree in Advanced Energy Systems, especially one from Mines, capitalizes on emerging technology in a market set to shine bright as the sun.

Learn More

Contact us to receive more information about graduate programs at Colorado School of Mines.


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