How to Become a Restaurant Inspector: Career Guide

Learn how to become a restaurant inspector. Research the job description and education requirements, and find out how to start a career in restaurant inspection.

View popular schools

Should I Become a Restaurant Inspector?

Environmental health specialists, or sanitarians, carry out inspections of restaurants, as well as a variety of other establishments, including schools, grocery stores, daycare centers, motels and boarding homes, for compliance with health and safety regulations.

These professionals usually work regular business hours, though weekend or evening work is possible. They can be exposed to food contaminants or waste during inspections, but wearing protective gear can protect them from illness or infection, if necessary. Restaurant inspectors also have to deal with the stress of deciding whether an eating establishment can continue to do business.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Clinical Nutrition
  • Dietetic Technician - DTR
  • Dietitian
  • Dietitian Assistant
  • Foodservice Systems Administration
  • Nutrition Sciences
  • Wellness Studies

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Occupational health, safety or a comparable discipline
Certification Certification is voluntary and recommended
Key Skills Communication, detail-oriented, problem-solving, knowledge of advanced testing equipment; knowledge of environmental health and safety regulations
Salary (2014) $69,210 (median for occupational health and safety specialists)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Earn a College Degree

Many states require that sanitarians hold a bachelor's degree in the sciences or environmental health. An environmental health degree program focuses on environmental laws and regulations, as well as risk assessment and industrial topics. Coursework often includes biology, chemistry, microbiology and toxicology. A degree in another area with 30 semester units in basic sciences is also commonly accepted. Aspirants are advised to check their individual state's requirements.

Success Tip:

  • Undertake an internship. Universities may offer environmental health majors opportunities to undertake an internship in the field, although it may not be related to restaurant inspection specifically. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also offers internship opportunities through its Collegiate Leaders in Environmental Health program, which allows students to participate in a summer project for which they may be able to receive academic credit. An internship may also count toward work experience requirements to earn registration, depending on the state.

Step 2: Check State-Required Work Experience Requirements

Aspiring environmental health specialists are encouraged to check their state's specific requirements for registration; sometimes, earning a specified degree allows applicants to bypass work requirements. However, related work experience on top of specified education requirements is mandatory in some states as a prerequisite to achieving full registered sanitarian status, although the stipulated amount may vary. Opportunities can be found with local, state or federal governmental health agencies or private industry.

Step 3: Obtain Official Registration Status

The National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) offers certification as a Registered Environmental Health Specialist/Registered Sanitarian (REHS/RS). This credential is obtained by passing an exam, which includes questions about food protection, hazardous materials, air quality, emergency planning, wastewater management and other environmental health issues. The REHS/RS is accepted credentialing for some states; others may have their own licensing and testing procedures.

Candidates with a bachelor's degree in an area other than environmental health need two years of work experience in the field in order to qualify for the REHS/RH exam. NEHA and some states also offer a sanitarian-in-training option to those applicants who meet education requirements but do not meet work experience requirements; this allows for preliminary credentialing while they gain the job experience necessary to obtain full registered sanitarian status.

Step 4: Continue Your Education

The environmental sciences are continuously expanding our understanding of what is healthy and what is unsafe for humans. In order to maintain the REHS/RS credential, a minimum of 24 hours of continuing education units must be completed every two years. NEHA offers online, video-based and in-person continuing education courses; other ways of earning continuing education credits include teaching classes, taking quizzes, publishing articles or writing book reviews on subjects related to environmental health. Individual states may have different continuing education requirements.

Next: View Schools

What is your highest level of education?

Some College
Complete your degree or find the graduate program that's right for you.
High School Diploma
Explore schools that offer bachelor and associate degrees.
Still in High School
Earn your diploma of GED. Plan your undergraduate education.

Schools you may like:

Popular Schools

The listings below may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users.

    • Master of Health Administration in Health Systems Management
    • Master of Science in Health Informatics

    What is your highest level of education?

    • MSHS in Health Care Quality
    • Graduate Certificate in Health Care Quality

    What is your highest level of education?

  • What is your highest level of education completed?

  • What is your highest level of education?

    • Master of Science in Nutrition Education
    • Master of Science in Healthcare Management

    What is your highest level of education?

    • Master of Arts in Nutrition and Wellness
    • Master of Science in Nutrition and Wellness
    • Nutrition Entrepreneur Certificate

    What is your highest level of education?

    • AS in Medical Assisting

    What is your highest level of education?

  • What is your highest level of education?

  • What is your highest level of education completed?

    • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
    • MBA: Health Systems Management
    • MS in Health Care Administration
    • Master of Public Administration - Health Care Management
    • BS in Health Sciences: Professional Development & Advanced Patient Care
    • Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science
    • BS in Health Care Administration

    What is your highest level of education?

Find your perfect school

What is your highest level of education?