Overview | Related Occupations | Outlook | Helpful High School Courses | Preparation | Related Educational Programs | Licensing/Certification/Designation/Registration | Additional Sources of Information
Geothermal technicians install and repair geothermal heating and cooling systems. They test, calibrate, and maintain geothermal energy systems.
Areas where there is a lot of volcanic activity generate more heat in the earth, and thus are ideal places for geothermal energy. However, geothermal systems can be used anywhere but they may need to be used in combination with traditional heating and cooling sources.
Geothermal technicians install and maintain geothermal systems at power plants or at specific sites. These systems can be used to heat and cool homes and buildings and to generate electricity. Technicians inspect and test a specific site to determine the amount of heat available. They then decide on the best system that can provide heating and cooling.
Once this is accomplished, technicians and other workers dig trenches and install pipes to channel hot and cool air. They may use or hire others to use heavy equipment such as backhoes and excavators. They also use tools such as compactors and saws. Once pipes are installed, they are connected to pumps and compressors.
Technicians must make sure they everything is installed correctly. They must also make sure that they are linked properly to controls. This is a complex procedure. It involves working with electrical switches, transmitters, gauges, and other equipment. After installation is complete, technicians must test, troubleshoot, and maintain instruments and controls. They also must calibrate and repair them when necessary.
Geothermal technicians also evaluate the flow and temperature of air coming from pumps to see if their initial tests of heating and cooling are correct. They make adjustments where needed. They may recommend and install back-up systems.
Geothermal systems can also be installed in bodies of water. In these projects, technicians must place pipes and pumps where they won't be disturbed by boats and where they do not disturb wildlife.
Hawaii Career Pathways:
- Industrial & Engineering Technology
As this occupation grows, programs that focus specifically on geothermal energy as opposed to HVAC will be offered.
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 geothermal technician, you must:
- have a high school diploma or GED;
- complete a formal training program;
- complete on-the-job training; and
- have mechanical aptitude.
Education after high school
Training to work as a geothermal technician is much the same as training to become a heating and cooling system mechanic. Even though geothermal systems are unique, in that they use heat from below the earth’s surface, using air to heat and cool a home involves a similar set of skills to those involved in HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning).
As this occupation grows, programs that focus specifically on geothermal energy as opposed to HVAC will be offered. For now, geothermal technicians may complete a formal training program in heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration technology. Professional-technical schools or two-year colleges offer these programs. They grant a certificate or associate degree. In these programs you learn to read schematic drawings, analyze problems, and follow safety procedures. You also learn to determine whether to replace or repair parts.
In general, employers prefer to hire people who have several years of experience in the heating and cooling industry. It helps if some of your time is spent as a supervisor.
After completing a training program, most geothermal technicians learn additional skills on the job from an experienced worker. You begin as a helper and do basic tasks. As you gain experience you work on more difficult tasks. Training includes:
- using equipment and tools;
- making repairs; and
- providing customer service.
Training may last several years.
Related Educational Programs:
- Environmental Control Technologies
Licensing / Certification / Designation / Registration
Typically, workers who install, test, and maintain electrical systems are required to have an electrician's license.
Additional Sources of Information
- "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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