Agricultural Field Inspectors
Agricultural field inspectors ensure that all agricultural products and practices comply with local, state and federal regulations. Job duties vary within each position, but tasks may include inspection, investigation, sampling and testing to assess compliance with government-regulated guidelines.
Although these professionals might work in climate-controlled laboratory settings, most work is likely done at on-site production and processing facilities, which could be noisy. Working on-site means the opportunity to travel to various facilities and possibly collect samples outside. Outside work might include working in all sorts of weather. Additionally, these inspectors could be exposed to diseased plants or animal by-products, although wearing safety gear can minimize these hazards.
While not all employers require industry-related experience, a bachelor's degree is generally the minimum educational level for this career. Each state's agricultural department sets its own standards for agricultural field inspector requirements.
|Degree Level||High school diploma; bachelor's degree may be preferred|
|Degree Field||Agricultural science, biology|
|Licensure||Requirements vary by state|
|Experience||Varies per job and state requirements; some employers provide on-the-job training|
|Key Skills||Quality control, problem-solving, critical thinking, decision-making, communication and reasoning skills, knowledge of word processing, graphics, presentation and spreadsheet software|
|Salary||$43,380 per year (Median salary from May 2015 for all agricultural inspectors)|
Sources: O NET Online, iSeek, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, State government Department of Agriculture job postings
Those interested in a career as an agricultural field inspector will need to have a high school diploma, and it is likely that employers will prefer a bachelor's degree. A degree for this line of work could be gained in the area of agricultural science or biology. In addition, licenses may be required. However, these requirements vary by state. The amount of experience an employer will be looking for in a field inspector will be different depending on the specific job and state requirements. Some employers provide on-the-job training.
Some key skills an employer will look for when filling a position like this include quality control, problem-solving, critical thinking, decision-making, communication, and reasoning skills. Individuals will also need knowledge of word processing, graphics, presentation, and spreadsheet software.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as of May 2015, the median annual salary for all agricultural inspectors was $43,380.
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Step 1: Complete a Degree Program
Not all states require candidates to hold a college degree, but some agriculture departments favor candidates with a bachelor's degree in agricultural sciences, biological science or a related field. Depending upon the chosen degree, coursework can cover soil science, animal science, agricultural business, plant physiology, greenhouse management and integrated pest management.
While working towards becoming an agricultural field inspector, it can be a good idea to:
- Complete an internship. Students who enroll in a postsecondary training program may want to consider completing an internship while in school. These programs provide students with the opportunity to learn more about the field of agriculture and acquire some relevant work experience that will be valuable when applying for permanent positions following graduation.
Step 2: Gain an Entry-Level Position
Job openings for agricultural field inspectors are regularly posted on state government websites. Not all positions require prior work experience, although eligibility guidelines vary depending on the job opening. Some employers may provide on-the-job training for qualified candidates.
Step 3: Obtain State Licensure
Some states require agricultural field inspectors to obtain licenses. For example, California requires agricultural field inspectors to hold licenses that reflect their ability to provide consistent inspections and demonstrate technical proficiency. A weighmaster's license may also be required of agricultural field inspectors. In some states, agricultural field inspectors may also receive licensure in the areas of measurement verification, pesticide regulation, pest prevention and plant regulation. Licensure can enhance career advancement and boost career opportunities.
Therefore, when considering a career as an agricultural field inspector, plan on earning the necessary state-required licenses and a bachelor's degree in an area like agricultural science, and be prepared to work in a loud processing facility or outdoors in various weather conditions in order to successfully evaluate and examine food processing methods that determine if food safety requirements have been met.