January 5, 2024

How do I become a solar panel installer in the UK?

Solar panels on a blue background with green dots for trees

Renewable energy is a growing market that will only increase as the UK transitions towards net zero. In fact, the latest data from MCS has revealed that the number of PV installations from January to March 2023 increased by 114% from the previous year.

For those considering training as solar installers, this presents a massive opportunity to cash in on a profitable industry.

But before you pick up your tools, you first need to understand some of the industry's requirements and what it will really be like working as a solar installer.

Headline points

  • You need to be a qualified electrician or roofer to find work in this industry
  • If you’re already an electrician you should gain your MCS certification
  • PV installation training costs between £600 - £750
  • Training takes 3 to 5 days depending on the course
  • The average solar installer salary is £37,912
  • PV installers are in high demand, however, solar panels are currently in short supply
  • Expect varied work that includes a significant amount of paperwork

What qualifications do I need to install solar panels?

Technically you do not need a qualification to install solar panels, in fact, some homeowners even attempt to do it themselves. However, in practice, if you want to operate as a solar installer and find work, you will need to be officially qualified to do so.

We recommend gaining the following qualifications before advertising your services:

  • An official MCS certification - This is usually granted to companies rather than individuals and involves significant training and an assessment. You can find more information via the MCS standards website.
  • Join a competent person scheme - This allows you to complete your own work without the approval of a local council or approved building inspector. Find out more.
  • Part P Competent Person Scheme - This allows you to undertake electrical work in domestic properties and self-certify your work.
  • A recognised electrical qualification - The Level 2 and Level 3 Diploma in Electrical Installation are recommended.

Do you have to be a qualified electrician to install solar panels?

Technically, you do not need to be an electrician to install solar panels, in fact any person can install solar panels, however, connecting the solar energy supply to the mains electricity network requires a qualified electrician.

In most cases, solar installations are completed by a team of electricians often with the help of a roofer (if the panels are installed on a roof).

What training is needed to become a solar technician?

To work on solar installations you should first qualify as an electrician and then specialise in solar installs. You can either do this by taking a college course or by completing an apprenticeship.

College course

At college, start by gaining your standard electrical qualifications. Coming in with no previous experience you will need to take:

  • Level 2 Diploma in Electrical Installations - This will give you the basic skills.
  • Level 3 Diploma in Electrical Installations - Builds on your learning from Level 2.
  • Level 3 NVQ Diploma in Electrotechnical Technology - Allows you to become fully qualified as an electrician.

Apprenticeships

If you don’t fancy studying at college an apprenticeship is a great way to learn the practical skills while on the job.

Typically an apprenticeship takes around 2 years to complete and will allow you to become qualified as an electrician.

You can find out more about apprenticeship options via the Gov Apprentice website.

Solar installation course

Once you’ve completed your college training or your apprenticeship you should consider taking a specialist solar installation course.

There are various options available to you, each varying in price. It’s worth doing a bit of research before signing up for a course, but these three are both good options to consider

How much does it cost to become a solar panel installer?

The cost of becoming a solar installer will vary depending on what stage you are at in your training. If you are just starting out the total cost is far higher than if you’re already a qualified electrician.

From scratch:

  • To complete the Level 2, Level 3 and MVQ will cost between £7,000 and £9,000
  • A Solar installation course costs around £600 - £700

Training as a solar panel installer with no previous electrical experience will cost you around £8,000 to £10,000 (if you take college courses, apprentice fees will likely be cheaper).

With experience, costs will be significantly lower depending on which stage of your training you are at. If you’re already a qualified electrician and you join a specialist solar installation company they may even cover the cost of your training for you.

How long does it take to become a solar panel installer?

The time it takes to become a solar technician can be broken down into the different stages of training.

The level 2 diploma takes approximately 8 weeks, the level 3 also takes 8 weeks and the NVQ takes between 3 to 24 months. Most solar installation courses last from 3 to 5 days, so in total if you were to complete all 4 courses one after the other, the quickest you could become qualified would be 7 months 3 days.

However, in reality, completing all these assessments and gaining the necessary experience is likely to take over a year as a minimum.

How much does a solar panel installer make UK?

Based on data from four different job sites (Talent, Adzuna, Reed and Totaljobs) the average salary for a solar panel installer is £37,912. However, salaries will vary depending on your location. For example, on average electricians tend to earn more in Sheffield than in London.

Check out our article on which electricians make the most money for a full breakdown of what you can expect to earn as a solar technician from across the UK.

Pros and cons of becoming a solar installer

The demand for solar energy is as high as it’s ever been, but what is it actually like working as an installer and are the job opportunities as good as they sound?

Currently, there are 2,286 qualified contractors installing PV in the UK (May 2023), that’s a 66% increase from the following year. And there’s a reason so many electricians are joining the industry. The work is well paid and is good value for the time it takes.

As a career, it’s a good combination of practical work and technical skill which makes it an interesting and varied job.

As an installer, you also need to have an understanding of building regulations and be prepared to do some paperwork. One aspect of the job involves contacting the Distribution Network Operator (DNO) to let them know the install is complete. So if you don’t like doing paperwork you should bare this in mind.

Given the massive increase in people joining the industry, you may be concerned that the market will quickly become saturated, however, with the current push towards renewable energy and the increased cost of energy bills, the demand for solar installers is greater than ever.

One issue that is currently facing the industry in 2023 is a materials shortage, something that is affecting all the skilled trades. In the solar industry, there is currently a large shortage of panels being produced from China meaning it can be difficult to get hold of the panels for the install.

This may make it more difficult if you’re starting out on your own, however, if you join an established company this is less likely to be an issue.

Advantages of the industry:

  • High demand
  • Varied work
  • Well paid
  • Growing industry

Possible disadvantages:

  • Involves paperwork and admin
  • Materials shortage
  • Cost of training

What next?

Once you’ve decided to get qualified and start work as a PV installer you need to think about how you’re going to manage your new customers.

The best way to organise your business and provide the best experience for your customers is to use a high-quality CRM and job management software.

Payaca provides market market-leading CRM software, with features such as customised automatisation and multiple choice quoting designed for businesses like yours.

Check out our testimonials and browse our website to find out how we can help your solar business succeed and grow.

If you're intersted in other forms of green energy, check out our blog why you should become a heat pump installer.

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