How to Become a Certified Public Health Inspector

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Certified health inspectors examine working conditions in all industries.
Certified health inspectors examine working conditions in all industries. (Image: Andy Sotiriou/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Public health inspectors perform an important public service. These occupational health and safety specialists are responsible for ensuring public safety through inspection services. Public health inspectors may examine occupational hazards in the workplace or some may even specialize as food inspectors who examine hygiene and sanitation standards in public eating facilities like restaurants. Becoming certified as a public health inspector requires considerable preparation and training. The preparation could be worth the time and effort; the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the top health inspectors made $73,050 as a median salary in May 2008.

Obtain your bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. While it can sometimes be possible to work as a health inspector with only an associate degree, certification boards like the American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH) require the completion of a bachelor's degree program in order to be eligible for certification. The ABIH requires the completion of a degree in chemistry, physics, biology, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering or an ABIH accredited industrial safety and hygiene degree. The board will consider other degrees as long as certain minimum requirements are met.

Take additional courses in industrial hygiene if your degree is not in that area or you have deficiencies in meeting the certification requirements. The ABIH requires 180 academic contact hours or 240 continuing education contact hours in various areas of industrial hygiene before it will consider your application. Courses must cover the areas of toxicology, controls and measurement and industrial hygiene fundamentals.

Apply for positions in health inspection. You do not have to be a government health inspector in order to gain the necessary experience. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those employed in the health inspection industry worked in a variety of areas and locations such as hospitals and health facilities, the mining industry, education and for local government agencies. The ABIH requires four years of professional practice in order to eligible for certification.

Contact and obtain professional references. In order to be ABIH certified, you need to have two professional references from others in the field who are familiar with your work and can vouch for your professional abilities.

Submit your application along with college transcripts to the ABIH. You must pay an application fee of $150 (as of 2010) and complete your examination through Prometric Services. An annual fee of $115 is required to maintain your certification.

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