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Agricultural Inspector Job Description, Career as an Agricultural Inspector, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: College

Salary: Median—$14.92 per hour

Employment Outlook: Poor

Definition and Nature of the Work

Agricultural inspectors make sure that businesses comply with federal and state laws and regulations that govern the health, quality, and safety of meat, poultry, egg products, fruit, and vegetables. They also inspect food- and meat-processing plants to ensure that the facilities meet quality standards. They strive to protect public health and well-being by protecting the public from foodborne illness. Most agricultural inspectors work for federal and state governments, and are very knowledgeable about regulations and standards in the area in which they work.

In order to determine whether a business is meeting quality and safety standards, an inspector must make numerous visits and make thorough inspections of the product and its surroundings. For example, an inspector might take samples of animals at a meat-processing plant to test for diseases. They might also inspect livestock on the farm to review feeding practices and medical treatments. They may also analyze shipments of grain or vegetables for quality or levels of chemicals.

One of the main responsibilities of an agricultural inspector is the health and quality of livestock. With recent concerns about mad-cow disease, it is imperative that qualified inspectors—along with veterinarians—inspect the livestock population in order to protect people from any kind of bacteria or disease that can be passed from contaminated meat to humans.

Education and Training Requirements

Aspiring inspectors should take college courses in the areas of biology or agricultural science. Most positions require a four-year bachelor's degree, but some do not. Candidates should also search out relevant work experience, such as working on a farm or in a meat-processing plant. Moreover, knowledge of laws and regulations in the field is imperative; on-the-job training will help to familiarize inspectors with inspection procedures.

Getting the Job

The placement office at schools may be able to help aspiring inspectors find a job. Candidates can apply online for a food inspector position with the Food Safety and Inspection Service with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which currently employs more than eight thousand food inspectors. State and local governments may also be contacted.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Inspectors who work for federal, state, and local governments can advance to a supervisory position based on agency needs and individual merit. Competition is keen, however.

The job outlook for agricultural inspectors is poor through 2014. Federal and state governments are not expected to hire significant numbers of new inspectors. Retirement and advancement will provide opportunities for aspiring inspectors.

Working Conditions

Agricultural inspectors work long and irregular hours, spending much of their time in food- or meat-processing plants. Others may travel frequently to farms or ports, inspecting cargo on boats or sitting on docks.

Because the job involves finding problems or violations, inspectors may have to deal with antagonistic individuals and uncomfortable situations. The job can be demanding and very stressful; in essence, an inspector's work can have important financial and public health consequences.

Where to Go for More Information

Association of Fruit and Vegetable Inspection and Standardization Agencies
P.O. Box 107
San Juan, TX 78589
(956) 787-4091

Independent Organic Inspectors Association
P.O. Box 6
Broadus, MT 59317
(406) 436-2031

Earnings and Benefits

The median salary for agricultural inspectors is $14.92 per hour. Because most inspectors work for the federal or state government, they receive a number of benefits, including health and dental insurance and vacation and sick days.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesAgribusiness, Environment, and Natural Resources