Could a Smart Grid Degree Be a Smart Choice for Your Career?

Could a Smart Grid Degree Be a Smart Choice for Your Career?
The "smart grid" presents a myriad of opportunities for green collar jobs. Learn about the job prospects in the industry and how your local community college can provide you with the training to capitalize on this growing industry.
Our nation’s energy delivery system is undergoing a major transformation, and soon the “smart grid” will replace the electric system of yesteryear. 

The grid is deemed “smart” because it will have the capability to route power according to specific needs and conditions, which is a sharp contrast to today’s grid that merely “broadcasts” power from central generators. The smart grid is more reliable, transparent, cost-effective, and energy-effective than the current infrastructure, and the system is how America plans to manage its future energy independence, emergency resilience, and ability to generate clean power.   
 
Under the Obama Administration, along with the Federal Smart Grid Task Force established through the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the smart grid will soon become a reality. In fact, areas around the country, such as Southern California and Cincinnati, have already begun installing smart meters as a first step in creating a national system.
 
The Smart Grid: Smart Career Choices
 
The Department of Energy’s Grid 2030 Vision plans to modernize and revolutionize the current electric system within the next 10 years. The changes will impact every mile of the electricity system, reaching every single consumer and business. Clearly, a change of this magnitude will not only cost billions of dollars, but create “green collar” job opportunities for many individuals. 
 
In fact, according to KEMA, the leading authority in energy consulting, in the next four years alone, the $16 billion earmarked for smart grid funding incentives will directly create 280,000 jobs in deploying the new grid.  
 
The future of the smart grid will certainly call for a wide range of professionals, and given its infancy, competition for jobs is limited. Savvy individuals interested in capitalizing on the smart grid movement can start their training right at their local community colleges. 
 
Securing a Smart Grid Degree
 
Often the pioneer of training for new industries, community colleges are already offering programs and degrees in the smart grid. 
 
Cincinnati State Technical and Community College
 
Beginning in the fall of 2010, students attending Cincinnati State Technical and Community College can work towards an associate’s smart grid degree. The coursework will couple traditional engineering technology classes with specialized smart grid topics, such as control systems, distribution, transmission, and instrumentation. 
 
The major will specifically train students for both the short-term and long-term needs of the smart grid. In the immediate future, graduates of the program will be able to become technicians that install the new meters. For the long-term career prospects, students can become specialists that maintain the smart grid, as well as manage the distribution and transmission of energy. 
 
In expounding upon the major, Mark Wyatt, the vice president of smart grid and energy systems for Duke Energy in Cincinnati, stated, “Having a major devoted to understanding how this technology integrates with today’s grid is an important first step in preparing tomorrow’s energy professionals.” 
 
Other Community Colleges
 
While Cincinnati State Technical and Community College is the first campus to officially offer a smart grid major, many community colleges are quickly following suit. In fact, community colleges are lining up to secure a portion of the $40 million of federal funds specifically earmarked for developing training curriculum and programs for the smart grid.  
 
Community colleges that have indicated their desire to create a specialized smart grid curriculum include:

Alternative Smart Programs to Consider
 
If your local community college does not currently offer a smart grid major, you can still take measures to prepare yourself for the industry. Other programs relevant to smart grid careers include:

  • Electrical technology
  • Electronics
  • Power line technology
  • Solar energy
  • Wind energy
  • Wind turbine
  • Electrical engineering
Alternative energy programs are an excellent entry point into the industry, providing training and work experience that can easily transition into smart grid careers. Certainly the demand for workers trained in alternative energy management exists. For example, George Berghorn, the director of Lansing Community College’s environment, design, and building technologies department, stated that “close to 100%” of his alternative energy graduates have already found jobs working in energy efficiency consulting and auditing.
 
In the next 10 years, the smart grid will reach every household and business – while simultaneously creating hundreds of thousands of jobs. Watch your local community college for new alternative energy and smart grid programs that can prepare you for the lucrative green collar jobs of the future.

Additional Resources [+]
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Are you concerned about the environment? Do you want to help stem global warming and rainforest decimation? If so, a green career may be for you. Community colleges around the country are offering programs in sustainable energy, from solar panels to wind turbines. From biodiesel to energy storage, explore your green career options here.