How to Become a Restaurant Inspector

Restaurant Inspector Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $36,850
Avg. Pay / hour $17.72
Education 2-3 Years
Job Outlook 6%

Restaurant Inspectors are professionals who are experienced in reviewing restaurants to see whether they are meeting state requirements for food safety and sanitation regulations.

These professionals are responsible for assuring consumers are purchasing and dining from a restaurant that follows state mandated codes assuring their health.

Individuals who want to become a Restaurant Inspector will need a combination of skills and educational background in order to succeed in this profession.

Restaurant Inspectors must have the ability to be detail oriented, have in an depth knowledge of federal and state regulations and be able to track and list items that restaurants need to improve in order to assure public safety.

Education Requirements to Become a Restaurant Inspector

Individuals who want to become a Restaurant Inspector will need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in order to enter this profession.

In addition, some personal characteristics are highly recommended in order to succeed in this field.

Individuals must have attention to detail since they are responsible for identifying any safety concerns whether they are small or large.

Physical stamina is also important in this field as it requires individuals to travel and stand for long stretches of time.

Communication skills are also needed in order to debrief safety concerns with owners or managers.

Individuals who want to become a Restaurant Inspector will need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in order to enter this profession.

Individuals are encouraged to complete a program in occupational health, safety, an environmental health degree or a closely related science degree.

If attending a university or college that doesn’t offer any of these degrees, individuals are encouraged to study a science related field and take courses in: biology, toxicology, microbiology and chemistry.

Individuals are also encouraged to complete an internship while enrolled in an undergraduate program.

Individuals are encouraged to contact their states for exact details regarding licensing requirements.

For the most part, many states accept the Registered Environmental Health Specialist/Registered Sanitarian (REHS/RS) administered by the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA).

You may visit their website at NEHA for more information and a list of additional certifications.

Restaurant Inspector Job Description

Restaurant Inspectors are responsible for visiting restaurant and other food establishments to ensure they are following state and federal regulations and other compliance.

These professionals will inspect and evaluate several aspects of food service settings.

Some types of establishments these individuals may inspect include restaurants, school cafeterias, hotel kitchens, grocery stores, daycare centers and boarding homes.

For the most part, Restaurant Inspectors work full time during regular business hours.

However, there are some instances in which evenings and weekend hours are required.

Because Restaurant Inspectors must travel between locations, they must spend time planning their visits.

They will evaluate many aspects of food handling.

The following list includes some areas these professionals evaluate:

  • Cooking temperatures
  • Employee hygiene
  • Equipment sanitation and maintenance
  • Food handling and storage
  • Presence of any rodents or insects contamination

Restaurant Inspectors may evaluate the preceding areas and write notes during the evaluation, write reports, make suggestions to the establishment and report findings to their state.

Based on their evaluation, Restaurant Inspectors have the ability to categorize an establishment as not following health codes which may result in the restaurant having to close.

Restaurant Inspector Salary and Career Path

Restaurant Inspectors are part of a profession in the Occupational Health and Safety Specialists.

In 2012, all professions in this field earned a median wage of approximately $66,790 per year.

Exact wages will depend on a variety of factors including the government agency one works for, years of experience and geographical location.

The top earners in this field made up towards $97,380 per year in 2012.

The majority of these professionals work full time with some occasional weekend and evening hours arising from emergency instances.

The job outlook for individuals working as Occupational Health and Safety Specialists, which Restaurant Inspectors work under, is expected to grow at a slower than average rate when compared to other professions.

Job opportunities for this profession are projected to increase by 7 percent through the year 2022.

Individuals who have advanced education and are certified have better job prospects than individuals who are not.

Restaurant Inspectors have an important role in deeming a food establishment as following state health codes.

Their skills in attention to detail and report writing help them in being successful in this profession.

Individuals interested in this career can assure they are playing an important role in food safety.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$53,920
New Hampshire$47,980
New Jersey$45,510
New Mexico$48,460
New York$46,820
North Carolina$40,380
North Dakota$69,010
Rhode Island$47,110
South Carolina$39,630
South Dakota$42,470
West Virginia$45,610
Puerto Rico$31,660
Virgin Islands$56,100

The top earning state in the field is Alaska, where the average salary is $72,200.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Alaska - $72,200
North Dakota - $69,010
Washington - $60,130
Hawaii - $57,370
Virgin Islands - $56,100
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Inspectors, Testers, Sorters, Samplers, and Weighers, OCC Code 51-9061, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a restaurant inspector do?

Essentially, restaurant inspectors are food inspectors who conduct inspections in different food establishments to find out whether the place follows sanitation and health standards or not.

Of course, the main goal of a restaurant inspector is to protect the health of the public by conducting regular inspections and ensuring that the restaurants take the necessary precautions to prevent any type of food contamination.

In most cases, the inspections are unannounced.

Restaurant inspectors talk to the management and staff; check the cleanliness of the surroundings; ensure that the restaurant is keeping diseases and infestation under control; check how the staff is trained and if the food handlers have all the necessary information; point out the weak points and explain how problems can be solved, and so on.

The reports made by restaurant inspectors are typically submitted to the local health department and then published online.

How much do restaurant inspectors make?

On average, a restaurant inspector can make a little more than $92.000 per year in the United States.

In case you decide to choose this career path, you can expect to earn anywhere between $52.000 and $139.000 annually.

The salary would certainly depend on a variety of factors – your education and experience level, the location, and so on.

The professionals that work in Texas, California, and New Jersey, for example, have the highest average salaries.

An entry-level restaurant inspector can earn around $25 per hour, while a top-level specialist with plenty of experience can make $67 and more per hour.

How much does it cost to become a restaurant inspector?

In most cases, you would need a bachelor’s degree in safety, biology, chemistry, occupational health or a related field in order to become a restaurant inspector.

To improve job prospects, you can consider getting a master’s degree in industrial hygiene.

A year in a university can cost you anywhere between $8.000 and $45.000 (and more); the cost depends on a variety of factors (bear in mind that the books, supplies, and accommodation expenses are not included).

A master’s degree will typically cost you over $30.000.

What is the demand for restaurant inspectors?

Between 2012 and 2022, the restaurant inspector job market is expected to increase by 7%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That is just as fast as the average for all occupations in the United States.

Bear in mind that the competition in the industry is extremely strong.

The candidates that possess a master’s degree and plenty of experience will have better chances of getting the highest-paid job.

How long does it take to become a restaurant inspector?

It will take you 4 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree and 1-2 years to get a master’s degree.

You can consider seeking an internship during your last year in university to get that on-job experience as the majority of employers prefer the candidates to have at least a few years of experience.

To get certified as occupational health and safety specialist, you would need to possess a bachelor’s degree.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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