Health inspectors are responsible for ensuring safety standards. There are multiple education pathways to prepare for a career in health inspection, including bachelor's degrees in environmental science, public health, or health services administration. The curriculum highlights areas including food sanitation, epidemiology, healthcare law, and environmental health. Students learn how to ensure safety standards are met in commercial, industrial, and public places. They also complete internships. For undergraduate degrees, applicants must have a 2.0-3.0 high school GPA and foundational coursework in languages, math, science, and humanities. For master's programs, acceptable scores on admissions tests are required. In addition to internships, thesis and graduation project are necessary for master's programs.
Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Health Science
A bachelor's degree program in environmental health science prepares students for employment in many roles, including health inspectors, that require a fundamental understanding of the relationship between the environment and human health. In addition a high school diploma, some programs require that applicants have completed several years of advanced math coursework, including algebra and geometry. Students learn about science and policy issues affecting air, water, waste, shelter, and food quality. They choose a specialization in the latter part of the program and augment their coursework with experience provided by field trips and internships.
Undergraduate environmental health science coursework includes general core courses combined with electives allowing the student to specialize in a particular area. Core courses include complex math and science courses, legal issues, epidemiology, and statistics. Those interested in pursuing a career in health inspection focus on these electives:
- Food sanitation
- Vector control
- Radiological health
- Hazardous materials
- Waste management
Bachelor's Degree in Health Services Administration
Bachelor's degree programs in health services administration focus on the organization and management of healthcare systems. Students learn the processes involved in healthcare delivery, including basic medical knowledge and financial aspects of healthcare facility management. Graduates are prepared for employment in roles, including public health inspectors.
Healthcare administration and finance courses are common in most programs. Common courses applicable to students hoping to gain employment as a health inspector include:
- Disease prevention
- Healthcare law and risk management
- Research methods
- Healthcare information systems
- Healthcare resource development
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Master of Public Health
Public health graduate degree programs also cover a broad range of disciplines affecting the human condition. A Master of Public Health (MPH) degree program prepares graduates for opportunities in employment settings, including health inspectors, health advocates, analysts, epidemiologists, researchers, administrators. and educators. Applicants may need to complete college-level courses in biology, algebra and statistics prior to admission.
MPH programs combine core courses with a broad array of electives. Some master's degree programs allow students to generalize in public health, while others require students to choose an area of concentration. Most programs incorporate a thesis, graduation project, or completion of an internship to satisfy degree requirements. Common core courses relevant to health inspection careers include:
- Biostatistics and epidemiology
- Cultural aspects of public health
- Ethical issues in public health
- Health science research design
- Environmental health issues
- Health education
Popular Career Options
Many health inspectors are employed by local, state or federal agencies; however, graduates with a bachelor's degree in environmental health science have several other career opportunities. Additional job options may include:
- Cruise ship environmental officer
- International aid agency consultant
- Hazardous materials specialist
- Safety officer
Graduates with a Master of Public Health have additional career choices, as well as the advancement potential associated with a graduate degree. Career options include:
- Health officer
- Industrial hygienist
- Health program analyst
- Public health consultant
- Health policy analyst
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expected a 4% increase in employment for occupational health and safety specialists from 2014 through 2024. These workers earned $70,210 as a median annual wage in 2015, according to the BLS.
Internships and Certification
Work experience is a critical component of most environmental health science degree programs. Most programs offer paid or unpaid internships with local, international or federal agencies. Participation in an internship may be voluntary and provides course credits or it may be a prerequisite for graduation.
There are also several job-specific certifications and licenses available for health inspectors, depending on where they work and why types of inspections they conduct. The National Environmental Health Association, the Board of Certified Safety Professionals and the American Board of Industrial Hygiene all offer certification programs relevant to health inspectors. Individuals planning to complete inspections relating to lead, asbestos or septic systems may need to complete a state licensure program.
Health inspector degree programs prepare students by providing coursework in topics ranging from sanitation to health services. Advanced degrees provide more training on management and will open up additional career opportunities.