3 answers

I'm interested in being an alternative energy engineer, but not many colleges offer that as a bachelor's degree. What field of engineering should I go into?

Asked El Paso, Texas

3 answers

Luis "Lou"’s Answer

Updated Saint Petersburg, Florida

Alternative energy is a pretty broad field, so there isn't one specific engineering field that covers it.

If you look at it from the point of view of the type of energy you are dealing with: alternatives that deal with mechanical or thermal energy transfers usually are the field of Mechanical Eng.'s; stuff like Solar, wind, geothermal, waves, tides and hydrologic. If the energy goal is large (i.e.: a dam or wind farm) you will probably need a Civil Eng. to design and build the big stuff.

If you are thinking photovoltaic, fuel cells or battery technology, a Chemical or Electrical Eng. is probably most helpful.

That is not to say that you can be a Mechanical and do chemistry or electrical stuff, or vice versa.

So, no matter what the type of energy you are dealing with, there is always some overlap on the engineering disciplines, so pick the one you are more interested on and good luck saving the World.

Esther’s Answer

Updated Cary, North Carolina

Hello Anneliese,

That's a good thought that you are considering Alternate energy.

There are studies about some specific fields like Solar energy studies which is offered by NC state university. I would recommend to talk to someone who is doing some work on that area.

I can say that there will be good amount of needs for alternate energy sources as people are becoming more conscious about protecting environment and minimize the energy usage. Sustainable energy home is something you can try as a project in your own home, with your parents or guardian's help.

Installing small windmill, Solar energy panels and Thermal cooking are some things you can experiment. If you live near small stream, you can try generating electricity - which is called hydro electric power. While applying to Colleges, you can show these passion projects to gain you advantage.

I would recommend you to start with one small project and go from there.

Ken’s Answer

Updated Cleveland, Ohio

The most important things for you to do are to get to know yourself better to determine which might be a suitable career area based upon how your personality traits are aligned with people in a particular career area and then talking with them by doing interpersonal networking to determine how the career area fits after learning more about the inside view of the career.


It really does not matter what school you attend. The important things are getting to know yourself and doing networking, as that is the way that most people acquire suitable employment and advance in their careers. Many people in engineering get their start at their local community college as they have smaller classes, more reasonable costs, and coop and internship opportunities which allow you to earn and learn along the way and experience the inside view of the career area. A good move would be for you to talk to the director of alumni relations at your local community college to talk to graduates who are doing what you think that you might want to do, so that you can see what they are doing, how they got there, and what advice and suggestions that they might have.


Here is an interesting video relating to the choice of college: ## http://www.ted.com/talks/julie_lythcott_haims_how_to_raise_successful_kids_without_over_parenting?utm_campaign=social&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_content=talk&utm_term=education

Ken recommends the following next steps:

  • Next, when you have the results of the testing, talk to the person at your high school and college who tracks and works with graduates to arrange to talk to, visit, and possibly shadow people doing what you think that you might want to do, so that you can get know what they are doing and how they got there. Here are some tips: ## http://www.wikihow.com/Network ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/nonawkward-ways-to-start-and-end-networking-conversations ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/4-questions-to-ask-your-network-besides-can-you-get-me-a-job?ref=carousel-slide-1 ##
  • The whole process starts with getting to know yourself better. Getting to know yourself and how your personality traits relate to people involved in various career opportunities is very important in your decision making process. During my many years in Human Resources and College Recruiting, I ran across too many students who had skipped this very important step and ended up in a job situation which for which they were not well suited. Selecting a career area is like buying a pair of shoes. First you have to be properly fitted for the correct size, and then you need to try on and walk in the various shoe options to determine which is fits the best and is most comfortable for you to wear. Following are some important steps which I developed during my career which have been helpful to many .
  • The first step is to take an interest and aptitude test and have it interpreted by your school counselor to see if you share the personality traits necessary to enter the field. You might want to do this again upon entry into college, as the interpretation might differ slightly due to the course offering of the school. However, do not wait until entering college, as the information from the test will help to determine the courses that you take in high school. Too many students, due to poor planning, end up paying for courses in college which they could have taken for free in high school.
  • Here are some sites that will allow you to become better acquainted with the various areas of engineering: ## https://www.engineergirl.org/ ## http://www.futureengineers.org/ ## https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43zVcmTJSKM ## ## http://stemtosteam.org/ ## ## https://www.asme.org/career-education/articles/undergraduate-students/engineering-still-needs-more-women ##
  • Locate and attend meetings of professional associations to which people who are doing what you think that you want to do belong, so that you can get their advice. These associations may offer or know of intern, coop, shadowing, and scholarship opportunities. These associations are the means whereby the professionals keep abreast of their career area following college and advance in their career. You can locate them by asking your school academic advisor, favorite teachers, and the reference librarian at your local library. Here are some tips: ## https://www.careeronestop.org/BusinessCenter/Toolkit/find-professional-associations.aspx?&frd=true ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/9-tips-for-navigating-your-first-networking-event ##