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Air Pollution Control Technician Job Description, Career as an Air Pollution Control Technician, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: Two-year college or vocational/technical school

Salary: Starting—$16.98 per hour

Employment Outlook: Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

In recent years the public has shown widespread concern with the quality of the nation's air. As a result, state and federal laws now limit air pollution from automobiles, industry, and tobacco. In addition, local, state, and federal agencies have been established to enforce these laws and to study air quality. Many air pollution control technicians work for these agencies. Others work for universities, research institutes, consulting firms, or nonprofit organizations that are engaged in combating or preventing pollution. Still others are employed by private companies that want to limit the amount of pollution they put into the air. Although air pollution control technicians are found in all sections of the country, most work in urban areas where industry and traffic are heaviest.

Air pollution control technicians may begin their careers as field technicians who install, operate, and repair equipment designed to gather samples of air. Air sampling equipment usually consists of small pumps, filters, timers, batteries, and bottles of chemical solutions. Sometimes it is connected to large tanks that hold gases. Field technicians must set up this equipment where it will be safe from harm and where it can gather air properly. When they install it they may use small hand tools to build cases or holders for it. From readings of air sampling equipment, field technicians make records of wind speed, humidity, or temperature. They often work from small vans or trucks that carry them to their job sites.

Some air pollution control technicians work in laboratories where they study samples of air gathered by field technicians. Laboratory technicians may use complex electronic instruments to find out whether samples of air contain dangerous substances or gases. These samples come from inside plants or near smokestacks. Samples may also come from locations along highways or in wilderness areas. When laboratory technicians find evidence of pollution, they try to estimate how much of it is in the air they have sampled and tested. These estimates usually require mathematical calculations. Technicians may also test air for dust or pollen. Laboratory technicians must be able to use precision instruments such as atomic absorption spectrophotometers and gas chromatographs. They also use standard laboratory equipment such as test tubes, beakers, balances, and scales. Results of their tests may be used as evidence in court cases or public hearings or as a basis for pollution control legislation. For this reason, laboratory technicians must keep accurate records of their work and the results of their tests.

After they gain some experience as field technicians or laboratory technicians, air pollution control technicians may become inspectors. Inspectors are technicians who study the results of laboratory tests. They also visit industrial plants and examine equipment used to reduce air pollution. Inspectors sometimes help plant owners or managers find ways to reduce air pollution. In some communities inspectors have the power to close down a factory that causes too much pollution. Inspectors may spend much of their time writing reports and meeting with lawmakers and industry representatives. These technicians must be aware of changes in laws that deal with air pollution and new findings about the amounts and types of pollution that are present or are likely to occur in the atmosphere. They must also keep up with developments in equipment and methods used to control air pollution.

Education and Training Requirements

To be an air pollution control technician, one to three years of formal training after high school is generally needed. Training is available at many colleges and technical schools. Most one-year programs lead to a certificate or diploma in air pollution control technology. Some two-year colleges and technical schools offer programs leading to an associate degree in air pollution control technology. With an associate degree in chemistry or chemical technology, candidates may be able to qualify for a position as a laboratory technician.

Getting the Job

College instructors and school placement offices may be able to supply candidates with job leads. For a government job, apply to take the necessary civil service test. Professional journals sometimes carry want ads for these positions.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Technicians usually receive pay raises as they gain experience. Those employed by government agencies usually receive regular promotions. Technicians who earn a bachelor's degree in science, technology, or engineering may qualify for many advanced positions in environmental protection, such as that of sanitary engineer.

The demand for qualified technicians is expected to increase faster than the average through the year 2012. It is projected that there will be a somewhat faster than average growth in the number of opportunities for air pollution control technicians. Increased regulations surrounding solid waste management and recent concern regarding indoor air pollutants, such as radon gas and asbestos, should lead to additional jobs in the field.

Working Conditions

Field technicians often drive small vans or trucks. They may do some heavy lifting when they install or remove air sampling equipment. They usually work alone or with another technician. Their hours are regular, generally from thirty-five to forty hours a week. Laboratory technicians usually work alone or in pairs. They may be supervised by a chemist or engineer. They work thirty-five to forty hours a week in modern laboratories. Inspectors spend some time each week writing reports. They also travel to speak with plant managers and owners. Inspectors may also be required to appear in court and at public hearings.

Where to Go for More Information

Air and Waste Management Association
1 Gateway Center, Third Fl.
420 Fort Duquesne Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
(412) 232-3444

Earnings and Benefits

Salaries vary depending on education and experience. Air pollution control technicians with an associate degree earn an average of $16.98 per hour. Benefits include paid holidays, paid vacations, and health insurance.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesAgribusiness, Environment, and Natural Resources