Becoming a Restaurant Inspector: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a restaurant inspector? Get real job descriptions and salary info to see if restaurant inspector is the right career for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Restaurant Inspector

Restaurant inspectors ensure that eating establishments comply with government health regulations. Read on for some pros and cons of a career in restaurant inspection.

Pros of a Career as a Restaurant Inspector
Good pay (median annual wage for occupational health and safety specialists was about $69,000 as of May 2014)*
Job satisfaction from providing a vital public service*
On-the-job training typically provided*
Good benefits for government jobs**

Cons of a Career as a Restaurant Inspector
Workplace hazards (unsanitary conditions at inspections could pose health risks)*
A master's degree might be required for some positions*
High stress (restaurant inspectors can be put in tense circumstances)*
Slower-than-average job growth (7% projected for occupational health and safety specialists between 2012 and 2022)*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **New York Department of Health.

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Restaurant inspectors are classified as occupational health and safety specialists and are typically employed by local, state and federal governments to conduct on-site investigations of eating establishments. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), these inspectors determine whether companies are operating according to government health regulations, codes and safety standards ( Inspectors are required to inform businesses of proper regulations, training standards and violations. They also might be required to respond to complaints and health emergencies.

As a restaurant inspector, you'll need to utilize a variety of tools and equipment, such as cameras, tape recorders, ultraviolet lights and computers, to perform your work. Some of the more technical tasks you might undertake include evaluating new facility plans to check for code compliance, applying industry-standard principles to inspect high-risk food providers and helping to administer food recalls.

Job Prospects and Salary Info

The BLS projects that employment of all occupational health and safety specialists will increase by 7% between 2012 and 2022, which is slower than the average growth for all other occupations. As of May 2014, the median annual wage of all occupational health and safety specialists was about $69,000. Most of these workers are employed full-time, with some specialists working weekends and responding to emergencies, according to the BLS.

Career Paths and Specializations

Nearly all inspectors work for local, state or federal governments. Some municipalities may have inspector positions that require an array of duties along with restaurant inspection. This might include inspecting campgrounds, swimming pools and hotels.

Career Skills and Requirements

According to the BLS, you'll typically need a bachelor's degree to work as an occupational health and safety specialist. You might want to earn a degree in safety, occupational health, engineering, chemistry or a related field. Courses in public health, food science and environmental health also can be beneficial for an aspiring restaurant inspector. Along with a formal education, your employer will generally offer on-the-job training.

Useful Skills

You can augment your training and education by developing skills needed to work as a restaurant inspector. These include:

  • Strong communication skills
  • The ability to adhere to strict safety standards and regulations
  • Physical stamina to walk and travel for long periods of time
  • The ability to operate advanced technology, including complex inspection equipment, computers and cameras
  • Strong problem-solving skills to address unsafe conditions found during inspections

Job Postings from Real Employers

A May 2012 search for restaurant inspector jobs yielded a variety of positions. The majority of employers required candidates to have a bachelor's degree and a state driver's license. The following is a sampling of job openings for restaurant inspectors during this period:

  • A Los Angeles government agency advertised for an environmental health specialist with at least a bachelor's degree in a field of study that included courses in physics, chemistry, microbiology and related disciplines. Applicants also needed a Class C driver's license. This professional would inspect food establishments, including restaurants, on a periodic basis, in addition to investigating complaints of insect and/or rodent infestation.
  • A New York government agency advertised for a food inspector trainee with at least 18 college credit hours in microbiology, food quality control, epidemiology and related fields and professional experience in food product quality control.
  • An Arizona government agency advertised for an environmental health specialist with at least a bachelor's degree that included 30 credit hours in the natural sciences. The employer preferred candidates with at least one year of experience in environmental or public health. This employee might inspect restaurants or monitor hazardous, sewage and solid waste disposal, water quality or waste water management.

How to Stand Out

Join a Professional Organization

An effective way to stand out as a restaurant inspector is to join a professional organization, such as the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA). These organizations can provide you with a range of continuing education options, such as in-person training, preparation for certification, educational conferences and training sessions. You also can gain access to industry-specific job boards, resume writing assistance, employment advice and networking opportunities.

Get Certified

The Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) offers a range of certifications for inspectors. For example, you might consider acquiring the Safety Trained Supervisor (STS) designation, which is designed for individuals who work or aspire to work in supervisory and management positions. Education and training requirements vary by certification (

Advance Your Education

The BLS reports that a master's degree is needed for some occupational health and safety specialist positions. Degree options include health physics, industrial hygiene or a similar field.

Other Careers to Consider

If you feel that a career as a restaurant inspector isn't for you, but you still desire to work in a profession with similar functions, consider becoming a food inspector for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Like restaurant inspectors, USDA food inspectors ensure that food providers are compliant with federal codes and regulations. However, food inspectors evaluate food that comes from industrial providers. They also evaluate processing methods and facilities, such as commercial meat processing plants and ports.

Another position that focuses on public safety is fire inspector. Fire inspectors ensure that facilities comply with local, state and federal regulations regarding fire safety. They test for a variety of factors that could contribute to fire hazards, such as the functionality of alarm systems and the presence of fire extinguishers. This position requires experience working in a fire or police department, which includes completion of a training academy.

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