Air quality specialists, also known as air pollution specialists, work to ensure the air we breathe is safe, odourless and free of pollutants. They do this by conducting tests on air samples from various environments and determining whether it meets the set standards. If you have an academic background in environmental science and possess excellent analytical and practical skills, you could become an effective air quality specialist.
What do air quality specialists do?
Although the primary task of these specialists is to ensure air quality, their specific duties often vary by workplace.
In government agencies they:
- Ensure manufacturing plants and other factories adhere to air quality regulations
- Help agencies to develop air quality monitoring programs
- Recommend new policies to environmental policy makers
- Conduct research to determine the effectiveness of various air quality policies
- Respond to air pollution complaints filed by the public.
In industrial and commercial settings (manufacturing plants and companies that provide environmental services) they:
- Ensure emissions from the factories are properly treated and meet air quality standards
- Conduct indoor air quality testing in offices and people’s residences
- Interpret technical reports and air quality data to other professionals
- Handle air quality testing equipment.
Regardless of workplace, air quality specialists work from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. When they are not in their offices reviewing some documents, they can be found in the field conducting air quality tests.
With fieldwork comes the possibility of facing harsh weather. As such, air quality specialists may wear boots, heavy coasts and other protective gear to stay safe and healthy.
The annual average salary for air quality specialists is:
Beginning air quality specialists
$38,000 - $59,000
Experienced air quality specialists
$59,000 - $77,000
Air quality managers
$77,000 - $91,000
To be employed as an air quality specialist, you need to earn any of the following credentials:
- An associate degree in occupational safety and health
- Bachelor’s degree in environmental science, environmental engineering or a closely related field.
With an associate degree, you will most likely find a job in an environmental services company and other organizations with occupational health and safety departments. A bachelor’s degree offers you the best opportunity to land a job in a government agency.
Since the job involves regular travelling, many employers also prefer specialists with a valid driver’s license.
The skills and abilities that aspiring air quality specialists must have include:
- Strong practical and analytical skills
- Excellent problem-solving skills
- Good communication skills to interpret technical documents
- An awareness of occupational safety and health issues
- An interest in preserving the environment
- Good IT and technical skills.
Being entry-level employees, air quality specialists have strong career advancement prospects. A combination of vast work experience, professional certifications and advanced education is all you need to get a head. As such, you should:
- Pursue a master’s degree in occupational health and safety or environmental science
- Obtain a relevant professional certification, such the Certified Indoor Air Quality Manager offered by the National Registry of Environmental Professionals
- Join associations such as the Indoor Air Quality Association.
Apart from manufacturing plants and government agencies, air quality specialists can also be hired by:
- Research centers
- Health facilities
- Technical consulting companies
- Colleges and universities
With several years of experience and additional qualifications, you can become an air quality manager or occupational safety and health director. You could also establish an air quality consulting company.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of environmental scientists and specialists will grow by 15 percent from 2012 through 2022. This means qualified air quality specialists will smile all the way to their first jobs without much hassle!