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Food and Drug Inspector: Education Requirements, Salary & Job Description

Research and explore the duties and job description of a food and drug inspector. Receive insight into the educational and professional requirements an inspector is expected to have plus view information on average salary earnings.

A Quick Career Overview

As a specialized type of quality control professional, food and drug inspectors may take samples of food, drug and cosmetic items to analyze their purity and ensure that a vendor or establishment has obtained and makes visible all necessary documentation pertaining to the production and storage of these items.

In addition to preparing reports on findings made during inspections, these inspectors may also be expected to speak to and interview site employees and manufacturers as well as consumers. The table below outlines the educational background required of a food and drug inspector.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree often prefered
Educational Field of Study Natural and biological sciences, agriculture and food sciences, public health
Key Skills Knowledge and understanding of good sanitation practices and the preparation of comestibles and cosmetic goods; physical stamina and strength
Median Salary (2020) $40,460 (for quality control inspectors in all fields)*
Job Growth (2020 to 2030) Decline by 12 percent (for quality control inspectors in all fields)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Primary Duties of a Food and Drug Inspector?

A food and drug inspector is responsible for ensuring the safety of comestibles and pharmaceutical drugs as well as personal cosmetics. During the course of their work, they visit vendors, factories, farms and sites where these kinds of goods are sold, produced and held to ensure that legal hygiene standards are being properly maintained. This includes inspecting meat, grain and foodstuffs for disease, bacteria and contamination.

What Educational Requirements Do I Need to Become a Food and Drug Inspector?

There are multiple pathways into this career. For example, to be considered for an entry-level role with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), applicants must complete and pass a written exam and hold either a bachelor's degree in a relevant field or have one year of on-the-job experience in a relevant industry (i.e., food service).

Those with the relevant vocational experience may also be considered and, in some instances, on-the-job training is offered. It is also worth noting that internships may be available for some candidates, especially for those looking at roles within the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

Candidates looking to continue and enhance their training can seek out an array of qualifications, including those offered by the American Society for Quality (ASQ).

What Fields of Study Should I Choose?

Relevant fields include the natural and biological sciences and/or veterinary or agricultural studies. In addition, as some inspectors may be called upon to analyze food and drug samples as part of their work, information provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that laboratory experience may make potential candidates more attractive to potential employers. Other relevant degrees include math, engineering and the physical sciences.

Where Will I Work?

Food and drug inspectors typically visit farms, slaughterhouses, processing facilities, factories, storage sites and vendors. They are also found in privately-operated processing plants and factories and ensure that these sites adhere to the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) system.

As a food and drug inspector, you may work in a variety of jurisdictions or environments, including within the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Some inspectors are based at or close to U.S. ports of entry. These inspectors are responsible for ensuring that any foodstuffs, drugs or medicines entering the country adhere to the same safety standards as those produced within the domestic market.

What Else Should I Consider About Becoming a Food and Drug Inspector?

In addition to the relevant educational or degree qualifications, you should also consider that the work undertaken by a food and drug inspector can be physically tasking. The day-to-day duties involved in the inspection process can see inspectors stand for long periods of time and lift heavy objects. It may also see inspectors handle contaminated foodstuffs or meat or inhale dangerous particles.