Are You Ready?

RESS Program Readiness Assessment

The RESS program is designed to prepare students to lead the transformation of the world economy to a more renewable, sustainable basis by developing successful projects in renewable energy and sustainability systems. This section of our website will help you to examine your background and decide what (if anything) you need to “brush up” on in order to succeed.

There are many topics and skills that you will master as a RESS student. In general, you need good communication and calculation skills and either formal training or experience in the energy and sustainability sector. This could come in the form of an engineering degree, work experience in the energy sector, or long-standing involvement in renewable energy as a personal interest and area of study. Since the courses are delivered online, you definitely need to be comfortable with using a computer, including the use of a web browser, word processor, and spreadsheet.

The specific skills needed to succeed as a RESS student do vary a bit, depending on the track you decide to pursue.

Renewable Energy Track

Renewable Energy Track/Solar Energy Certificate Readiness Assessment

The MPS-RESS Renewable Energy track is a technical program for project design and development and requires strong math and physics skills in order to integrate interdisciplinary materials and cultivate new abilities in project finance and policy. Many students will not have a background in solar resource assessment and conversion from radiant to electrical or thermal forms of energy, which is why we encourage students with strong math and physics skills. Several disciplines converge to form solar systems project development (e.g., geographic information science, meteorology, physics, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, architecture and architectural engineering, economics, and policy). Individuals are expected to begin study in the Solar Energy Option with a core piece of knowledge, developed from:

  • A Bachelor of Science (BS) degree related to one of the above fields,
  • 3-5 years of professional experience applying a related field of knowledge (following an alternate bachelor’s degree), or
  • 3-5 years of prior experience working in the field of solar energy project development or installation, having learned several "rules-of-thumb" and practical skills in the line of work.

Students will be able to tailor their study as either a solar thermal focus (including solar hot water, industrial solar thermal processing, and concentrating solar power) or a solar electric focus (including photovoltaics, fixed and tracking). Students will work with their advisor to plan a course selection that integrates and emphasizes pre-existing skills with career interests.

What are the core skills that will help me to assess whether or not I am ready for study in Renewable Energy within the MPS-RESS program?

  • Applied math background
    In order to incorporate the fundamentals of solar energy into applied project design and finance, students will have strong math skills that include trigonometry, matrix algebra, and calculus.
  • Familiarity with computer scripts and minor programming is highly recommended
    Many solar projects involve computing software to solve lengthy algorithms and to manipulate large data sets. Experience with mathematical programming languages like Matlab, Scilab, Python, or Sage is an asset.
  • Applied understanding of electricity*
    This includes current/voltage relationships to deliver power and an understanding of AC and DC power and supporting technologies.
    *Specific to courses related to photovoltaics and solar conversion for electrical power (a solar electric focus)
  • Applied understanding of thermal transfer and storage*
    This includes thermal transfer by conduction and convection, heat capacity, and an understanding of specific and latent heat in materials.
    *Specific to courses related to solar thermal applications and concentrating solar power (a solar thermal focus)

A candidate student will also have a strong desire to become a leader in the field, contributing to solar project design and deployment.

The resulting integrated skills of a master’s level solar systems project development graduate will include solar resource assessment for selected locales; effective communications, in order to design to maximize the solar economic utility to the client/stakeholders; knowledge of thermal- and/or electric-derived solar conversion technologies; technical knowledge of design in hybridized solar systems design; and the social and policy context of solar systems project design. The MPS-RESS Solar Energy Option will create graduates who can lead project and policy development in the solar energy industry.

Sustainability Management and Policy Track

Sustainability Management and Policy Track/Certificate Readiness Assessment

The Sustainability Management and Policy (SMP) Option focuses on building analytical skills grounded in case-based investigations into sustainability theory, systems analysis, environmental assessments, technical evaluations, public policy, and energy markets. Students coming into the SMP Option will most likely have education and/or applied experience in one of the related areas, such as project management, supply-chain management, energy engineering, energy policy, environmental regulation, regional planning, or decision-making in complex systems. In courses within the option, students will encounter the need for sharp skills in critical thinking, statistical analysis, technical selection, energy science, systems thinking, political-economic analysis, and policy-making processes.

Individuals are expected to begin study in the Sustainability Management and Policy Option after they have either:

  • A Bachelor of Science (BS) degree related to one of the above fields,
  • 3-5 years of professional experience applying a related field of knowledge (following an alternate bachelor’s degree), or
  • 3-5 years of prior experience working in a field such as energy management, supply chain management, environmental regulation, or a related technical field, while having learned several applied and practical skills in the line of work.

What are the core skills that will help me to assess whether or not I am ready for study in Sustainability Management and Policy within the RESS program?

  • Aptitude for complex systems management
    Energy and sustainability systems require a multidimensional and multidisciplinary approach to management.
  • Familiarity working with statistical models and datasets
    Sustainability systems create extensive numbers of models and amounts of data that need to be interpreted, communicated, comprehended, and acted upon.
  • Ability to comprehend economic arguments and technical policies
    Renewable energy and sustainability systems are shaped significantly by regulation and finance and are guided by long-term development goals, all of which require significant technical planning alongside social policies.
  • A mathematical, technical, and scientific background sufficient to serve your goals
    A strong background in energy, physics, statistics, and/or management theory will all help to improve what you will be able to get out of the SMP Option.

The SMP Track is designed to enhance sustainability management career opportunities as much for students with strong technical backgrounds in energy engineering as for those with proven experience in management. The SMP option is intended to produce students who, as employees or advisors, can work from their strengths to enhance the sustainability portfolios of companies, firms, and governmental enterprises.

Helpful Tools

There are many online tools to help you learn or review these topics:

Kahn Academy videos:

Coursera courses: