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Agricultural Inspector: Salary and Career Facts

Explore the career requirements for agricultural inspectors. Get the facts about training, job duties, salary, and job outlook to determine if this is the right career for you.

What Is an Agricultural Inspector?

An agricultural inspector works to make sure the laws and regulations are followed in the agricultural industry. They look for violations, such as pest infestations and inaccurately weighed products. These inspectors also inspect food products as well as the processing of food products. After this process they may assign product grades using the product grading system. If they find major problems they may even shut down a processing facility for safety reasons. Products they inspect include grains, poultry, eggs, meat and seafood. They may also inspect non-food production facilities, such as logging operations. The table below outlines the general requirements for becoming an agricultural inspector.

Degree RequiredAssociate's degree or bachelor's degree may be required for certain employers
Training RequiredTypically on-the-job training is required
Key Responsibilities Ensures compliance with laws and regulations; governs product quality and consumer safety; travels to food processing plants and farms; maintains expertise in current laws
Projected Job Outlook (2020-2030) 9% growth*
Average Salary (2020) $48,620*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Do as an Agricultural Inspector?

The goal of your work as an agricultural inspector is to ensure compliance with laws and regulations in the agriculture industry. These may include laws governing product quality, safe processing practices, consumer safety and health. You may be responsible for inspections of beef, poultry, fish, grains and fertilizer. Some inspectors specialize in more narrowly defined niches, such as beehive inspection.

Your job will involve traveling to food processing plants, farms and other agricultural businesses to perform inspections. You'll be looking for violations such as pest infestations, diseased animals and inaccurately weighed products. Maintaining expertise in current laws and regulations is an important component of agricultural inspection. In some cases, enforcement of laws and regulations may be necessary; you may need to shut down facilities with major violations.

What Salary Is Possible?

As reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for agricultural inspectors was $48,620 in May 2020. The vast majority of these inspectors worked in government positions, including roughly 3,670 at the federal level, 5,380 at the state level and 870 at the local level. On average, federal inspectors earned an annual average salary of $48,620 in 2020, as reported by the BLS. The highest wages during this time were offered by companies and enterprises management, where inspectors earned an annual mean wage of $64,880.

What Type of Training Will I Need?

Many agricultural inspectors receive on-the-job training. As you prepare to look for a job, there may not be a degree field or prior work experience that potential employers will be seeking. Some employers could expect you to have work experience in a similar field, such as food processing. In other cases, you might need a college degree.

Earning a bachelor's degree in agricultural business or animal science could prepare you for work as an agricultural inspector. In an agricultural business program, your studies can cover a variety of topics related to the agriculture industry, including commodities marketing, agricultural law and agricultural economics. Animal science programs might include coursework in livestock production and dairy business management.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Environmental compliance inspectors are another type of professional that conducts inspections on facilities to check compliance with government regulations. These professionals often have a bachelor's degree and ensure production facilities don't produce excessive amounts of pollution. Energy auditors assess the amount of energy buildings and production systems use and look for ways to reduce energy consumption and improve efficiency. These professionals may get by with just a high school diploma, though many have a bachelor's degree.