Inspector with a man in hard helmets

How to Become a Public Health Inspector

Duties, Responsibilities, Schooling, Requirements, Certifications, Job Outlook, and Salary

Inspector with a man in hard helmets

The marketplace is full of career options that build on the knowledge and skills you acquired while earning your Medical Assistant diploma. In fact, not all of the available job opportunities are in the field of healthcare. One very challenging alternative career path available to you is that of a public health inspector. Becoming a public health inspector can provide you with a rewarding new career that enables you to take your education and skillsets to a higher level. As a public health inspector you’ll get to escape the office and work in the field, do your part to ensure the health and safety of the public at large, all while enjoying a steady source of income.

Continue reading this career guide for an in-depth look at the skills involved in being a public health inspector, along with the educational requirements, salary*, and job outlook for this critical position.

Not sure if becoming a public health inspector is for you? Click here to see the other careers featured on our list of top alternative jobs for medical assistants.

Public Health Inspector Definition

What is a Public Health Inspector?

Public health inspectors monitor public facilities and private businesses to ensure they comply with local and federal standards for health and safety. In addition, they are tasked with finding, identifying, and mapping out solutions for potentially hazardous conditions related to the preparation, storage, and handling practices of food, work environments, and public spaces.

Public Health Inspector: Job Description

What Does a Public Health Inspector Do?

Public health inspectors are government officials who monitor businesses and public facilities to make sure those businesses and public spaces comply with local, state, and federal health regulations. Hotels, food service establishments, tattoo and piercing studios, swimming facilities, housing, healthcare facilities, and more are all subject to regular inspection and follow-up.

Being a public health inspector is a demanding job. You will spend many hours driving to and from inspection sites where you’ll be expected to wear personal protective gear, helmets, respirators. On the job, you’ll  climb ladders, crawl into tight spaces, and operate detection devices in an effort to assess the public health and safety status of the location.

Public Health Inspector Duties

Some of the day-to-day responsibilities of public health inspectors include:

  • Traveling from location to location
  • Inspecting food handling, preparation, refrigeration, and storage spaces
  • Inspecting equipment and chemical storage areas for potential hazards
  • Inspecting equipment and sterilization techniques to protect against infection and blood-borne diseases
  • Creating plans to protect and improve public health
  • Educating the business owners about improving health and safety practices
  • Enforcing environmental and health laws and regulations

Where Do Public Health Inspectors Work?

Public health inspectors spend much of their time away from their own offices and are usually in the field inspecting a wide variety of locations. These locations can be dangerous and can require strenuous effort to complete the inspection. Such locations include:

  • Restaurants and food-service operations
  • Tattoo and piercing studios
  • Hospitals and surgical centers
  • Physician and dentist offices
  • Office buildings
  • Homes and apartment complexes
  • Manufacturing facilities

Hospital hallway

Public Health Inspector Schooling & Certification

How Long Does It Take to Become a Public Health Inspector?

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Public Health Inspector?

Medical assistants looking to expand their career opportunities will find that their education and experience make them well-positioned to become a public health inspector. Minimum educational requirements for public health inspectors call for an associate’s degree in natural sciences, health, or another related degree.

Many of the course credits you earned while becoming an MA may also be transferable, which gives you a helpful head start toward earning that degree. Though not required in all states or by all employers, you may need to pass a certification program to validate your knowledge of a state’s current health and safety regulations.

Why is Public Health Inspector a Great Alternative Career Path for Medical Assistants?

As mentioned earlier, the education you’ve already received to become an MA will give you a leg-up toward earning the associates or bachelor’s degree required to become a public health inspector. Additionally, your MA diploma sets you apart from other candidates for the position because it shows prospective employers that your desire to improve the health and well-being of others runs deep within you.

Public Health Inspector Salary

How Much Do Public Health Inspectors Make?

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not specifically track public health inspectors, they do monitor occupational health and safety specialists. According to the BLS, the average hourly wage for occupational health and safety specialists is about $37, with an average annual salary* of about $78,000. For those high-achievers in the 90th percentile of income, you can make as much as $54 per hour or an annual salary* of about $112,000 or more.

Highest Paying Industries for Public Health Inspectors

According to the BLS, these are the industries where you’re most likely to find the top-paying jobs for occupational health and safety specialists:

Industry Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
Scientific Research & Development $46.87 $97,490
Petroleum & Coal Products Manufacturing $46.82 $97,380
Oil & Gas $45.34 $94,300
Natural Gas Distribution $45.31 $94,250

Highest Paying States for Public Health Inspectors

According to the BLS, occupational health and safety specialists earn the highest average wages in the following states:

State Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
Rhode Island $46.13 $95,960
Washington, D.C. $45.87 $95,410
California $45.15 $93,900
Massachusetts $42.93 $89,290
Connecticut $41.63 $86,590

Highest Paying Cities for Public Health Inspectors

According to the BLS, occupational health and safety specialists earn the highest annual wages in the following cities:

City Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
San Francisco, CA $53.97 $112,250
Kennewick, WA $51.82 $107,790
Santa Rosa, CA $48.65 $101,190
San Jose, CA $47.52 $98,840
Santa Barbara, CA $46.90 $97,560
Bridgeport, CT $46.45 $96,630
Los Angeles, CA $45.13 $93,870
Boston, MA $44.94 $93,470
Sacramento, CA $44.68 $92,930
Oxnard, CA $44.37 $92,280

Public Health Inspector Job Outlook

What is the Job Outlook for Public Health Inspector?

The BLS does not report any specific data regarding the job outlook for public health inspectors. However, aligned with the data listed above, the BLS does report that the overall employment outlook for the closely related field of occupational health and safety specialist will grow 4% between 2019 and 2029. The need for public health inspectors is constant due to the perpetual need for industries and government to assure the public that the institutions they rely on will adhere to the laws and regulations that apply to them.

Smiling students in a classroom

Start Your Career by Earning Your Medical Assistant Diploma

If you’re seeking a rewarding career with enduring levels of demand that builds on your Medical Assistant diploma, all while challenging you to help ensure the public safety outside of the traditional healthcare workplace, then becoming a public health inspector could be a great career path for you.

If you’re ready to take the next step towards becoming a public health inspector, you can start by earning your Medical Assistant diploma in as little as 10 months at Eagle Gate College.

Click here to learn more about our Medical Assistant program.