Become an Agricultural Quarantine Inspector: Career Guide

Agricultural quarantine inspectors require some formal education. Learn about the necessary education, career outlook statistics and job duties as well as the state and national requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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Agricultural quarantine inspectors work for the government and are responsible for assess risks to the environment and crops, such as when crops are imported to a new location and may bring different agricultural pests that could put a region at risk. There are educational and work experience requirements for this career. These professionals perform inspections of plants and educate the public.

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Essential Information

Agriculture quarantine inspectors are responsible for ascertaining and preventing dangers to crops and the environment. This may happen when live plant products are imported into a geographical region. Inspectors may work for either the national government or individual states, usually within the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) section of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Required Education A bachelor's degree in biological sciences, biology, entomology, agronomy or plant pathology
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* -1% (for Agricultural Inspectors)
Median Annual Salary (May 2015)* $43,380 (for Agricultural Inspectors)

Source: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Determine State and National Requirements

Agricultural quarantine inspectors are government employees who work to prevent the spread of agricultural pests to new geographical areas. They do so by examining and measuring plants as they cross boundaries such as state lines or national borders. State and national inspectors not only inspect agricultural products for sale, import or export; they also take part in educating the public about ways to protect the environment and the harms of introducing new biological species to an uninitiated environment. Those interested in this position should investigate specific regulations and job duties in their area; requirements vary from state to state in terms of education, certification, examination and experience.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

According to the National Plant Board (NPB), those who hope to become plant quarantine inspectors should have a 4-year degree in biological sciences or a related field, such as biology, plant pathology, agronomy, entomology or horticulture zoology. It might be important to note that while the NPB comprises department members of each state, it is a non-profit organization and does not have enforcement powers. Hiring practices are determined by a specific state or national agency.

Step 3: Gain Experience with Agricultural Pests

The NPB also suggests two years of relevant work experience as a minimum requirement for agricultural quarantine inspectors. Potential fields are plant pest prevention and management or quarantine inspection. On-the-job training, both before and after becoming an agricultural quarantine inspector, may be especially important. Continuing education may also assist inspectors in their work.

Step 4: Apply for a Position

As with many government jobs, the application process for agricultural quarantine inspectors may be lengthy and require civil service testing. At the state level, local laws and requirements may factor into the application process. At the national level, APHIS and USDA policies drive the decision-making process. In May 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the median annual salary for agricultural inspectors was $43,380. The BLS projected that employment of agricultural inspectors would see little to no change during the 2014-2024 decade.

Becoming an agricultural quarantine inspector involves earning a bachelor's degree in a relevant field, being aware of state and national requirements, gaining experience in a related field, and applying for a position, which could involve dealing with a lengthy process. Once working, these inspectors examine plants at locations such as state or national borders, and educate the public about how to protect the environment from the risk of foreign pests.

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