Photovoltaic Installer - Level 1 (PVI-LVL1)

Photovoltaic Installer – Level 1 (PVI1)

The Photovoltaic Installer – Level 1 certification provides assessments in solar system installations. Individuals must have hands-on training from an ETA-approved school and be knowledgeable in topics such as solar resources and principles; selection identification; proper installation sequence, performance characteristics and troubleshooting methods; permitting best safety practices; and economical impact.

Information from the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Ed.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) installers, often called PV installers, assemble, install, or maintain solar panel systems on roofs or other structures.


PV installers typically do the following:

  • Plan PV system configuration based on customer needs, expectations, and site conditions
  • Connect PV panels to the power grid
  • Install solar modules, panels, or support structures in accordance with building codes and standards
  • Apply weather sealing to equipment being installed 
  • Perform routine PV system maintenance
  • Activate and test PV systems to verify performance

Sunlight is considered an environmentally safe source of energy. By way of solar panels, sunlight is transformed into electricity. Recent technological advances have sufficiently reduced the cost of solar panels, making it a viable source of electricity for businesses and homeowners alike. PV installers put these systems in place.

PV installers use a variety of hand and power tools to install photovoltaic panels. They often use wrenches, saws, and screwdrivers to connect panels to frames, wires, and support structures. This work is typically done on roofs, where the greatest amount of solar radiation—or sunlight—is captured.

Many new workers begin by performing basic tasks, such as installing support structures and placing PV panels or PV shingles on top of them. Once the panels are in place, more experienced installers usually perform more complex duties, such as evaluating sites, planning the layout of solar panels, and connecting electrical components.

Depending on the job, PV installers may connect the arrays to the electric grid, although electricians sometimes perform this duty. Once installed, workers check electrical systems for proper wiring, polarity, grounding, or integrity of terminations, and perform maintenance as needed.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) installers held about 4,800 jobs in 2012. The majority were employed in the construction industry.

The industries that employed the most solar photovoltaic installers in 2012 were as follows:

Industries % Employed
Plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors 34
Electrical contractors and other wiring installation contractors 22
Power and communication line and related structures construction 12

Although most PV installation is done outdoors, installers often work in attics and crawl spaces to connect panels to the electric grid. Those who work on rooftops must climb ladders.

PV installers may work alone or as part of a team. Installation of an array may require the help of roofers and electricians as well as solar photovoltaic installers.

Workers must travel to job sites. 

Injuries and Illnesses

Solar photovoltaic installers risk falls from ladders and roofs, electrical shocks, and burns from hot equipment and materials while installing and maintaining PV systems.

Work Schedules

Nearly all solar photovoltaic installers work full time, which may include evenings and weekends. They often are required to be on call to handle emergencies.

The median annual wage for solar photovoltaic installers was $37,900 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $26,250, and the top 10 percent earned more than $57,980.

In May 2012, the median annual wages for solar photovoltaic installers in the top three industries in which these installers worked were as follows:

Industry Salary
Power and communication line and related structures
Plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors $39,520
Electrical contractors and other wiring installation

Nearly all solar photovoltaic installers work full time, which may include evenings and weekends. They are often required to be on call to handle emergencies.

Employment of solar photovoltaic (PV) installers is projected to grow 24 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 1,200 new jobs over the 10-year period.

The rapid expansion and adoption of solar panel installation is expected to create new jobs. As the cost of PV panels and shingles continue to fall, more residential households are expected to take advantage of these systems, resulting in greater demand for the workers who install them.

The long-term outlook, however, is heavily dependent on government incentives, cost, and the continuing efficiency of PV panels. States and localities that provide incentives to reduce the cost of PV systems should experience greater demand for workers. Common incentives include tax rebates, direct subsidies, renewable energy purchase mandates, and net metering.

The development of solar leasing should create additional demand, as homeowners no longer must bear the upfront costs of installation.

Job Prospects

PV installers who complete training at a 2-year technical school will have the best job opportunities.

Those with apprenticeship or journey electrician experience will also have very good job opportunities. Workers with experience in construction occupations, such as laborers, roofers, and carpenters will have better job opportunities than those without construction experience.

Employment of PV installers fluctuates with the overall economy. On the one hand, there is great demand for PV installers during peak periods of building activity. On the other hand, workers may experience periods of unemployment when the overall level of construction falls.

There is less maintenance performed by many PV installers as compared to other construction occupations, so most work should be for installation and not maintenance.

SOC Code: 47-2231

Additional Information

  • FREE retake! ETA allows one free retake with all ETA certification exams after a 30-day waiting period. (This does not apply to FCC exams.) Retakes must be completed within one year of the first exam session.
  • ACCREDITED by the International Certification Accreditation Council (ICAC)

eITprep LogoETA is proud to partner with eITprep to offer an online study resource for this ETA certification – only $59.95! You will have 6 months to complete the content. These courses are for self-study or certification maintenance purposes only, and do not lead to certification. You will need to sit for the appropriate exam by contacting an ETA Certification Administrator and/or ETA-Approved School.

PVI1 Exam Info

Price: $150
Type of Certification: Stand-Alone
Maintenance Required:
Certification Term: 4 Yrs
Hands-On Required:
Questions on Exam: 75
Passing Score: 75%
Time Allowed to Test: 2 hours