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Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Technology - Geothermal Technician

Program Requirements: 

Receive extensive field time to gain skills and learn the proper safety and physical requirements for a career as an Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Technology – Geothermal Technician at Gateway Technical College. This associate degree program prepares you to enter the field of geothermal heating and cooling as you learn a variety of drilling techniques to use the heat of the earth to heat and cool buildings. Technicians can work for commercial and residential companies. Geothermal technology taps into the Earth’s energy to heat and cool buildings through a system that begins underground before cycling through the structure’s heating and cooling ventilation (HVAC) system. It’s one of the fastest growing technologies in the HVAC industry and is the most efficient operating system today. Gateway’s program takes students through the basics of geoexchange technology through hands-on training on the systems’ drilling, installation, and maintenance. The drilling techniques taught at Gateway allow for geoexchange units to be placed nearly anywhere – including smaller, urban lots. Students practice multiple drilling techniques at Gateway’s five acre drill site throughout the year to prepare them for all weather conditions and various ground formations.

What does a heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanic and installer do?

Gateway’s associate degree program prepares graduates for high-demand positions including installer, service technician, lab technician, job estimator, business owner and union apprentice. As HVAC/R equipment incorporates more computer logic to control efficiency, safety and reliability the need for technically competent technicians will push the demand for qualified technicians.

Learning by doing

Small class sizes allow students to rotate through each drilling and drilling support job to learn the tasks associated with each job function. Program equipment includes a drilling rig and all necessary support equipment such as a grouter, air compressor and desanding equipment. The program also uses a large indoor training lab where all of the drilling equipment can be serviced and used in the training of the support skills such as hydraulics and pneumatics.

All drilling activities are conducted on Gateway’s five acre drill site. Students learn to drill in year-round weather conditions in various ground formations using current industry drilling methods. Students will learn loop insertion, grouting, headering and commissioning of the bore field.

Students are encouraged to join an industry trade organization to participate in annual conventions, professional development and networking opportunities. Organizations include the National Ground Water Association (NGWA), International Ground Source Heat Pump Association (IGSHPA) and the Wisconsin Geothermal Association.

Job and salary outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers is expected to grow 34 percent through 2020.

Commercial and residential growth will be the driving factor for job growth in the industry. The median annual salary of heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers was $43,640 in 2014. 



Charles Herman

Lawrence Hobbs

Thomas Niesen

Mike Renzoni

Allen Smith, Jr.


Desmar McDuffie

Program Administration

Ray Koukari, Interim Dean