What Are the Qualifications of a Health Inspector?

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Health inspectors make sure businesses are following health code and regulations.
Health inspectors make sure businesses are following health code and regulations. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Health inspectors work to ensure health and safety regulations are being met in restaurants, hotels, office buildings and other establishments. They inspect machinery, equipment, ventilation systems, building structures and other details, as well as interview business owners, managers and employees. Health inspectors usually work for the government, though some work for private companies. To become a health inspector, you’ll need to meet the education and certification requirements in your jurisdiction.

Formal Education

Employers of health inspectors prefer to hire candidates who have a bachelor’s degree in industrial hygiene, occupational health or other related subject. A bachelor’s degree takes four years to complete and typically requires coursework in a range of disciplines, including natural sciences, humanities, mathematics and social sciences. Health inspector candidates should take classes in occupational health, chemistry, engineering, and biology to prepare for this career, according to Education-Portal.com. Other more specialized courses such as risk communication and hazardous material management are also considered valuable for this career.

Experience

After graduating from college, health inspectors must complete an apprenticeship or internship with a local government agency or business. These training programs usually last about six months, according to StateUniversity.com, and pair students with a licensed professional so they can learn through hands-on experience. During the internship, students learn about health and safety rules in different occupations and how these laws are enforced.

Licensure

All health inspectors must be licensed by the U.S. Department of Labor to be considered professional Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors. Candidates must pass a national standardized exam and provide proof of completion of an undergraduate degree program. Health inspectors must complete continuing education classes every several years in order to maintain their license and stay up-to-date on changes in laws and procedures.

Certification

Not all employers require specialized certification but it can be extremely useful when applying for jobs. Among the organizations that grant health inspector certificates are the American Board of Industrial Hygiene, the Board of Certified Safety Professionals, the Council on Certification of Health, Environmental and Safety Technologists, and The Indoor Air Quality Association. Certificates have different requirements but in most cases applicants must pass a written exam. Individuals usually have to take continuing education classes every other year to maintain certification in a given area.

Skills and Personal Qualities

Health inspectors need a certain set of skills and personal qualities to be successful in the career. Analytical, detail-oriented and highly observant people are best suited for the job of a health inspector. Strong communications skills, both oral and written, are also essential for this career. A serious commitment to public health and the well being of others is also very characteristic of health inspectors.

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