Smart energy talent: is US giving the right training?


In spite of excellent career opportunities opening up for smart energy talent, most undergraduates choose a traditional major, such as mathematics, electrical engineering or business administration, writes Dr Robert N. Amundsen, director of the M.S. in Energy Management programme at the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT).

Those are the choices they see on the ‘menu’.

Although traditional majors offer excellent coverage of a narrow discipline, students rarely acquire specific knowledge of the energy industry.

Smart energy talent – a solution

A remedy for this shortcoming is to complete an energy minor. Fortunately, these programmes are now widely available, says Mr Amundsen, who is the academic advisor for the Minor in Energy Science, Technology and Policy at NYIT’s School of Engineering and Computing Sciences.

[quote] An academic minor covers a discipline in 15 to 20 credits at the undergraduate level, which is roughly five or six courses. A minor can’t include as much material as a major, but the curriculum is generally designed to provide a good overview of the field.

For example, a business major could complete a minor in energy technology, which would give them a better understanding of the systems they will encounter when employed by a utility, or a manufacturer of energy-efficient equipment.

Conversely, an engineering major could complete a minor in energy economics and policy, to acquire knowledge of economic analysis, laws and regulations.

Role of IT in smart energy

Smart energy talent US
Smart energy talent: Dr Amundsen believes graduates have to understand IT to understand smart energy

The foundation of smart energy is information technology. This is often missing completely from traditional academic majors, says Amundsen.

Therefore, although a minor in information technology does not specifically focus on energy, it could be extremely beneficial for an undergraduate student who is interested in the field of smart energy.

Many colleges and universities now offer minors in sustainability.

These vary widely in their coverage of environmental science, engineering and economics. Nearly all minors in sustainability provide a good background in renewable energy. Since solar, wind and other renewables are important features in most energy plans today, a student who minors in sustainability or renewable energy will find they have an advantage in the workforce.

Since smart energy is a field which integrates power systems, information technology, business management and renewable energy technology, students should seek knowledge in all of these areas.

For many students, an academic minor in an energy-related discipline is a great way to acquire useful skills, and launch a successful career in Smart Energy, the NYIT academic concludes.

Energy minor courses in the US

Drexel University – Minor in Energy Innovations

Iowa State University – Minor in Energy Systems

New York Institute of Technology  – Minor in Energy Science, Technology and Policy

Pennsylvania State University – Minor in Energy Business and Finance

University of Colorado at Boulder – Minor in Electrical Renewable Energy Systems

University of Houston – Interdisciplinary Minor in Energy and Sustainability

University of Massachusetts Boston – Minor in Clean Energy and Sustainability

University of Nevada, Las Vegas – Minor in in Solar and Renewable Energy