Air Quality Engineers
Approximately 53,070 environmental engineers, including air quality engineers, work in the United States. Many air quality engineers are privately employed in industries subject to emissions control, such as manufacturing. They may also work for the federal government, investigating and ensuring compliance with air quality regulations, as consultants to industry and large companies, and in research and development.
Summer positions as an air pollution control technician provide valuable insight into the engineer's job as well as contacts and experience. Check with local and state EPA offices and larger consulting firms in your area for internship positions and their requirements. Engineers interested in environmental issues may be able to volunteer for citizen watchdog group monitoring programs, patrolling regions for previously undiscovered or unregulated contaminates. Most air quality engineers can expect to get jobs in their field immediately after graduating with a bachelor's degree. Your school's career services office can assist you in fine-tuning your resume and setting up interviews with potential employers. Government positions are a common point of entry; high turnover rates open positions as experienced engineers leave for the more lucrative private sector. An entry-level job might focus on monitoring and analysis.
With experience and education, the engineer might develop a specialization within the field of air quality. Research grants are sometimes available to experienced engineers who wish to concentrate on specific problems or areas of study. Management is another avenue of advancement. The demand for technically oriented middle management in the private sector makes engineers with good interpersonal skills very valuable.
In many ways, advancement will be dictated by the increasing value of air quality engineers to business and industry in general. Successful development of air pollution control equipment or systems—perhaps that even cut costs as they reduce pollution—will make air quality engineers important players in companies' economic strategies. As regulations tighten and increasing emphasis is put on minimizing environmental impact, air quality engineers will be in the spotlight as both regulators and innovators. Advancement may come in the form of monetary incentives or bonuses or management positions over other parts of the organization or company.
Tips for Entry
Read publications such as the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association, Environmental Engineer, and Pollution Engineering to learn more about trends in the industry and potential employers.
Participate in the National Society of Professional Engineers’ mentoring program (https://www.nspe.org/resources/career-center/mentoring-resources).
Professional associations, such as the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists, offer job listings at their Web sites. Additionally, the academy offers the Environmental Engineering Selection & Career Guide, which lists consulting firms and public and academic institutions that hire certified air quality engineers. It can be accessed by visiting http://www.aaees.org/publications.