Public Health Inspector Jobs: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a public health inspector. Learn about education requirements, certification, salary and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Public Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Public Health Inspector?

A public health inspector is an occupational health and safety specialist who evaluates businesses and other workplaces to make sure that they are in compliance with local, state and federal government regulations. To assess health and safety risks, they observe workplace operations, test equipment and analyze materials for toxic substances. Based on their findings, they compile reports for public health departments. In addition, they may also be involved in the design and implementation of solutions to any current health or safety problems in the workplace.

The following table provides information for this career:

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Chemistry, environmental health, biology, ecology
Key Skills Communication, detail-oriented, technological
Certification Voluntary professional certification
Job Growth (2014-24) 4% (occupational health and safety specialists)*
Median Salary (2014) $70,210 (occupational health and safety specialists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How Do I Become a Public Health Inspector?

Though not always required, an associate's degree with ample coursework in the hard sciences - like biology, chemistry and physics - is a great start towards employment. If you're entering the field through promotion and already have experience, some classroom time is probably in your future. Specific requirements vary by state, but a working knowledge of state laws, procedures and codes is essential. This process usually culminates with examination and certification within that state.

For example, the New York State Department of Health requires completion of a written exam before entering an applicant pool for potential public health inspectors. In addition, the National Board of Public Health Examiners and the Board of Certified Safety Professionals offer voluntary certification for any interested graduates of accredited public health programs. Seeking out both national and state-specific credentials can smooth the path to employment and advancement.

What Qualities Will Help Me Succeed?

You should have an excellent ability to communicate and exhibit a high attention to detail. The ability to work efficiently and quickly in new settings and with different technical equipment will make your work easier to handle, since many public health inspectors (PHIs) work long and odd hours, sometimes in high-stress and high-risk work environments.

In addition, you want to network with fellow PHIs and increase your practical knowledge and experience within the field. In addition to the mandatory certification for your state, joining societies of professionals, contributing to journals, attending conferences and enrolling in higher education programs are all great ways to further your chances for promotion.

What Is a Typical Day Like?

Your daily duties could vary widely. Any day could find you checking and maintaining food safety standards, hotel fire codes and ergonomics, emergency vehicle cleanliness, swimming pool health precautions, campground regulations and/or water treatment facility regulations. This often means extended hours and significant amounts of time spent traveling.

More sedentary tasks you might tackle include compiling information for public health education, analyzing statistics for possible policy implementations, working with health maintenance organizations or medical providers to shape how citizens acquire health care, reviewing personal safety protocols and setting up health test screenings.

How Much Could I Expect to Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a 4% growth rate was expected for occupational health and safety specialists from 2014-2024. The BLS also measured the median annual income for government health and safety specialists at $70,210 in May 2015. The bottom tenth percentile of workers in 2015 earned $40,890 annually or less, while the top ten percent earned $102,980 or more.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you want to get a job conducting inspections, you might also consider becoming a fire inspector. These professionals evaluate commercial and residential buildings to make sure they are in compliance with government fire codes. The minimum educational requirement for this job is a high school diploma, though most inspectors have prior experience as firefighters. Alternatively, if you would rather focus your career on addressing health risks, you could consider becoming an environmental restoration planner. In this job, you would analyze an area that has been polluted and design an economically and environmentally feasible plan to clean it up, in order to protect human health and the broader ecosystem. Most environmental restoration planners have a bachelor's degree.

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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