Air quality is the degree to which air is clear, clean and unpolluted. Air quality specialists use special instruments to examine and determine the type and level of pollutants in the air. They also identify the sources of the pollutants and provide recommendations to improve air health and safety. These specialists can work for environmental agencies, private businesses, universities, independent research centers and manufacturing plants.
Using the Skills
Air quality specialists require a combination of strong technical and practical skills to excel in the job. They must set up and operate a wide variety of air quality testing, monitoring and measuring equipment, such as air quality meters, to collect data. Good analytical skills are also crucial to air quality specialists since they must analyze and interpret the collected data. These specialists require excellent communication and presentation skills to write clear reports and give effective presentations.
In government agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, air quality specialists ensure industrial plants and other businesses adhere to air quality regulations. They participate in the development of air quality regulations and implementation of air pollution control programs. When the agency receives complaints about an industrial plant producing harmful emissions, air quality specialists visit the plant and measure the local air to determine whether it is safe and healthful. If the emissions pose public health risks, the specialist may recommend and help to enforce appropriate control measures.
Air quality specialists in research centers and universities engage in research projects to gather more information on various topics. For example, they may investigate the effects of industrial emissions on climate change and publish their findings in industry journals. In private businesses, air quality specialists ensure the firms’ operations do not violate environmental health regulations, and they inspect facilities to detect and address air contamination problems. Regardless of workplace, air quality specialists may hold public presentations to promote awareness of various environmental health issues.
Aspiring air quality specialists can enter the profession through a bachelor’s degree in environmental science or engineering, air pollution control, meteorology or a closely related field. The National Registry of Environmental Professionals offers a variety of relevant professional certifications, such as the Certified Environmental Scientist, which air quality specialists can pursue to demonstrate their competence and enhance career progression prospects. They can also complete a master’s degree in air pollution management or environmental management to become environmental managers in government agencies and manufacturing plants.