By Michael d’Estries
Of all the occupations expected to show the most growth over the next decade, wind turbine technician leads the pack. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of wind turbine technicians will increase 44%, adding 1,900 positions every year from 2021 to 2031.
The benefits don’t stop with abundant job opportunities. Wind turbine technicians enjoy good pay, excellent benefits, million-dollar views and travel opportunities. All this is possible with training that won’t break the bank.
So how do you go from reading about this promising career to working at the top of a 300-foot wind turbine? Over the next several sections, we’ll break down what being a wind turbine technician entails, the training options available, as well as the hard and soft skills you’ll need to succeed as a windtech.
Ready to become part of America’s green energy revolution?
What It Takes To Be a Wind Turbine Technician
Wind turbines require regular maintenance, testing, and occasional upgrades or repairs, just like any other piece of advanced machinery. Wind turbine technicians perform these tasks, which include troubleshooting electrical, hydraulic and mechanical components, often at heights anywhere from 100 to 400 feet. In this industry, knowledge of safety protocols is crucial.
Wind turbine technicians are also involved in the installation of new turbines (3,000 turbines on average annually in the U.S.), as well as performing robotic repairs and drone inspections.
It’s a job that has traditionally been male-dominated, but that trend is changing. Watch this video of windtech Jessica Kilroy to find out how it's changing — and why it's such a thrill to work in this industry!
Those who do the job, such as wind turbine technician Charlie Tran, say that having an interest in taking things apart and figuring out how to fix them is a big plus. You should also work well in teams, be detail-oriented and communicate well.
You can expect this career to test your mind, as well as your body.
“What I wish I would have known before I got into this job is how physically demanding everything is,” Tran told SkillPointe. “Everything from the climb, to the maintenance, to the torquing, and even troubleshooting. It’s all labor-intensive physically and sometimes mentally. That’s something that really didn’t cross my mind when I was researching the career. You have to be mentally and physically fit.”
How Long Does It Take To Become a Wind Turbine Technician?
While there are several paths available, most professionals pursue either an associate degree or a certificate program at an accredited trade school or community college. These options typically take anywhere from one to two years to complete. It’s also not uncommon to come across fast-track programs promising employment after only six months of training. On-the-job training will last longer in this scenario.
A license is not required to become a wind turbine technician, but certification is recommended.
You'll need a high school diploma or equivalent before you can start any post-secondary training. If you’re still in high school, courses in algebra, computer science, electronics, technology and metalworking will help you prepare. After that, you can choose your training path into the wind energy industry.
What Should I Look for in a Windtech Training Program?
The first thing to consider when narrowing your search is whether the training you’re interested in is accredited. Accreditation is third-party recognition that the institution behind the program meets a high standard of academic excellence. Accreditation is beneficial for securing financial aid and attracting prospective employers.
The U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy WINDExchange maintains a list of nearly 200 accredited technician programs and is a great place to start. Next, search for wind turbine technician training programs near you on SkillPointe.
4 Examples of WindTech Programs
There are hundreds of training programs available to aspiring wind turbine technicians. To give you an idea what to expect, check out these examples, which describe the basic elements of each program, completion times and cost.
TSTC offers two paths for entering the wind turbine industry. The first, a wind energy technician certificate, lasts 12 months, costs just under $9,000, and covers topics such as AC circuits, industrial automation, wind turbine fundamentals and more.
A second, more advanced program earns you an associate of applied science degree in wind energy technology, takes 20 months to complete, and costs just under $13,000. This training program builds on the certificate program and includes courses in electromechanical systems, technical business writing and wind turbine troubleshooting and repair.
The Energy Production and Distribution Technologies program at Kirkwood Community College focuses on utility-scale turbine repair and maintenance.
Students at this Iowa school benefit from hands-on training on the 2.5-megawatt wind turbine on campus. Students will learn about electrical and hydraulic schematics, Lock Out/Tag Out (LOTO) procedures, wire maintenance, photovoltaic systems, safety protocols and use of tools such as multimeters, tensioning equipment, power tools and hand tools.
The program takes two years to complete and costs just under $17,000.
Kalamazoo’s Wind Turbine Technician Academy (WTTA) is a fast-paced certificate program that can be completed in less than six months. Students meet Monday through Friday, eight hours a day for 24 weeks, learning the hands-on skills required for operation and maintenance of towers.
This popular program benefits from its close ties to industry partners. It includes wind turbine safety, wind energy theory, fundamentals of hydraulic, electrical and mechanical systems, rotor blade inspection and repair, and more. Total cost is $14,000.
According to technician Tran, this hands-on program landed him a job in the industry immediately after he finished.
“After completion of WTTA, that’s when I landed my traveling job maintaining turbines. I would have never thought I could see different parts of the U.S. while getting paid,” he said.
Cloud County offers a two-year associate of applied science degree. In addition, the Kansas school offers a one-year wind energy technician certificate for those with a two- or four-year degree in another discipline. Annual base tuition and fees is $3,390.
In addition to a curriculum similar to the courses described above, the school offers a blade repair program and an operating wind farm on campus. And because Kansas is such a wind-friendly state, the school also offers internships at various Kansas-based wind farms. That feature has boosted the hire rate for students, according to the school.
What Comes Next After School?
Once you have your certificate or degree in hand, finding a job in the industry should be easy. There are thousands of jobs available around the country. (Try doing a job search by ZIP code on SkillPointe and you'll get the idea.) The robust job market reflects the growing number of wind farms across the nation and the world.
Median pay for wind turbine technicians is $56,260, as of May 2021. The highest 10% of workers earn more than $77,810.
According to the BLS, new hires can expect an additional 12 months of on-the-job training to round out the lessons learned in school.
The renewables industry is on the cutting edge. Even after you earn your initial credentials, you will get opportunities to learn new skills and gain additional certifications as turbines evolve and wind technology improves.
Michael d’Estries writes about innovation, arts and culture for a variety of outlets. When he’s not online, Michael runs his large apple farm and honey business in the Finger Lakes region of New York.