Public health inspector with a tablet

How to Become a Public Health Inspector

Responsibilities, Requirements, Certifications, Job Outlook, and Salary

Public health inspector with a tablet

The marketplace is full of career options that build on your knowledge and skills while earning your Medical Assistant diploma. Not all the available job opportunities are in the healthcare field. One very challenging alternative career path is that of a Public Health Inspector. Becoming a Public Health Inspector can provide 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 work in the field and 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.

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 ensure those businesses and public spaces comply with local, state, and federal health regulations. For example, 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 wear personal protective gear like helmets and respirators. On the job, you’ll climb ladders, crawl into tight spaces, and operate detection devices to assess the location’s public health and safety status.

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 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 offices and usually inspect various locations in the field. These locations can be dangerous and require strenuous effort to complete the inspection. Such locations include:

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

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?

Textbooks next to a stethoscope

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. Educational requirements for Public Health Inspectors call for an associate 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 associate 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 your desire to improve the health and well-being of others.

Public Health Inspector Salary

How Much Do Public Health Inspectors Make?

While the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not specifically track Public Health Inspectors, they monitor Occupational Health and Safety Specialists. According to the BLS, the average hourly wage for occupational health and safety specialists is about $38, with an average annual salary* of about $79,000. For those in the 90th percentile of income, you can make as much as $57 per hour or a yearly salary* of about $118,000 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
Pipeline transportation of crude oil $59.91 $124,620
Computer systems design and related services $52.41 $109,020
Oil and gas extraction $52.32 $108,820
Petroleum and coal products manufacturing $50.18 $104,370
Natural gas distribution $49.87 $103,720

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
District of Columbia $45.32 $94,260
Washington $45.08 $93,770
Rhode Island $44.26 $92,060
Colorado $44.21 $91,950
Alaska $43.95 $91,420

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
Kennewick, WA $53.82 $111,950
San Jose, CA $52.04 $108,240
San Francisco, CA $51.93 $108,020
Vallejo, CA $47.69 $99,200
Seattle, WA $46.52 $96,760
Denver, CO $46.42 $96,560
Santa Maria, CA $45.82 $95,300
Anchorage, AK $45.30 $94,220
Santa Rosa, CA $44.89 $93,380
Boston, MA $44.84 $93,270

Woman wearing a hard hat

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 reports that the overall employment outlook for the closely related field of Occupational Health and Safety Specialist will grow by 7% between 2020 and 2030. The need for Public Health Inspectors is constant because assuring the public that the institutions they rely on follow safety guidelines is a continuous process.

Start Your Career by Earning Your Medical Assistant Diploma

If you’re seeking a rewarding career that builds on your Medical Assistant diploma while helping ensure public safety outside the traditional healthcare workplace, 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 earning your Medical Assistant diploma in as little as ten months at Eagle Gate College. Learn about our Medical Assistant program.