Initial Publication Date: January 8, 2014

Hydrologic Studies, GateWay Community College

Information for this profile was provided by Mario Castaneda, director of the Hydrologic Studies program on November 25th, 2013. Information is also available on the Hydrologic Studies program web page on the GateWay Community College website. Students in this program are pursuing an Associates degree.

Program Design & Assessment


This program has been in existence since 1996. In 2000, the program changed to provide training to individuals hoping to be employed by the USGS. At the time, it was the only program offering the hydrologic technician program at the associate degree level. About 2 years ago, the 9 other Maricopa sister community colleges are working with GateWay community college to send their students to GateWay CC to take the courses needed to obtain the hydrologic studies degrees and certificates of completion. There is a great need for graduates of this program at the federal and state levels, particularly if students are minorities.

The program is administered by 1 full time faculty member and 15 adjuncts within the Water Resources Technologies area.

Strengths of this program

The program prepares hydrologic technician certification with just an associates degree, in 5 semesters of full time coursework. It can also prepares students for certification at the state and local level for graduates to work as wastewater technicians, if students choose to pursue that certification instead. The program meets both of these certifications by offering some specialized coursework for each certification track as well as a combination of hands-on work with industry standard equipment and theoretical course work.

Some of the theoretical kinds of classes are offered as online courses so that students do not need to travel to Phoenix from other cities within Maricopa county for coursework. This allows students to maintain family and work obligations. Courses that require hands-on work with equipment are taught face-to-face and are often taught on evenings or weekends.

Types of students served

The program serves mainly non-traditional students; those returning for re-career training who are in their mid-30s. About 25% of students are minorities.

Program Goals

The goals of this program are as follows:

To prepare students for a wide variety of jobs upon finishing the certificate of completion and associates degree. The program offers options such that students can be certified by federal agencies as a hydrologic technician or at the state level as wastewater technicians.

The learning goals were informed by the following resources:

There is an advisory committee made up of individuals from the USGS, state agencies, and local municipalities. The program originally prepared students to be USGS hydrologic technicians. Over the years, the training has expanded because municipalities came to the program and said that they had a need for wastewater operators in the coming years. The USGS and local municipalities agreed to some program changes that allow students to get the theoretical knowledge needed to understand hydrologic systems and the practical hands-on knowledge needed to operate equipment specific to jobs both with federal agencies and local municipalities. The advisory committee agrees that as long as students can pass the certification exams, the program can continue to prepare students for both kinds of certifications.

How program goals are assessed

The program is in close communication with the advisory committee about the kinds of skills students need in order to be effective on the job. The program responds to the agencies by incorporating new coursework or training into the degree as needed. The program also added a new certificate to expand the opportunities that students have upon graduation. This regular feedback ensures that we are meeting our goals.

Design features that allow goals to be met

In order to prepare students for the certifications they desire, we tailor our courses to match the program and student's needs. We offer small classes, courses taught by adjunct faculty who are employed by the agencies and municipalities that will eventually hire the students, a flexible hybrid course format to help students get the kind of training when they need it that is still flexible to their needs and the demands of their lives (family, low income, etc.).

Alumni Careers

Graduation rate

There are around 75 students in the program, but it is hard to assess how many students graduate every year. Some students take courses and then stop as soon as they are employed with an agency or receive their certification. We're working with agencies and employers now to provide incentive to students to complete their degrees, as completing the degree is valuable to the students. Some agencies are now offering these students pre-career jobs that they can begin before completing their degrees, but maintaining the job is contingent upon completing the degree.

Careers pursued by our alumni

Students are well prepared for work in the following jobs:

  • Hydrologic technician for the USGS, US Forest Service and BLM
  • Hydrologic Technician for the state of Arizona, Department of Environmental Quality, and Department of Water Resources
  • Water Quality Specialist at local municipalities and at consulting companies to do work such as restore Superfund sites
  • Water Quality Specialist for local agencies such as Flood Control, and other water agencies like Salt River Project
  • Water and Wastewater operators

Taking a federal level job typically means moving out of the area. But, many students can't do that as they have family, or other obligations that require them to remain in the local area. That is why students can choose which certification they want to prepare for; they can choose whether they want to move away from the area or to stay local.

Courses and Sequencing

Diagram of course sequencing and requirements

Other key features of this program:

The program offers:

  • Access to the latest equipment that students will use when they get into their jobs (the advisory committee approves and helps to obtain this equipment)
  • Training from people who are already employed in the jobs the students will enter into
  • Hybrid online and face-to-face course work with hands-on courses offered on weekends and evenings.