How to Become a Health Inspector: School Requirements & Qualifications

Oct 20, 2021

Learn how to become a health inspector. Research a health inspector salary, education, and career requirements, as well as training information and the experience required for starting a career in health inspecting.

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Becoming a Health Inspector

The steps to becoming a health inspector include:

  1. Acquire college education
  2. Gain work experience
  3. Consider certification
  4. Continuing education

Health inspectors, or occupational health and safety technicians, scrutinize the work environment and labor conditions of businesses to ensure the protection of the public, employees, and the environment. They may work for public institutions or private corporations. Day-to-day duties include the collection of samples for analysis; visual inspection of equipment, workspaces, and public areas within a building; and compiling their findings and recommendations.

Inspectors may have to deal with difficult sites and may meet resistance or a lack of cooperation in response to their inspections. They must use precautions, such as clothing and gear, to keep themselves safe from injury and illness on an inspection. Most work full-time and spend their time in the field as well as in an office setting. Some weekend or evening hours may be required, as well as minimal travel. Health inspector education requirements may vary by employer.

Health Inspector Qualifications and Requirements

Degree Level A degree is not always required; certificate, associate's, or bachelor's degree may expand job opportunities
Degree Field Occupational health and safety
Licensure and Certification Certification is not required, but is often encouraged
Key Skills Strong verbal and written communication skills; attention to detail; problem-solving skills and stamina; knowledge of laws and regulations related to health and safety; ability to operate basic computer equipment and complex testing equipment related to the job
Median Salary (2019) $70,480 per year (for occupational and safety specialists)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

A Day in the Life as a Health Inspector

Health inspectors typically work full time and may travel frequently for their job. In addition to ensuring compliance with governmental regulations and reporting their findings, they may create safety procedures, train workers and employers on best practices and the proper use of equipment, or investigate the causes of accidents that may be related to safety violations. Such accidents may require odd hours and overtime beyond the normal work schedule.

How to Become a Health Inspector

Now that we know what health inspectors do, let's talk about the steps you'd need to follow to become one. Health inspector school requirements differ. Typically a bachelor's degree is required, but for some positions an associate's degree or vocational training are sufficient.

Step 1: Get a College Education

According to the BLS, health inspector education and training, regardless of specialty, often includes a combination of formal education and on-the-job training. Inspectors planning on becoming certified may be required to possess at least an associate's degree in safety or a bachelor's degree in any field.

Students in associate's degree programs may be required to take courses in management principles, environmental regulations, and safety management, in addition to general education electives in areas such as math, science, social science, and the humanities. Certificate programs exist and are typically shorter versions of the associate's degree programs and without the general education requirements.

Although aspiring inspectors in bachelor's degree programs may not be required to major in a specific field, they may benefit from a curriculum that trains them in principles and concepts applicable to occupational health and safety. Students in occupational health and safety programs at the bachelor's degree level may be required to take a comprehensive set of chemistry and biology courses, in addition to health and safety-related courses, such as epidemiology, environmental law, and safety management.

Success tip: Participate in an internship. Aspiring health inspectors can benefit from participating in an occupational health and safety internship program, such as the one offered by the National Security Agency (NSA). An internship can provide students with hands-on experience working in the field as well as the ability to learn new skills outside of a classroom environment.

Types of Health and Safety Inspectors

Different specializations within the health inspector profession have different educational and training requirements. Job titles include:

  • Safety Inspector
  • Public Health Inspector
  • Environmental Health Inspector

A degree in occupational safety is ideal for a career as a safety inspector or public health inspector. A safety inspector ensures workplaces adhere to regulations put forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and its state and local counterparts. A public health inspector looks at places such as restaurants and public facilities.

Those interested in a career as an environmental health inspector may wish to pursue a degree in environmental or public health. Environmental health inspectors focus on the enforcement of environmental laws. A degree in a related field, such as engineering or the natural sciences, may also be appropriate for these positions.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

Health inspectors may be employed in a variety of sectors and for a diverse array of employers, including governments, manufacturing firms, hospitals, consulting firms, and mining companies. Health inspectors may inspect and evaluate workplace environments, collect samples for analysis, evaluate workplace safety programs, and investigate accidents in workplaces.

Step 3: Consider Certification

Although certification is not required, the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that many employers prefer their workers pursue it. The Council on Certification of Health, Environmental, and Safety Technologists (CCHEST) offers certification for occupational health and safety technicians. The CCHEST requires candidates to hold at least an associate's degree in safety or a bachelor's degree in any major from an accredited institution. In addition, candidates must already be employed in safety for a minimum of 900 hours a year and must be responsible for an array of duties in their positions.

Step 4: Continuing Education

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers outreach training to health inspectors in the form of 10-hour and 30-hour classes. These continuing education classes can help health inspectors learn new skills and techniques while staying current with laws and advances in occupational health and safety. Continuing education shows dedication to the field and may help aspiring health inspectors obtain advancement and promotion.

While health inspectors are not required to have a degree or certification, having one or both increases your chances of getting a job. And, no matter what, you must know all the rules and regulations for your chosen field.

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