A Guide to Health Inspector Salaries, Skills, Jobs, and Career Outlook

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Considering a career as a health inspector and wonder what you may earn? Read on for an overview of health inspector salary, skills, jobs, and career outlook.

[Featured image] A health inspector in a white jacket stands in front of two workers and a red brick wall.

Health inspector is an umbrella term for various roles, from food inspector to hygiene specialist, each with slightly different career paths and varying average salaries. As a health inspector, you'll play an essential role in protecting the health and well-being of the public. You'll monitor and inspect different settings and ensure they comply with health codes and regulations. 

So, how much do health inspectors earn? According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for occupational health and safety specialists is $74,870, above the national salary average. The BLS predicts employment in this industry will increase by 57 percent from 2020 to 2030, which is also above the national average [1].

What exactly is a health inspector?

A health inspector ensures commercial establishments and the wider public sphere meet public health standards. You’ll notice the category of health inspector can encompass many different job roles. These include:

  • Environmental health specialist

  • Food safety inspector

  • Industrial hygienist

  • Occupational health and safety specialist

  • Sanitarian 

Many health inspectors inspect the premises of companies that provide food and beverage services to the public. Health inspectors may also investigate complaints from the public about suspected health code violations. 

Read more: What Is a Health Inspector and How to Become One

How much does a health inspector earn?

As a health inspector, you can expect to earn a decent salary. However, salaries can vary depending on experience and education level. Health inspectors with more experience and higher education levels can earn up to $180,000 annually [2].

Factors affecting salary

Several factors affect a health inspector's salary, including experience level, industry, geographic location, workplace, and qualifications. 

  • Experience: Health inspectors with more experience tend to earn higher salaries than those with less experience.

  • Industry: The industry in which a health inspector works also affects their salary, with inspectors working in the health care industry generally earning more than those working in other sectors.

  • Geographic location: Geographic location is another crucial factor, with health inspectors in metropolitan areas such as San Francisco and Los Angeles typically earning more than those in rural areas.

  • Workplace: The type of workplace also impacts salary, with inspectors working for government and private sector agencies often earning more than those working for state governments.

  • Qualifications: Health inspectors with higher qualifications (e.g., a degree in public health) tend to earn higher salaries than those with less education.

Common health inspector job titles (With salaries)

As you look through job websites, you’ll discover different health inspector earnings and job titles because the duties of a health inspector vary depending on the job role. 

For example, a sanitarian, or sanitary inspector, may earn a slightly higher salary than a food safety inspector. A sanitary inspector inspects businesses for cleanliness and compliance with local sanitation ordinances. In contrast, a food safety inspector ensures food establishments follow safe food handling practices.

These jobs all have different duties, but they all work to protect the health and safety of the public or workers in various industries. Here are some jobs related to health inspector roles with their average annual earnings. 

  • Environmental health specialist: $55,525 [3]

  • Industrial hygienist: $97,679 [4]

  • Sanitarian: $50,048 [5]

  • Food safety inspector: $41, 173 [6]

  • Occupational health and safety specialist: $81,215 [7]

What are the typical job responsibilities of a health inspector?

As a health inspector, you’ll ensure public facilities, commercial settings, and environments meet health and safety standards. You’ll do different daily tasks in each role, such as the following:

  • Inspect restaurants and other food service establishments to ensure they comply with health codes and regulations.

  • Conduct regular inspections of food service establishments and investigate complaints about specific businesses.

  • Look for evidence of foodborne illness, unsanitary conditions, and other potential health hazards.

  • Issue citations or fines or even close an establishment if it poses an imminent threat to public health.

  • Produce reports and make expert testimonies in court.

  • Inspect restaurants, hotels, schools, and other public places to ensure they are clean, free of hazards, and comply with health codes and regulations.

  • Investigate accidents and incidents to determine their cause and make recommendations to prevent future incidents.

  • Develop and implement health and safety education programs.

Where does a health inspector typically work?

As a health inspector, you’ll typically work for a federal, state, or local government health agency. You might also find employment in a hospital, school, manufacturing firm, mining company, or private consulting firm.  

The job is usually full-time, with occasional evening or weekend work hours. You’ll typically work in an office setting but also spend time on the field, inspecting schools, businesses, food service facilities, care facilities, offices, jails, or factories.

What degree should I get to become a health inspector?

Many employers prefer that you have a degree in public health, environmental science, or a related field is recommended when recruiting health inspectors. To become a health inspector, you’ll typically need at least an associate degree in a health, natural sciences, or related field. Some jobs require a bachelor’s degree. 

Do I need a degree to become a health inspector?

You don’t need a specific health inspector college degree to become a health inspector. However, many employers prefer candidates with a degree in public health, environmental science, or a related field.

Associate degree or bachelor’s degree?

An associate or bachelor’s degree is recommended for those interested in becoming a health inspector. Many employers prefer candidates with at least an associate degree, but some jobs may require a bachelor’s degree.

Read more: What Is a Bachelor’s Degree? Requirements, Costs, and More

Other Helpful Courses

Other courses that may be helpful include food safety, sanitation, and biology. These courses can help you better understand the role of a health inspector and the job responsibilities. 


College majors typical for health inspectors.

Many health inspectors have a natural science, environmental science, or public health degree. They use their knowledge to protect the public from health hazards.

Should I get a master’s degree?

If you want to fast-track your health inspector career, you may wonder if a master's degree is necessary. The answer depends on the specific role you're interested in and the organization's requirements where you'd like to work. In some cases, a master's degree may be preferred or required, while in others, it may not be necessary. Ultimately, it's up to you to decide whether pursuing a master's degree is right for you.

Read more: The Master of Science (MS) Degree: A Guide

What do I do after getting my degree?

After getting your degree, you’ll need to continue learning and developing. You'll need to do on-the-job training to learn the ropes and gain experience in the field. You might also consider getting certified by a professional organization such as the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA). This can give you an edge over other candidates when applying for jobs. Some states require health inspectors to be licensed or certified.

Here are some certifications that can boost your resume for a health inspector role are: 

  • Certified Process Safety Auditor (CPSA)

  • Certified in Public Health (CPH)

  • Certified Professional Environmental Auditor (CPEA)

  • Certified in Food Safety Supplier Audits (CFSSA)

  • Certified Professional of Food Safety (CP-FS)

  • Certified in Comprehensive Food Safety (CCFS)

  • Registered Environmental Health Specialist/Registered Sanitarian (REHS/RS)

Competencies you need to become a health inspector.

You'll need to develop specific competencies to become a health inspector. First and foremost, you'll need strong observation skills and attention to detail. Health inspectors need to be able to pick up on even the most minor details to ensure establishments are meeting all health and safety standards. Also, you must think critically in potentially tricky situations and make good, data-driven decisions. Also, good communication skills are essential, as health inspectors must often explain complex regulations to business owners. Finally, health inspectors must stay calm under pressure and handle stressful situations effectively.

Health inspectors must be physically fit to climb stairs, lift objects, and stand for long periods. They also need to have good stamina and be able to work long hours, sometimes on-call, as needed. Health inspector jobs require computer skills, as most record-keeping is now done electronically.

Roles that help prepare your resume for health inspector job applications

If you're preparing to apply for a health inspector job, you’ll want to work on your resume. When looking to build your resume early in your career, relevant experience can help improve the attractiveness of your resume to future employers. Here are some roles where you can pick up experience to help you as a health inspector. 

  • Working in a restaurant as a cook or server

  • Working in a food production factory

  • Working in a grocery store

  • Working as a janitor or cleaning crew member

  • Working in customer service

  • Working as a barista

Previous experience as a medical assistant may also provide you with knowledge and competencies that health inspector employers value. Here are some additional roles you can take on at college, in your community, or with your current employer to highlight your commitment to a career as a health inspector:

  • Advocate for public policies that promote health and prevent disease.

  • Collaborate with partners to promote healthy communities.

  • Conduct research on health topics.

  • Develop and implement health education programs.

  • Disseminate information about health topics to the public.

  • Evaluate the effectiveness of health education programs.

  • Serve on boards and committees that address public health issues.

  • Serve as a public health educator in the community.

  • Work with other health professionals to promote wellness and disease prevention.

  • Write grants to support health education programs.

Career prospects of a health inspector.

A career as a health inspector can be gratifying, with many opportunities for advancement and the potential to earn a good salary. The job outlook for health inspectors is positive, with the potential for growth in the field.

After working as a health inspector, you’ll uncover many options for furthering your career. You could, for example, become a: 

  • Lead inspector

  • Consultant

  • Health and safety specialist

  • Director of environmental health and safety 

With experience and further education, you could also move into other related fields, such as safety engineering, occupational nursing, or industrial hygiene.

Ready to start building toward a health inspector role?

You can build your competencies and enhance your resume by taking courses. This can help you develop the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in your field. By taking courses, such as Foundations of Global Health Specialization, offered by Johns Hopkins University on Coursera, you'll also be able to show potential employers you're committed to professional development.

Article sources


US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational health and safety specialists technicians, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-health-and-safety-specialists-and-technicians.htm." Accessed April 24, 2023.

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