How to Become a Health Inspector in 5 Steps
Research what it takes to become a health inspector. Learn about job duties, education requirements, training and certification options to find out if this is the career for you.
What is a Health Inspector?
As a health inspector, you can make sure that businesses and public facilities are free of harmful agents that could compromise human health and environmental safety. If anything harmful is found, health inspectors will collect and analyze the sample. They also make sure that facilities have environments that comply with safety standards and regulations set by the government. They take part in identifying causes of any accidents that occur and teach employees about how to prevent and avoid accidents.
Take a look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter this field.
|Degree Required||Bachelor's degree|
|Education Field of Study||Biology, epidemiology, engineering, nutrition|
|Other Requirements||Internship is recommended, certification is preferred by many employers|
|Key Responsibilities||Ensure businesses follow federal and state health and safety requirements, collect samples to test contaminants or hazardous chemicals, observe production operations, review records of safety procedures to determine compliance|
|Job Growth (2018-2028)||6% (for all occupational health and safety specialists)*|
|Average Salary (2019)||$51,823 (for all health inspectors)**|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Salary.com
What Does a Health Inspector Do?
Health inspectors assess public and private facilities to ensure adherence to health and safety regulations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), professionals in this field often need a bachelor's degree in an applied science or engineering discipline (www.bls.gov).
Step 1: Research a Health Inspector's Career Duties
Health inspectors ensure that federal and state health and safety requirements are followed at day care centers, nursing homes, restaurants, schools and waste disposal facilities. Assessing such establishments may involve collecting samples to test for contaminants or hazardous chemicals, observing production operations and reviewing records of safety procedures to determine compliance.
If an establishment fails inspection, you would be responsible for issuing a warning or citation and reporting violations to proper regulatory authorities. You may also inform the public on topics such as safe food handling, recycling and waste disposal.
Step 2: Earn Your Degree
Educational requirements for health inspectors vary by employer, but usually require completion of a bachelor's degree program in majors such as biology, epidemiology, engineering, nutrition or physical science. Courses offered in these degree programs can help you learn how to test for microbial contaminants and contain infectious diseases. You can find a list of accredited schools offering applied science and engineering technology programs on the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology website (www.abet.org).
Step 3: Work as an Intern
You may obtain an internship position through a college program, government agency or private business. Some schools may offer a summer program that allows you to work at a local environmental facility helping to solve community public health concerns.
Government entities such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also offer a summer internship program for high school and college students. In this program, you may perform clerical or technical functions to assist with engineering, life science or policy analysis projects. You may learn more about this opportunity by visiting the EPA's website (www.epa.gov).
Step 4: Choose a Specialty
As a health inspector, you can work for the government or private sector. Both of these fields allow you to specialize in areas such as environmental inspection, food inspection or hazardous material inspection.
Working as a food inspector may involve evaluating food processing plants or animal slaughter houses to make sure meat, poultry and egg products are being processed according to government and industry sanitation guidelines. As an environmental inspector, you may collect soil and water samples to ensure that public drinking water is safe. Your role as a hazardous material inspector may primarily involve working with commercial transportation vehicles, such as propane or oil tankers, to control radioactive materials.
Step 5: Become Certified
Various organizations offer certification for health inspectors. Certification is optional, but is highly desirable by many employers, according to the BLS. Relevant certifications you may obtain include the Certified Safety Professional and the Occupational Health and Safety Technologist credentials offered by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals. Requirements to receive these designations include having at least an associate's degree in a related field, three to five years of safety work experience and successful completion of exams.
What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?
Becoming an environmental scientist is an alternative career option that requires a bachelor's degree. These scientists protect the environment and human health through what they know about natural science. As an environmental scientist you will collect data and samples, analyze them and then develop plans to help control the environmental problems, such as pollution or soil contamination. With a bachelor's degree in an engineering field, you could also become a health and safety engineer. In this position, you will study various materials to make sure that they aren't harmful to consumers or property.