Air Quality Engineers
Education and Training Requirements
High school students should develop their skills in chemistry, math, biology, and ecology. Since this type of work also involves an understanding of how businesses work and of government regulations, take some general business and government electives, as well. English and speech classes will help you develop your communication skills, which you'll use frequently to write reports and interact with colleagues.
To break into this field, you will need at least a bachelor's degree in civil, environmental, or chemical engineering. Advancement, specialization, or jobs in research may require a master's degree or Ph.D. Besides the regular environmental or chemical engineering curricula at the college level, future air quality engineers might engage in some mechanical or civil engineering if they are interested in product development. Modelers and planners should have a good knowledge of computer systems. Supporting course work in biology, toxicology, or meteorology can give the job seeker an edge for certain specialized positions even before gaining experience in the workforce. Participation in at least one internship during college will be useful.
Other Education or Training
Many professional engineering associations provide continuing education opportunities to air quality engineers. For example, the Air and Waste Management Association offers seminars and workshops such as the Clean Air Act, air quality measurement methods and technology, and the air quality and greenhouse gas implications of shale gas development and use. Contact the association for more information.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
Certification is voluntary and may be obtained through such organizations as the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists, the Institute of Professional Environmental Practice, and the Academy of Board Certified Environmental Professionals.
All engineers who do work that affects public health, safety, or property must register with the state. To obtain registration, engineers must have a degree from an accredited engineering program. Right before they get their degree (or soon after), they must pass an engineer-in-training (EIT) exam covering fundamentals of science and engineering. A few years into their careers, engineers also must pass an exam covering engineering practice. The exams are offered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (https://www.ncees.org).
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Aspiring air quality engineers should participate in at least one internship during college to gain valuable experience and allow them to make industry contacts, which could lead to a job offer after graduation.
Prospective air quality engineers should be puzzle solvers. The ability to work with intangibles is a trait of successful air quality management. As in most fields, communication skills are vital. Engineers must be able to clearly communicate their ideas and findings, both orally and in writing, to a variety of people with different levels of technical understanding.