How Can I Become a Health Inspector?

Research what it takes to become a health inspector. Learn about the educational and certification requirements, job duties and salary information to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Community Health Education & Advocacy degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Health Inspector?

A health inspector, also known as an occupational health and safety specialist, analyzes workplaces in order to ensure that they provide safe, healthy environments for employees and customers. Depending on the industry, they may assess the condition of equipment, take samples for toxic chemical analysis and evaluate work practices in order to make sure that they comply with industry standards and government regulations. After conducting the inspection, health inspectors report on potential risks and present plans to correct any problems and reduce the risk of future accidents.

The following table provides an overview for this career:

Degree Required Associate's degree, Bachelor's degree (recommended)
Education Field of Study Chemistry, environmental health, biology, health, ecology
Key Responsibilities Inspect areas for possible health threats, report on compliance of codes & regulations
Certification Voluntary certification (recommended)
Job Growth (2014-24) 4%* (for occupational health and safety specialists)
Average Salary (2015) $71,790* (for occupational health and safety specialists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Kind of Education Do I Need to Become a Health Inspector?

Public health inspectors work for city and state governments, which have varying requirements for the position. You'll typically need an associate's or bachelor's degree in health or a natural science, according to the New York Department of Health ( Chemistry, environmental health, biology and ecology are common concentrations for environmental health inspectors. Public health nutrition, public health education, food science and applied health degrees are typically required for inspectors who focus on food safety issues.

Some private organizations also hire health inspectors. The requirements for these jobs vary depending on the job duties and industry, though many require a bachelor's degree. In some cases, the degree requirement may be waived if you have significant work-related experience or hold a specialized license.

How Can I Become Certified?

The National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) offers a voluntary certification for registered environmental health specialists (REHS) and registered sanitarians (RS). To qualify for the REHS/RS exam, you must have a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree in environmental health that is accredited by the National Environmental Health Science and Protection Accreditation Council. You could also qualify if you have at least two years of experience and an accredited bachelor's degree that includes a minimum of 30 semester- or 44 quarter-hours in basic science courses, plus algebra or an advanced math class.

Once certified, you maintain the credential by paying renewal fees and completing 24 hours of continuing education every two years ( According to the NEHA, the examination covers areas including:

  • Food protection
  • Air quality
  • Hazardous materials
  • Housing
  • Institutions and licensed establishments
  • Statutes, regulations and standards
  • Occupational safety and health

What Might My Job Duties Be?

You can work for local and federal government or private organizations, such as environmental services firms. You'll inspect areas for possible health threats and report on compliance of codes and regulations. As a public health inspector, you may perform inspections in restaurants, hotels, water and sewer treatment plants, swimming pools and campgrounds. If you work for a private organization, you'll review plans, policies and procedures to ensure that they meet code and regulatory requirements. You'll maintain records, write reports and provide consultation as required.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are interested in reducing health risks, you might also consider a job as an environmental health specialist. In this job, you would analyze factors in the environment, like polluted water and contaminated soil, that could negatively affect human health, and you would present your findings to the public. This job usually requires a bachelor's degree. Alternatively, you could work as a fire inspector. In this occupation, you would assess buildings for potential fire hazards and investigate previous fires in order to identify their causes and prevent them from happening in the future. The minimum educational requirement for fire inspectors is a high school diploma.

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