How Can I Get a Job As a Health Department Inspector?

Research what it takes to become a health department inspector. Learn about education requirements, job duties and salary information to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Public Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Health Department Inspector?

Health department inspectors evaluate workplace environments in order to ensure that they comply with government health and safety regulations. In their investigations, they evaluate common work practices, facility equipment and product quality. In some industries, they may take samples in order to test for toxic chemicals. They write up reports of their findings for government health departments, which may sanction noncompliant companies. Inspectors may also help companies design and implement strategies to reduce health and safety risks.

The following table provides an overview for this career.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree (minimum)
Training Required Internships, field experience, seminars, continuing education
Education Field of Study Occupational health or safety, chemistry, biology
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

How Do I Become a Health Department Inspector?

Health department inspectors, who are also known as health and safety specialists, typically have a bachelor's degree in occupational health or safety, or they may major in certain sciences, such as chemistry or biology. If you are a high school student considering this career, you can choose additional coursework in science and math to prepare for admission to such programs. For some jobs, a master's degree in health physics or industrial hygiene is necessary. Occasionally, employers emphasize experience over any specific level of education. Throughout your education, you may be able to perform internships to gain hands-on experience in the field.

Once you are hired, you may undertake additional on-the-job training to learn the inspection system used by your employer. You will likely need to attend seminars or take courses to update you on changes to regulations or laws which affect your job. Completing a voluntary certification program through a private, professional organization for health, hygiene or safety can help you achieve positions or promotions in this field. One option is testing with the American Board of Industrial Hygiene to prove your knowledge of how work conditions and contaminants directly affect the health and safety of workers. This certification exam also covers ethics.

How Do I Get Hired?

Applying for local, state or federal government jobs in this field can often be done via application on the health department's website. At some point during the hiring process, you're required to pass background and drug-screening procedures. You must also commonly have at least one interview.

What Is The Job Like?

Typically you work a 40-hour week, much of which is spent away from your office. You will visit inspection sites to collect samples for lab testing, interview employees and examine equipment. You write up reports and may assess fines. You also make recommendations for further safety provisions in the workplace and work with the company to implement those safety measures.

Health inspectors confirm that a work environment is safe for employees and efficient for the employer by reducing the risk of injuries, illness and other accidents. You also ensure compliance with national Occupational Health and Safety Administration guidelines. During inspections, you assess conditions and may thereby be placing yourself into hazardous environments. Some jobs require overtime and availability for emergency shifts.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you want to focus your career on the protection of human health, you could also consider getting a job as an environmental health specialist. These professionals evaluate environmental conditions, like water and soil, to detect pollution and contamination that can present health risks for the public. To get this job, you usually need to hold a bachelor's degree in a science-related field. Alternatively, you could get a job as a fire inspector. They evaluate residential and industrial buildings to make sure that they are in compliance with local, state and federal fire regulations. In addition, they investigate the causes of fires after they have occurred. The minimum educational requirement is a high school diploma, but most professionals in this field have previous experience as firefighters or police officers.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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