Should I Become a Health Inspector?
Health inspectors, or occupational health and safety technicians, scrutinize the work environment and labor conditions of businesses to ensure the protection of the public, employees, and environment. They may work for public institutions or private corporations. Day-to-day duties include the collection of samples for analysis; visual inspection of equipment, workspaces, and public areas within a building; and compiling of their findings and recommendations.
Inspectors may have to deal with difficult sites and may meet resistance or a lack of cooperation to their inspections. They must use precautions, such as clothing and gear, to keep themselves safe from injury and illness on an inspection. Most work full-time and spend their time in the field as well as in an office setting. Some weekend or evening hours may be required, as well as minimal travel. The educational requirements for this occupation may vary by employer.
|Degree Level||A degree is not always required; certificate, associate's or bachelor's degree may expand job opportunities|
|Degree Field||Occupational health and safety|
|Licensure and Certification||Certification is not required, but is often encouraged|
|Key Skills||Strong verbal and written communication skills; attention to detail; problem-solving skills and stamina; knowledge of laws and regulations related to health and safety; ability to operate basic computer equipment and complex testing equipment related to the job|
|Median Salary (May 2015)||$70,210 per year (for occupational and safety specialists)|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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How to Become a Health Inspector
Now that we know what health inspectors do, let's talk about the steps you'd need to follow to become one:
Step 1: Acquire College Education
According to the BLS, most health inspectors, regardless of specialty, have a combination of formal education and on-the-job training. Inspectors planning on becoming certified may be required to possess at least an associate's degree in safety or a bachelor's degree in any field.
Students in associate's degree programs may be required to take courses in management principals, environmental regulations, and safety management, in addition to general education electives in areas such as math, science, social science, and the humanities. Certificate programs exist and are typically shorter versions of the associate's degree programs and without the general education requirements.
Although aspiring inspectors in bachelor's degree programs may not be required to major in a specific field, they may benefit from a curriculum that trains them in principles and concepts applicable to occupational health and safety. Students in occupational health and safety programs at the bachelor's degree level may be required to take a comprehensive set of chemistry and biology courses, in addition to health and safety-related courses, such as epidemiology, environmental law, and safety management.
A sucess tip is to participate in an internship. Aspiring health inspectors can benefit from participating in an occupational health and safety internship program, such as the one offered by the National Security Agency (NSA). An internship can provide students with hands-on experience working in the field as well as the ability to learn new skills outside of a classroom environment.
Step 2: Gain Work Experience
Health inspectors may be employed in a variety of sectors and for a diverse array of employers, including governments, manufacturing firms, hospitals, consulting firms, and mining companies. Health inspectors may inspect and evaluate workplace environments, collect samples for analysis, evaluate workplace safety programs, and investigate accidents in workplaces.
Step 3: Consider Certification
Although certification is not required, the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that many employers prefer their workers pursue it. The Council on Certification of Health, Environmental, and Safety Technologists (CCHEST) offers certification for occupational health and safety technicians. The CCHEST requires candidates to hold at least an associate's degree in safety or a bachelor's degree in any major from an accredited institution. In addition, candidates must already be employed in safety for a minimum of 900 hours a year and must be responsible for an array of duties in their positions.
Step 4: Continuing Education
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers outreach training to health inspectors in the form of 10-hour and 30-hour classes. These continuing education classes can help health inspectors learn new skills and techniques while staying current with laws and advances in occupational health and safety. Continuing education shows dedication to the field and may help aspiring health inspectors obtain advancement and promotion.
While health inspectors are not required to have a degree or certification, having one or both increases your chances of getting a job. And no matter what, you must know all the rules and regulations for your chosen field.