how to become an health inspector

How To Become a Successful Restaurant Health Inspector

If you’re studying public health and would like to work in a restaurant setting, consider pursuing a role as a restaurant health inspector. These professionals regularly visit different establishments to evaluate the cleanliness of a restaurant to ensure they meet the state and federal health codes. You must receive the necessary education, license and experience to excel in this role. In this article, we review what a restaurant health inspector is, what they do, the skills they hold, the salary they earn and how to become a restaurant health inspector.

What is a restaurant health inspector?

A restaurant health inspector is a public health professional who visits restaurants and other food production establishments to ensure the ingredients and food the business serves meet all the established sanitation and safety rules. Many restaurant health inspectors visit these establishments to visually inspect the area. Others may also sample certain food to ensure they meet the necessary health and safety guidelines.

What does a restaurant health inspector do?

A restaurant health inspector works for the health department and visits various eateries and food establishments to ensure all meals, ingredients, surfaces, kitchen tools and dining areas meet state and federal safety and sanitation requirements. They may review a restaurant during hours and order different foods to ensure all employees follow correct food handling guidelines and to ensure employees cook all meals at safe temperatures. Other job duties of a restaurant health inspector include:

  • Staying updated on state and federal food and restaurant guidelines
  • Assessing different areas of the restaurant to locate any insects or rodents that could jeopardize the restaurants’ sanitation status
  • Checking food storage areas to ensure chefs and restaurant managers keep ingredients in safe and sanitary conditions
  • Making sure all kitchen equipment, tools and materials receive proper cleaning and sanitation services
  • Evaluating employees’ hygiene when handling food
  • Tasting meals to ensure they’re cooked correctly and at safe temperatures
  • Conducing impromptu inspections in restaurants and writing reports on the restaurant’s health and maintenance
  • Assigning a score or grade for the establishment’s overall cleanliness and safety
  • Issuing citations and suspending operations if restaurant owners fail to meet safety standards

Restaurant health inspector skills

To excel as a restaurant health inspector, you must use your advanced knowledge of proper food and safety guidelines to ensure restaurant owners, managers and employees follow them correctly. You must also use great communication and interpersonal abilities to make sure these employees and managers clearly understand any rules they’ve violated and the measures they must put in place to ensure the establishment is up to code.

Common skills health inspectors should have include:

  • Verbal and written communication abilities
  • Attention to detail
  • Report-writing
  • Listening and interpersonal skills
  • Organization and time-management abilities
  • Ability to stay calm in high-pressure situations
  • Professionalism and responsibility

Restaurant health inspector salary and job outlook

The median pay for a restaurant health inspector and other occupational health and safety specialists is $70,480 per year, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). It also projects the job demand for this role to grow 4% over the next decade, which is about as fast as the average for all job titles.

As the economy continues to grow, more businesses, including restaurants, may open up, increasing the need for more restaurant health inspectors to visit these establishments and ensure they’re safe for the community to dine in.

How to become a restaurant health inspector

Restaurant health inspectors must have advanced knowledge of proper health and safety measures, which they learn through their degree programs, hands-on experience and certification programs. Follow these steps to become a successful restaurant health inspector:

1. Earn your bachelor’s degree

Most employers require candidates to earn at least a bachelor’s degree in environmental health, public health, public health nutrition, physical science or another closely related subject. These programs typically teach topics like environmental toxicology, nutrition and biology, microbiology and organic chemistry. After taking these courses, you can better understand public safety codes and regulations, along with essential food safety guidelines.

2. Receive your license or certification

Some states require restaurant health inspectors to earn their license or receive a certification in this field. Research your state’s guidelines to determine if yours requires you to earn these credentials. Even if your state doesn’t have a requirement, it can still be beneficial to earn one and list it on your resume to stand out to hiring managers.

Your city or state health department should offer this program in subjects like code enforcement, public health, food service and protection and sanitation. These programs may require you to take a few courses on the respective subject matters and pass a written exam on these materials.

3. Pursue an internship

A great way to stand out from other candidates and to receive valuable, hands-on training is to pursue an internship. Many public health programs work alongside government entities or private health organizations to offer internships for college credit. This gives you an opportunity to work in a public health environment to better understand how the role and industry operates to help you decide if this is a career you want to pursue full time.

4. Get hands-on full-time experience

After earning the necessary education and certifications, apply to roles to receive hands-on experience and training. On the job, you work with your trainer to complete basic duties like inspecting different establishments, collecting food or water samples, reviewing floor plans to ensure they’re compliant with legal codes and recommending changes to help owners better meet food and safety requirements. Once you’ve spent a significant amount of time training, you can complete these tasks independently.

5. Continue your education

Once you work for several years in a full-time restaurant health inspector position, you can continue your education by earning a graduate’s degree in public health. These programs can qualify you to complete more complex roles and advance higher in the role. Courses you may take in these programs include food laws, microbiology of food, risk assessment for food and food biotechnology.

Jobs similar to a restaurant health inspector

If you’re interested in a career as a restaurant health inspector, the following 10 jobs may provide similar opportunities:

1. Health policy analyst

2. Safety inspector

3. Utility inspector

4. Public health inspector

5. Compliance officer

6. Safety engineer

7. Health manager

8. Quality assurance specialist

9. Fire inspector

10. Public health nurse

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