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How to Become a Health Inspector

Majors Overview January 24, 2013

Health inspectors, also called occupational health and safety technicians, scrutinize the labor conditions and work environment of businesses in order to protect the environment, the employees and the public. They may be employed in private corporations or public institutions. The educational requirements differ from employer to employer; however, all health inspectors are required to have a good understanding of regulations and laws that apply to their work. While a degree is not a mandatory requirement, a bachelor degree or an associate degree or even a certificate will likely improve the career prospects of a health inspector. The degree program, if the prospective health inspector decides to pursue, it should be in the field of Occupational health and safety. While certification is not mandatory, many employers prefer certificate holders. Apart from knowledge of regulations and laws related to health and safety, good communication skills (written and oral), problem-solving skills and attention to detail are essential qualities in a health inspector. A prospective candidate should be able to operate complex testing equipment and basic computer equipment used in relation to the occupation. They must also have stamina. The following is a step-by-step guide that should be followed by students planning a career in this field.

Stage One: Acquiring College Education

Majority of health inspectors are likely to have undergone a combination of hands on training and class instruction. To get certified, inspectors will need to maintain an associate degree in safety; alternatively, they may have a bachelor degree in any area of concentration. Associate degree coursework should include safety management, environmental regulations and management principles alongside electives relating to general education such as the humanities, social science, science and math. There are some certificate programs, and these are usually abbreviated forms of associate programs and do not include the general education coursework. Although prospective health inspectors in a bachelor degree program are not required to major in a specified field, majoring in safety and occupational health would be beneficial to an aspiring inspector. Coursework would also include biology and chemistry taught comprehensively alongside health and safety related coursework such as safety management, environmental law and epidemiology. Participation in an internship would prove immensely beneficial; the National Security Agency (NSA) provides one in occupational health and safety that provides participants with hands on work experience and practical skills.

Stage Two: Gaining Work Experience

Health inspectors may receive employment in different sectors and be employed by a diverse range of employers including mining companies, consulting firms, hospitals, manufacturing firms and governments. Health inspectors’ work involves investigating workplace accidents, evaluating workplace safety programs and collecting samples for analysis.

Stage Three: Considering Certification

While certification is not mandatory, many employers seek certified inspectors (source: BLS). Occupational health and safety technicians can aspire for certification offered by the Council on Certification of Health, Environmental and Safety Technologists (CCHEST). To qualify for such certification, applicants need to maintain an associate degree in safety; alternatively, they may have to complete an accredited bachelor degree program in any concentration area. Additionally, candidates must have work experience in the safety field for at least nine hundred hours with a range of responsibilities included in their job profile.

Step 4: Continuing Education

Health inspectors can enroll into outreach training offered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA); these involve class-work spanning ten hours or thirty hours. Inspectors can gain knowledge of new techniques and skills while keeping abreast with the latest advancements in occupational health and safety.

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