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Government Inspector and Examiner Job Description, Career as a Government Inspector and Examiner, Salary, Employment

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

Education and Training Varies—see profile

Salary Median—$32,000 to $40,000 per year

Employment Outlook Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Inspectors and examiners work for many government agencies, enforcing regulations that keep the public safe. Food and drug inspectors, for example, visit companies that manufacture, warehouse, or sell food and drugs to verify that their products are fresh or effective. Meat graders and grain inspectors in the U.S. Department of Agriculture check meat-handling and -labeling procedures. Agricultural quarantine inspectors keep potentially contaminated meats and produce away from good foods. At ports of entry, they keep contaminated foods from entering the country. Aviation safety officers investigate airplane accidents and review airport procedures and facilities, while construction inspectors see that buildings are erected according to approved blueprints.

Inspectors at all levels—federal, state, and local—collect taxes and enforce tax laws. In the federal government, they work for the Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service. Alcohol and tobacco tax inspectors check the quantities of liquor and tobacco that are sold and collect the proper amount of taxes. Other agencies, such as the Social Security Administration, employ claim examiners who see that people receive the correct benefits.

Some inspectors oversee the work of the agencies themselves. Their job is to make sure the agencies are run honestly and efficiently. For that reason, all agencies have budget examiners.

Education and Training Requirements

Requirements can vary by agency. In general, applicants must be U.S. citizens and at least eighteen years of age. For a number of positions, bachelor's degrees or specialized course work are required, although relevant work experience can often be substituted. All applicants must take civil service examinations.

Beginning government inspectors and examiners get on-the-job training under the guidance of experienced workers. Some employees serve probationary periods before they become permanent employees.

Construction inspectors ensure that buildings are erected according to code. (© Natalie Forbes/Corbis.)

Getting the Job

Applicants for government inspector and examiner positions should take the necessary civil service tests. Information about federal jobs is available from local Federal Information Centers, which are listed in the phone book. Job bulletins for state, county, and municipal governments are usually available at post offices or state and local civil service commissions.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Inspectors and examiners generally advance by moving up the civil service ranks. Additional civil service tests may be required for each promotion. Inspectors and examiners may become supervisors or heads of their departments.

Employment of government inspectors and examiners is expected to increase about as fast as the average for all jobs through 2014. While job opportunities may vary from agency to agency, the general need for more inspectors reflects the growing public demand for safer products and a cleaner environment. Job openings regularly occur when experienced workers retire or leave the field.

Working Conditions

Working conditions vary by agency; some inspectors and examiners may work in unpleasant conditions, coming into contact with dangerous substances and hazards. Inspectors and examiners often must travel on assignment, so their workweeks can be irregular. Overtime may be necessary. Workers are either paid extra for overtime or given the same number of hours off.

Where to Go for More Information

Food and Drug Administration
5600 Fishers La.
Rockville, MD 20857-0001
(888) 463-6332

Federal Aviation Administration
800 Independence Ave. SW
Washington, DC 20591
(866) 835-5322

Internal Revenue Service
1111 Constitution Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20224
(800) 829-1040

Earnings and Benefits

Earnings vary by agency, experience, and location. In 2004 the median salary for all inspectors and examiners ranged from $32,000 to $40,000 per year. Benefits include paid vacations and holidays, sick leave, health and life insurance, and retirement plans.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesLaw and Public Service