Public Health Inspector Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a public health inspection career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a public health inspector is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Public Health Inspection Career

A public health inspector, also referred to as an occupational health and safety specialist, evaluates a workplace to identify and address potentially harmful hazards (e.g. chemical and bacterial contamination) to workers or the general public. Check out the pros and cons to help you decide if this might be a career that fits you.

Pros of Becoming a Public Health Inspector
Good earning potential (median salary was about $69,210 in 2014)*
Work is available nationwide (small towns and large cities both need health inspectors)*
Variety of employers need health inspectors (governments, mines, factories)*
Opportunity to keep people safe and prevent injuries through your work**

Cons of Being a Public Health Inspector
Employment growth was predicted to be slower than the national average (projected 4% increase in employment from 2014-2024)*
Possible exposure to dangerous substances and materials*
You may occasionally be required to work weekends or irregular hours*
High pressure to pay close attention to detail and make sure proper safety assessments are made**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*NET Online.

Career Information

Job Description

Public health inspectors assess workplace settings, equipment, protocols and other components or activities to determine what could lead to injuries and illnesses. Based on your findings, you may develop programs and other initiatives to prevent, eliminate and reduce risks. You may also evaluate workplaces to verify adherence to government regulations on health and safety. If an accident happens, you'd be responsible for looking into what caused it, and then you'd figure out what could be done to avoid a repeat scenario. Some health inspectors may lead training programs that show proper equipment operation methods and give safety instructions to employees.

Salary Info and Career Outlook

According to the BLS, the median salary for occupational health and safety specialists was approximately $69,210 in 2014. The top 10% of these professionals earned more than $101,000 in 2014.

It is important to note that the job growth for occupational health and safety technicians was expected to increase by 4% between 2014 and 2024, which was slower than the average for all occupations. However, as new environmental regulations are created, more specialists will be needed to enforce those policies. The BLS predicted that specialists will be needed to regulate nuclear energy plants as more locations adopt this type of energy production.

What Are the Career Requirements?

The BLS reported that entry-level public health inspectors usually need to complete a bachelor's degree program. Some of the common programs that can benefit public health inspectors include occupational health, public safety, chemistry and engineering.

What Employers Are Looking For

In addition to a formal education, employers tend to look for candidates with work experience in a specific environment. Some employers may prefer applicants who have a certification or who are willing to get a certification. Here are some examples of real job postings from April and May 2012:

  • A health management company in New York wants to hire an ergonomist who has at least a bachelor's degree, 3 years of ergonomic assessment experience and certification eligibility. A candidate with a graduate degree, five years of experience and an existing professional certification is preferred.
  • A corporation that provides engineering, construction and technical services is looking for an industrial hygienist to work in Utah. Candidates must have bachelor's degree with 4 years of experience, a master's degree with at least 2 years of experience, a high school diploma with at least 14 years of professional training and work experience, or a Ph.D. in Occupational Safety. Applicants who have earned the Certified Industrial Hygienist designation are preferred.
  • A healthcare alliance in Massachusetts would like to hire public health inspectors at multiple locations throughout the county. Applicants with a bachelor's degree and 5 years of experience were preferred; no specific requirements were listed.
  • A county department in Ohio advertised for an inspector and safety trainer who would focus on creating and implementing safety training and accident prevention programs. Candidates should have knowledge of state and federal safety policies and have strong communication skills. Applicants need to have a bachelor's degree and at least 3 years of experience.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Professional certification is one way that can help you get an edge over other applicants. The Board of Certified Safety Professionals offers several designations that could give your job search a boost, such as the Certified Safety Professional, the Associate Safety Professional and the Occupational Health Technologist certifications. Requirements vary between organizations, but most certifications can be earned by meeting the eligibility prerequisites and passing an exam. Some designations may only require you to have a high school diploma to go along with your experience, while others may only be available to you if you have a bachelor's degree. The American Society of Safety Engineers also offers certification workshops and training seminars that could give your job search a boost.

Alternative Career Paths

Occupational Health and Safety Technician

If you would like to work in public health and safety, but the amount of education and training required to become a public health inspector makes you hesitant to pursue that career, then you may want to consider becoming an occupational health and safety technician. You would assist public health inspectors and similar professionals with various responsibilities, such as collecting samples, safety training and investigating incidents. The BLS reported that occupational health and safety technicians usually receive on-the-job training or complete an associate's degree program.

Although education requirements are lower for occupational health and safety technicians, the pay generally is lower as well. The BLS reported that these professionals earned a median annual income of approximately $46,000 in 2011. However, job prospects for technicians were expected to be slightly better than specialists; the BLS predicted that occupational health and safety technicians would see job growth of 13% from 2010-2020.

Building Inspector

If you're interested in an inspection career, but public health inspection isn't the best fit for you, consider becoming a building inspector. Building inspectors make sure safety initiatives are followed at construction locations. While a high school diploma or GED is usually adequate, some employers may require an associate's degree. It is important to note that, although education requirements are not as high as public health inspectors, you may have to obtain certification or licensure in the state you wish to work. Licensing requirements vary between states, so you'll want to see what is expected of you in the states you're thinking about working in.

In 2011, the BLS found that construction and building inspectors earned a median salary of about $53,000. According to the BLS, job opportunities for building and construction inspectors were projected to grow by 18% during the decade of 2010-2020.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. George Mason University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Health Administration in Health Systems Management
      • Master of Science in Health Informatics
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Public Health
      • M.S. in Health Education
      • Master of Healthcare Admin
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Health Science
      • Bachelor: Health and Wellness
      • Bachelor: Nutrition Science
      • Bachelor: Healthcare Admin
    Associate's
      • AAS in Public Safety and Security
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Project Management and Public Safety Leadership
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting and Public Safety Leadership
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Business Management and Public Safety Leadership
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Project Management
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Johns Hopkins University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Regulatory Science
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration
      • MS - Healthcare Admin and Management
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Healthcare Admin and Management
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.A. - Health Services Admin
    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts - Health Services Admin
      • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Purdue University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Public Health
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Health Administration
      • MS in Health Administration - Informatics
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership
    Master's
      • MS - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Science in Management - Healthcare Management
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Business Administration - Health Care Management
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Penn Foster Career School

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Career Diploma - Guest Service Agent

Featured Schools

George Mason University

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

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • Master of Public Health
  • Bachelor: Health Science
  • AAS in Public Safety and Security

Which subject are you interested in?

Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Project Management and Public Safety Leadership
  • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting and Public Safety Leadership
  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership

What is your highest level of education?

Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Science in Regulatory Science

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado State University Global

  • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration
  • MS - Healthcare Admin and Management
  • BS - Healthcare Admin and Management

What is your highest level of education?

Keiser University

  • B.A. - Health Services Admin
  • Associate of Arts - Health Services Admin
  • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant

What is your highest level of education?

Purdue University

  • Master of Public Health

What is your highest level of education?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Health Administration
  • MS in Health Administration - Informatics

What is your highest level of education completed?