Food Safety Health Inspector Training and Education Program Options

Depending on an individual's prior education and experience, training to become a food safety health inspector may be obtained through a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree program in food science or food safety. Read on to explore the curricula of these program options, and get info about popular jobs and the employment outlook.

Essential Information

Students interested in becoming food safety health inspectors can enroll in a variety of degree programs in food science or food safety. Undergraduate programs could meet qualifications for entry-level positions in food inspection, though experience in the industry is often required for advancement. Graduate degree programs are designed for those interested in research or leadership roles. Applicants to any of these training options will need to meet education requirements for admission.

Bachelor of Science in Food Science

A 4-year bachelor's degree program in food science can prepare students for a number of careers in food service, research and safety. During the program, students typically complete an internship in a food processing, engineering or distribution setting. Admittance typically requires a high school diploma or GED and prerequisite coursework in algebra, science, chemistry and geometry.

Program Coursework

Often offered with the option to choose food safety as a concentration area, food science curricula combine the study of microbiology, chemistry, mathematics and biology with an emphasis on food testing, safety and preservation. Coursework examines the process of engineering food, processing food for mass consumption and adherance to food laws.

Chemistry courses introduce students to the biological basis of foods, and studies in food safety explore the growth of microorganisms in unsafe storage conditions. Topics in major coursework include:

  • Thermal processing
  • Food stability
  • Harvest technology
  • Milling processes
  • Food-borne pathogens

Popular Career Options

Graduates qualify for careers in a variety of settings, from food safety agencies to food processing plants. Popular career options include the following job titles:

  • Food safety inspector
  • Food service manager
  • Food processor
  • Food chemistry researcher
  • Food commodities broker

Continuing Education Information

Graduates might benefit from enrolling in a master's degree program in a related area, which could improve job outlook and salary expectations. Master's degree options include food science, agriculture, food safety and life sciences. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service sponsors training seminars and workshops that cover governmental regulations and innovative technologies for inspectors in the agricultural industry.

Master of Science in Food Safety

Students pursuing a 2-year Master of Science in Food Safety prepare for leadership positions in the highly diverse food industry. Schools typically offer non-thesis options for students interested in a more interdisciplinary approach that requires additional elective courses. Admission into the program requires a bachelor's degree in a related area of study, preferably in food science, microbiology or food safety.

Program Coursework

Food safety courses cover issues in professionalism, epidemiology, food legislation and protection. A master's curriculum introduces students to numerous topics in food safety, from safely harvesting and processing foods to the distribution of properly packaged foods in a temperature-controlled environment.

Food safety issues discussed include government regulations, food toxins and international food safety laws. Students conduct food safety research, complete a major graduate project and participate in a food safety practicum in a government or industry setting. The following topics might also be covered:

  • Bioethics
  • Biological contaminants
  • Viral pathogens
  • Color additives
  • Tamper resistance packaging

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), agricultural inspectors held over 13,000 jobs in the U.S. in 2012, with most positions existing in federal and state government agencies ( The BLS reported that jobs in this profession were expected to grow 1% between 2010 and 2020. The median annual salary of an agricultural inspector as of May 2012 was $42,160, per BLS data.

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Food Science

A Ph.D. program in food safety prepares students for careers in research, education and government. Doctoral programs require a substantial amount of academic research and writing, including a comprehensive research project or article suitable for publication and a doctoral dissertation. Admission requirements often include a bachelor's and master's degree in a related area and satisfactory scores on the Graduate Record Examination.

Program Coursework

Ph.D. candidates study food policies, risk management, consumer education and communications, along with coursework in food-borne illness and contaminants. Research projects provide students with the scientific knowledge needed to improve the quality, safety and distribution of food in the United States, as well the safe transportation of food exports. Other areas of study include disease epidemics and methods for stopping the distribution of contaminated foods. Some common course topics include:

  • Food quality control
  • Disease investigations
  • Chemical hazards
  • Food safety management
  • Risk reduction

Popular Career Options

Employment opportunities for doctoral graduates exist in a variety of areas, especially positions in research, academia and government. Potential job titles for graduates include:

  • Professor
  • Research and development director
  • Food microbiologist

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