The maths career you hadn’t thought of yet: renewable energy engineering

UNSW Renewable Energy Engineering maths physics careers
Apply your maths and physics skills in a next-gen energy career. Image: UNSW Sydney

Looking for the ultimate maths + environment career? Renewable energy engineers are the STEM experts we need to power our world into a sustainable future

Do you enjoy maths (and its maths-heavy STEM sibling, physics) and are passionate about sustainability and fighting climate change? Renewable energy engineering should be on your radar.

Renewable energy engineers design, build and maintain renewable energy technologies – think solar photovoltaics, solar thermal, wind and biomass. And their career prospects are super diverse: you could end up working anywhere from government to startups, energy retailers or big corporates.

How to become a Renewable Energy Engineer

To become a renewable energy engineer, you could enrol in a specific undergraduate degree. For example, UNSW Sydney’s School of Photovoltaics and Renewable Energy Engineering (SPREE) is one of the world’s leading research schools into renewable technologies.

But before you start thinking about uni degrees, there’s an important first step you need to take: stick with maths and physics electives in high school.

These subjects are a crucial foundation, and you’ll need to be able to pass both in the first year of the UNSW degree. And if you are a total gun at these subjects, then you could build yourself a technical career in the sector, for example crunching numbers on energy efficiency or working on cutting-edge physics or materials science.

Counting on hydrogen

Jonathon (Jono) Yates chose a degree in photovoltaic (solar energy) engineering at UNSW Sydney because he wanted to “help the world” and “solve the biggest problem facing our generation” – and now he’s doing that, using numbers and data.

For his Honours thesis, Jono developed a model to crunch the numbers on the potential for green hydrogen as an alternative to fossil fuels – the promising results of which were published in a peer-reviewed journal, covered in industry press and won Jono the UNSW thesis prize AND university medal. A pretty impressive start to his career!

Since graduating, Jono has landed a job at a company called Solar Analytics, a Sydney-based software company that helps people collect and track data about their solar energy usage. “It’s really cool to know that the skills I have can actually directly influence people to buy solar, or to use their solar energy more sustainably,” he says.

More environment, less maths? Keep reading!

But remember, it’s not just maths and physics that make a good renewable energy engineer. The skills needed are as diverse as the career paths available, including communications, problem-solving and computer skills.

And if you lean more towards the environment side of the maths + environment equation? Don’t worry – this could still be a pathway for you.

Study, study, study, and seek support from tutors, peers and mentors to get through those first year maths and physics subjects. Then there are less technical electives to choose as  you progress through the degree, and you can also choose electives from other schools, then forge a less technical career path.

Download our free Renewable Energy Engineer Job Kit for more insights into this in-demand STEM job.

This post was brought to you in partnership with UNSW SPREE. Find out more about studying renewable energy engineering here.

Gemma Chilton

Author: Gemma Chilton

Gemma is an author and editor and past Managing Editor of Careers with STEM magazine. She has previously worked as Digital Managing Editor at Australian Geographic and a staff writer at Cosmos science magazine.


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