Becoming a USDA inspector can be an excellent career choice in the agribusiness field. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the employment outlook for occupations in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting is expected to decline from 2012 to 2022. This decline is due to improvements in technology and mechanization; this means many agricultural positions will disappear within the forecast period. However, there are still some opportunities for employment in agriculture, such as becoming a USDA inspector.
These crops are the most delicious, nutrient-packed snacks in the world, but they need to be handled and shipped carefully. US Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors control the conditions of plants and animals that come into the US from other countries.
To qualify to be able to work in the field of inspection and grading, you must meet certain requirements by the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA). These include having a high school diploma or its equivalent as well as being able to read, write, speak, and understand English. You must also be at least 18 years old.
How To Become A Usda Inspector
One career path for a food inspector is to the consumer safety inspector position. Consumer safety inspectors work in one or more privately owned meat, poultry and egg processing plants. They ensure the plant is operating within its written plans for HACCP, sanitation, and processing.
In addition, they conduct regulatory oversight activities inside the plants in matters relating to other areas of consumer protection, e.g., misbranding.
Another career path for a food inspector is to the import inspector position. Import inspectors are stationed at ports and other points of entry to the United States. They make sure that products imported from other countries are as safe as those produced domestically.
Inspectors comprise the largest category of employees in the agency, with over 6,500 nationwide. To qualify for an entry-level Food Inspector position, you must pass a written test and have either completed a 4-year course of study leading to a bachelor’s degree (with at least 12 semester hours in the biological, physical, mathematical, or agricultural sciences) or 1 year of job-related experience (in the food industry). This experience must demonstrate knowledge of sanitation practices and control measures used in the commercial handling and preparation of food products for human consumption. Qualifying experience should also demonstrate skill in applying, interpreting and explaining standards in a food product environment.
Requirements apply to in-plant:
Public Health Veterinarian
Consumer Safety Inspector
Veterinary Medical Officers, Food Inspectors and Consumer Safety Inspectors are involved in ante-mortem inspection of livestock or poultry, post-mortem inspection of red meat or poultry, and other aspects of inspection of red meat, egg and poultry products used for human consumption. This inspection activity is performed in a noisy industrial environment with large moving machinery that cannot be stopped instantly. Workstations and walkways can be extremely narrow and slippery. Excellent stability and balance are required. Frequent physical activities such as walking, climbing, standing, and kneeling are required, including climbing and walking on catwalks. Common environmental conditions include sub-freezing temperatures and frequent summertime temperatures at 80 to 90 degrees with extreme humidity.
Inspection activity requires rapid, constant repetitive motion with both hands and wrists. Red meat viscera inspection requires the palpation of organs and slicing with extremely sharp knives. Accurate color vision is essential to notice subtle shades of product color in the detection of abnormalities that make a product unfit for human consumption. A normal sense of smell is needed to detect odors.
Failure to fully meet a functional requirement is not automatically disqualifying. Please contact the hiring agency/employing agency directly if you wish to request reasonable accommodation in connection with the functional requirements, environmental factors or other general position requirements. FSIS responds to reasonable accommodation requests based on the facts of each case, conducting an individualized assessment to evaluate each request on its own merits.
Online Application Process
FSIS has more than 2,000 Food Inspectors working in commercial food plants nationwide. Inspectors provide the first line of defense against adulterated meat and poultry products. They are responsible for much of the day-to-day inspection of animals before and after slaughter.
STEP 1: Carefully review the job announcement
STEP 2: Select a position and click Apply
STEP 3: Submit a resume
STEP 4: Upload documents
STEP 5: Complete the Online Application and Assessment Questionnaire
Recruitment and Retention Incentives
FSIS recognizes the vital role our mission critical Food Inspectors perform while serving on the front lines of our workforce to accomplish our Food Safety mission. We are pleased to offer a recruitment incentive of $5,000 to newly hired permanent employees who sign a two-year service agreement. As of December 5, 2021, this incentive will be offered to a combined total of 500 newly hired Food Inspectors and Consumer Safety Inspectors in all locations nationwide.
How will this work? The incentive is paid out within approximately two pay periods of entrance on duty with a signed two-year service agreement. This payment is subject to tax withholding.
Creditable Service for Annual Leave Accrual
New hire Food Inspectors may be able to earn extra vacation time. FSIS is offering Creditable Service for Annual Leave Accrual as a recruitment and retention incentive that allows newly-hired Food Inspectors to potentially receive credit toward their annual leave (vacation) accrual for directly-related work experience performed either outside the federal government or during active duty in a uniformed service. Newly hired applicants will have their resume evaluated prior to entrance on duty to determine if they meet the requirements for creditable service for annual leave accrual. If their prior work experience meets the requirements, they may be eligible to earn vacation leave at a rate of 6 or 10 hours per pay period rather than the standard 4 hours per pay period for newly hired employees. CSALA must be granted prior to entrance on duty.
- NOTE: Recruitment and retention flexibilities and incentives are offered based on agency staffing needs and budgetary availability. Approved incentives change from time to time and the incentives cited above are the most current offerings. Incentives are subject to tax withholding.