How Do I Become a Restaurant Health Inspector?

Research what it takes to become a restaurant health inspector. Learn about job duties, state requirements and professional certifications, along with salary information to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Nutrition degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Restaurant Health Inspector?

Restaurant health inspectors are industry professionals who see to it that eating establishments comply with the safety and sanitary guidelines and regulations set down by the Food and Drug Administration. As a restaurant health inspector you will evaluate food service operations in order to maintain a safe working environment for restaurant employees and patrons. You may also be called upon to investigate health-related incidents in a restaurant, to identify the causes and recommend actions to ameliorate the problem.

The following table provides some basic information concerning this career:

Degree Required Bachelor's degree (recommended)
Certification Registered Environmental Health Specialist (REHS) or Certified Food Safety Professional (CFSP) (alternative to a degree)
Education Field of Study Environmental health and safety
Key Responsibilities Perform health inspections, check for proper employee hygiene and vermin control, educate restaurant managers, enforce standards of food safety
Job Growth (2014-2024) 4% (for all occupational health and safety specialists)*
Median Salary (2015) $70,210 (for all occupational health and safety specialists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Kind of Work Does a Restaurant Health Inspector Perform?

As a restaurant health inspector, you typically conduct health inspections on restaurants and other types of food service establishments. You might check for proper food handing and storage, employee hygiene and vermin control. Using a points-based system, you then score the restaurant on its cleanliness and food handling. You could also educate restaurant managers while focusing on the critical elements of their inspection. Even though you do not need specific food safety certification like restaurant managers do, it is important that you are able to determine whether managers and other workers are adhering to standards of food safety.

How Do I Get Certified?

Some states require inspectors to hold college degrees or professional credentials, like the Registered Environmental Health Specialist (REHS) or Certified Food Safety Professional (CFSP). The CFSP was created as a more specialized certification than the REHS, which is a more generalized certification for all environmental health fields. You can become a CFSP by completing a 120-question test that assesses your knowledge of proper food temperatures and storage, the cleaning and sanitizing of food surfaces and serving utensils, foodborne illness, facilities management and other areas that may be important to a restaurant health inspector.

What Education Do I Need?

Some colleges offer Bachelor of Science degrees in environmental health and safety. These programs usually include basic courses in math, science and humanities, as well as electives in health and environmental safety. Generally, whatever certifications are required for the state's restaurant health inspector program will also be covered in the coursework, but some colleges require you to complete additional fieldwork in order gain certification. Bachelor degrees are not necessarily required to pursue a career as a restaurant health inspector, but some states do require them. In general, job opportunities are easier to come by for those with a college degree.

How Does This Job Help People?

By monitoring the food safety operations of restaurants, you can ensure the quality and safety of food served at establishments. As a restaurant health inspector, you may also educate food service managers and employees and increase their confidence in creating a healthy environment for their guests.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Another somewhat broad area that encompasses public safety is health and safety engineer. Licensure is not required for entry-level positions. Among the specific disciplines within this category are fire prevention and protection engineer, aerospace safety engineer, systems safety engineer and product safety engineer. Holding bachelor's degrees, these individuals are concerned with the development and design of systems that ensure the health and physical safety of individuals who operate or come into contact with devices and/or products in the workplace. They investigate workplace accidents and health hazards to determine the cause and to see to the prevention of further incidents.

Environmental scientists and specialists should hold at least a bachelor's degree in a field such as engineering, geosciences, biology, chemistry or physics. They investigate and assess threats to the environment, which could in turn have a deleterious effect on people's health. They collect and analyze data from the soil, water and air and make recommendations to alleviate and/or prevent health risks and environmental hazards. Specialties in the area include environmental chemist, industrial ecologist and climate change analyst. While not mandatory, certification as a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager is available through the Institute of Hazardous Materials Management.

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