Training Comparison - NC - AB Tech and NCSU

Often when one thinks of retraining for a new job, a community college comes to mind. This happened as we sat down to design our inaugural sponsorship program. We were dismayed to see the options available to folks working full-time in the Asheville, NC, area (where our workshop is located). For example, several of classes for the PV installation certificate at the community college are only held during weekday afternoons, overlapping first and second shift jobs. There are other considerations, such as whether a required class is offered each semester. In the end, we selected NC State's one-week, 40-hour training program, held online next because of the pandemic (with the hands-on section postponed). Following is a comparison of some of the factors you may want to keep in mind when selecting a training program.


Community College - PV Installation Certificate
(Our example is based on
A-B Tech's program; see our "PV Tech" page for links to other community college programs.)
Intensive Training Series
(Still within the NC education system, NC State University's 
Clean Energy Tech Center offers intensive and self-paced courses.)
PrerequisitesCollege admission; some placement testing may be required.None

Hours/Cost: 17 credit hours, 2020-21 resident tuition $1216 + fees (though some do not apply to the certificate) or non-resident $4288 + fees. If you have a NC sponsor, you qualify for in-state tuition.

Limited financial assistance, if any, because this is a certificate program. Potential students are directed to complete the Federal Student Aid Application.

Payment plans available (broken into thirds or halves depending on enrollment date). If you are currently in a related field, such as construction, ask if your employer might help pay for classes.

Note: Not all classes are offered each semester; therefore, it takes a minimum of one year to complete the certificate. Tuition rates may vary throughout a multi-year training period.

Hours/Cost: For this comparison, we selected the basic, Fundamentals of Photovoltaic Design and Installation course, which is based on the NABCEP PV Associate Learning Objectives. The single, 40-hour, 5-day course 2021 tuition is $1199; however, note that selecting a bundle provides a reduced class cost, if that option meets your needs. Because of the pandemic, our student will take the 8-hour, $299 "hands-on" workshop separately, later in 2021.

Payment plans available (broken into monthly payments; you can set the due date). Military spouse plans available. If you are currently in a related field, such as construction, ask if your employer might help pay for training.

Note: Workers without paid time off should add a week's pay into the tuition equation for scheduled, non-self-paced classes. Students outside of the Triangle registering for in-person classes should also account for travel expenses.

Media CostsTextbooks are not included. Some are as much as $150 each, while some classes have no required textbook. Class List | BookstoreRegistration fee includes lunch, parking, a textbook, and a notebook.
Credit TransferThese are semester-length courses, transferable within the NC system.These are not diploma credit courses; they do apply to professional pathways.
NABCEP"This certificate prepares students to work in the solar industry with hands-on applications and NABCEP-focused instruction." ~AB Tech websiteAfter completing the course, you will be eligible to sit for the NABCEP PV Associate Exam. "This training counts toward the entry level educational requirement (if other requirements are met) on the journey to becoming a NABCEP Certified PV Installation Professional." ~NCSU website
Time Considerations

As of December 20, 2020, online sections have not yet been scheduled. In-person classes are held during the week, mostly in the afternoon. If you work during the day, determine whether online classes are Asynchronous (anytime) or Synchronous (scheduled).

Because not all classes are offered each semester, this program requires at least a one-year commitment to earn the certificate.

At this time, this program seems a better fit for full-time students, evening or weekend workers, or the unemployed.

Our example class is held Monday-Friday, during the day. Our student will take a week's leave from work in order to participate. There will be no travel costs for the first, online section. Once he has completed this 5-day course, he will be eligible to sit for the NABCEP PV Associate Exam.



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