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Agricultural Inspectors

At a Glance

  • Make sure food is safe to eat
  • Work both outdoors and indoors
  • Sometimes work long hours
  • Often are in contact with animals
  • Have a bachelor's degree
  • May need a license

Career summary

Agricultural inspectors determine if farmers and food processors are using safe methods to care for livestock and to process food.

#No corresponding wois occupation


Agricultural inspectors keep food out of stores that was handled or grown improperly. They inspect farm livestock, before and after slaughter, to find out if they have diseases. They examine food-processing plants to see if they meet federal regulations. They make sure the plants are sanitary. They check that the prices and weights are accurate. Inspectors test crops for diseases, chemical residue, and various conditions. They test eggs, meat, and seafood to find out if they are safe to eat.

Inspectors also grade, or judge, products. Typically, higher grades mean higher quality. They issue certificates that specify the grade the product received.

Sometimes inspectors have to close plants or production facilities if safety is in question. This usually happens when a food product is recalled. Inspectors help identify the problem so that people don't get hurt or sick from eating the food.

Related careers

This career is part of the Government and Public Administration cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to agricultural inspectors.

Common work activities

Agricultural inspectors perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, agricultural inspectors:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Agricultural inspectors frequently:

It is important for agricultural inspectors to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for agricultural inspectors to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Agricultural inspectors need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Work with things

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as an agricultural inspector, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Most students prepare for this field by earning a bachelor's degree. Common fields of study are biology and agricultural science. You should take classes in agriculture, environmental health, and the physical sciences. Also, courses in a foreign language, such as Spanish, may be helpful.

Work experience

Growing up on a farm provides good work experience. It is also helpful if you join clubs such as 4-H or the National FFA Organization while in high school.

Another option is to work as a farm or ranch worker for a few years to gain experience.

On-the-job training

As an agricultural inspector, you receive training on the job. Some of your training takes place in a classroom setting. During training, you learn inspection procedures and agricultural regulations. Training may last up to a year.

Military training

The military hires agricultural inspectors (called environmental health and safety officers), but does not train people for this occupation.

Helpful high school courses

You should take a general high school curriculum that meets the state's graduation requirements. You will be required to take both math and science classes to graduate.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Many employers, including the federal government, require a bachelor's degree for some positions. Many jobs require at least four years of experience in the field. Most states require agricultural inspectors to be licensed, which requires passing an exam.

Inspectors work with a variety of people. Thus, they need to be able to communicate well. Employers prefer people who have negotiation skills and tact. This is because inspectors may be in situations where a group or individual does not want to cooperate.


In Washington, grain inspectors must pass an examination specific for the grain inspected and receive a license from the United States Department of Agriculture.

Most states require agricultural inspectors to have a license. Licensing requirements vary by state.

#Verified that inspectors must still pass exams and be licensed by USDA, 2/27/06 & 2/13/08, cj. Here is site that had related info in '08. http://www.gipsa.usda.gov/fgis/fgis.aspx (external link)

#yes, this hasn't changed. 2/27/09 lh. Info still ok, 2/2/10, cj. Reviewed federal inspection regs 2/6/12 - info still ok, cj. Still ok 1/31/14 cj. Still need to be licensed from general info found via WA State Dept of Ag grain inspector job description, but couldn't find individual licensing requirements on WSDA website, 1/30/18 cj.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Agricultural inspectors (SOC 45-2011)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $11.89 $14.67 $23.34 $27.73 $32.16
Monthly $2,061 $2,542 $4,045 $4,806 $5,573
Yearly $24,730 $30,510 $48,540 $57,670 $66,890
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $11.80 $11.93 $12.16 $12.39 $24.74
Monthly $2,045 $2,067 $2,107 $2,147 $4,287
Yearly $24,544 $24,826 $25,296 $25,766 $51,469
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly $20.46 $21.51 $25.21 $27.79 $31.60
Monthly $3,546 $3,728 $4,369 $4,816 $5,476
Yearly $42,563 $44,728 $52,441 $57,805 $65,724
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $22.30 $26.59 $30.95 $33.96 $38.71
Monthly $3,865 $4,608 $5,364 $5,885 $6,708
Yearly $46,394 $55,327 $64,372 $70,631 $80,528
    Wenatchee Hourly $22.03 $22.04 $24.96 $25.57 $25.57
Monthly $3,818 $3,820 $4,326 $4,431 $4,431
Yearly $45,820 $45,836 $51,900 $53,170 $53,179
    Yakima Hourly $14.37 $20.24 $23.26 $25.57 $28.20
Monthly $2,490 $3,508 $4,031 $4,431 $4,887
Yearly $29,876 $42,089 $48,364 $53,170 $58,669
United States Hourly $13.43 $16.25 $21.22 $25.86 $32.40
Monthly $2,327 $2,816 $3,677 $4,482 $5,615
Yearly $27,930 $33,810 $44,140 $53,780 $67,400

Wages vary by area of the country and the inspector's area of specialization.

Agricultural inspectors who work full time generally receive benefits. Common benefits include paid vacation, sick leave, health insurance, and a retirement plan.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Agricultural Inspectors (SOC 45-2011)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 451 11.1% 16.1% 73
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 55 5.5% 13.4% 7
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 14 7.1% 8.6% 2
    Benton and Franklin Counties 117 23.1% 15.0% 22
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 28 7.1% 15.2% 4
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 28 7.1% 14.1% 4
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 19 5.3% 14.6% 3
    King County 81 1.2% 19.6% 11
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 101 6.9% 13.8% 15
    Pierce County 11 9.1% 15.2% 2
    Snohomish County 14 0.0% 12.4% 2
United States 17,700 4.0% 5.2% 2,700

National employment

About three-quarters of all inspectors work for a government agency.

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for agricultural inspectors is increasing. Most agricultural inspectors work for the government. Job openings may occur in the meat packing industry as consumers ask for better inspections.

Many agricultural inspectors are expected to retire in the next decade. Thus, job prospects should be good for recent graduates in this field.

Other resources

AgCareers.com (external link)
Western USA Office
Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (external link)
4420 West Lincoln Way
Ames, IA 50014


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Holland occupational cluster