Energy Studies: Academic Requirements, Professional Outlook

Energy Studies: Academic Requirements, Professional Outlook

Energy Studies

Energy Studies is about energy and its sources, as well as how to best use our resources to provide energy to consumers. Having a consistent supply of energy has become a necessity for most people in the world, and Energy industry professionals work to balance the often-conflicting goals of inexpensively supplying energy and the need to conserve natural resources, protect the environment, and develop renewable energy sources, such as wind power and solar power.

Most scientists agree that we will run out of fossil fuel sources "soon," although there is a lot of debate about when. According to the Natural Environment Research Council in Great Britain: "With today's technology, and at the current rate of consumption, there are only about 40 years supply of gas and oil left in the ground. However, extraction and location techniques are improving all the time, so the estimates are getting longer and longer every year. There is 200 years' worth of coal left, but again, more and more is being found all the time."

Despite the inconclusive evidence, it is clear that we need to develop efficient and affordable sources of alternative energy, especially renewable sources. Most alternative energies are also less polluting because they don't contribute to global climate change, air and water pollution, or smog. Therefore, Energy Studies is socially important because it seeks ways to conserve the resources we have, to develop new and better resources, and to do so as cheaply as possible while still protecting the environment and our health.

The Academic Requirements

Energy Studies is a broad term, and academic programs may focus on a number of aspects of the field, including energy policy, energy law, energy development, production and/or extraction. Those production and/or extraction are technical fields and likely to be found within the Engineering Department of most schools.

A more general Energy Studies curriculum will examine the various scientific, political, environmental and socioeconomic factors that influence energy regulation, development and policy. Students will learn about energy and its sources, the economics behind resource extraction and use, and the technology and policy behind the development of alternative energy sources. Many programs require a good deal of science and engineering coursework, students should be mathematically and technically astute, good problem-solvers, and willing to work in a team to solve problems. Students will also learn about the ethical and economic aspects of Energy Studies.

Here are some courses that we've seen:

  • Environmental Studies
  • Resource Planning
  • Marketing
  • Principles of Energy and Environmental Physics
  • Environmental Modeling
  • Alternative Energy Technologies
  • Economic and Policy Analysis
  • Residential/Light Commercial Energy Analysis
  • Energy Efficient Methods
  • Principles of Accounting
  • Energy Law
  • The Economics of Energy
  • Environmental Earth Sciences

Professional Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those who are involved with electric utility firms are responsible for the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity. Coal is the dominant fuel used in electricity generation; however, "Scientists also are conducting considerable research into renewable sources of electric power-geothermal, wind, and solar energy." Energy is so important to everyday life that it is heavily regulated by the government. "The electric utilities industry, for example, is currently restructuring in an effort to promote efficiency, lower costs to customers, and provide users with an increased number of service options."

Since the need for a consistent energy supply is constant, employees in utility firms often work odd hours, such as night shifts or holidays. Employees must also work overtime to accommodate peaks in demand and to repair damage caused by the unexpected (storms, outages, etc.).

About 13% of workers in the industry work in management, business and financial operations. Engineers develop technology to improve the efficiency of energy production and transmission, as well as creating new sources of energy or ways of extracting resources. Management, engineering and research positions require advanced degrees and at least some job experience. Most of the time at work will be spent in an office of the plant or a similar environment.

Here are some job titles that we've seen, including some of the organizations that offer them, all of which included a requirement for experience in Energy Studies:


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