Fuel Cell Technicians
Overview | Related Occupations | Outlook | Helpful High School Courses | Preparation | Related Educational Programs | Additional Sources of Information | Back to Green Careers
Fuel cell technicians install, operate, and maintain fuel cell systems.
Fuel cell technology is part of the larger field of using hydrogen as an energy source.
Fuel cell technicians play a key part in this growing field. Where engineers spend a lot of time designing fuel cell technology, technicians are more hands-on. They often work with engineers to build fuel cell prototypes. Using complicated equipment, they follow specifications to assemble the fuel cell. Then, using a variety of electronic tools and devices, they test the fuel cell.
To do this, first they check to make sure it is operational. Technicians check to make sure that the energy the fuel cell generates meets expectations. They also monitor emissions. Fuel cells should generate low to zero emissions. When things go wrong, they report this to engineers and may make suggestions for modifications. An important part of the testing process is documenting every step and every result. Therefore, technicians must have an eye for detail. They must also be proficient using computers.
Fuel cell technicians work in the field by installing fuel cells in vehicles and structures. As in testing, they follow plans and specifications. They make adjustments where necessary. They also perform repairs where needed. Technicians often build and test cells in electrical and power plant systems.
Technicians maintain testing equipment to keep it functioning well. They troubleshoot equipment when it is malfunctioning.
- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
Hawaii Career Pathways:
- Industrial & Engineering Technology
Analysts expect that the fuel cell industry will continue to grow rapidly. This is due to government incentives and increased consumer interest.
Helpful High School Courses
In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from our state's graduation requirements. Click here for public school graduation requirements for students graduating in 2011 or 2012. Click here for public school graduation requirements for students graduating in 2013 or later. If you attend a private school, check with your school counselor for graduation requirements.
You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.
Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this occupation include:
- Blueprint Reading
- Computer Applications
- Computer Science
- Natural Resources Management
- Probability and Statistics
The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.
You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.
Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Click here for examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.
To work as a fuel cell technician, you must:
- have a high school diploma or GED;
- have at least an associate degree in environmental engineering technology or a related field;
- have practical, hands-on skills;
- have good math skills; and
- be creative.
Education after high school
Most people prepare for this occupation by getting an associate degree. Many schools offer two-year programs in environmental, chemical, or mechanical engineering technology. A few schools are beginning to offer fuel cell technology programs. As an undergraduate student you study chemistry, fundamentals of engineering, and environmental science.
English courses are helpful for writing research and safety reports. Take technical, and oral and interpersonal communication courses to learn how to interpret technical materials and keep scientific report records. Algebra and statistics courses can help you solve mathematical problems.
Many vocational schools offer engineering technology programs. However, the kind and quality of these programs varies greatly. Carefully select your program. Check with employers to see which schools they prefer. In addition, ask the schools for the names of employers where they have placed graduates. Make sure the school has the type of training you want, up-to-date equipment, and qualified instructors. In addition, make sure the school's program offers courses related to your engineering specialty.
Training programs approved by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) meet standards set by the industry. Graduating from an ABET accredited program can give you an advantage with employers.
Pre-engineering programs are not the same as technology programs. Pre-engineering programs stress classroom theory. In contrast, engineering technology programs stress hands-on training.
Working in jobs that give you practical experience in fuel cell, mechanical, or chemical engineering technology is good background for this occupation.
Many engineering companies have their own testing labs. They often need extra help during the summer when construction activities are at a peak. Getting a summer job at an "in house" laboratory is a good way to gain experience and make contacts.
As a new technician, you perform routine tasks while closely supervised by an experienced technician or engineer. As you gain experience, you work on tasks that are more difficult. Training may last up to a year. Some fuel cell technicians may also receive additional training in the use of special equipment.
Related Educational Programs:
- Engineering Technologies
Additional Sources of Information
- â€¢"Green Careers: Choosing Work for a Sustainable Future" ($19.95 paper cover, p. 368)
By Jim Cassio and Alice Rush, MA, RPCC, MCC
Publication date: 2009
New Society Publishers
Career Information Available on the Internet
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