International Produce Training

USDA Inspection Jobs

A few years has passed and new management has taken control of the USDA’s fruit and vegetable inspection program.  The layoffs, and cutbacks seem to be a thing of the past, and the USDA is beginning to hire once again.  Because I have received many e-mails asking questions concerning job opportunities within the USDA Inspection Program, I thought I could offer some help.

To begin with, it is important to understand there are fruit and vegetable inspectors that are licensed by the USDA but work (salary and benefits) for various state departments of agriculture.  Unfortunately these positions are much harder to find, as most state governments are struggling with budget issues and are not hiring inspectors, except to replace ones that have left due to retirements or resignations.  On the other hand the USDA is hiring new inspectors, but the locations of these positions are usually found in major cities, such as Philadelphia, New York and Los Angeles.

To get you started, the best place to begin your search (for job openings at the USDA, not for job openings within the state departments of agriculture) is at:   This government web site lists every federal job, for every federal agency, from Agriculture to the Department of Veteran Affairs.  After clicking on the site, you have a few choices.  You can immediately begin your search for jobs or you can easily register (user name and password) to set up an account for yourself.  By creating an account you can create and save your resume, to apply for jobs on-line, and more importantly you may create automated searches, that will notify you via e-mail when the selected positions you are looking for become available.

When you are ready to begin searching for jobs, click on “Advanced Search” as this will allow you to quickly look for specific federal jobs.

In the Keyword Search section, type in “agricultural commodity grader,” as this is the title given to inspectors, including poultry inspectors, processed products inspectors and fresh fruit and vegetable inspectors.

As you scroll down this search page you will want to specify which agency within the federal government you would like to search for open positions.  In the Agency Search section, click on “Agricultural Marketing Service.”  AMS is the agency within the USDA that runs the inspection programs previously mentioned above.  Click on the button, “Search for Jobs.”

Again, be prepared to most likely find job openings in the major cities, and the starting salary may seem challenging.  But on a personal note, I began my USDA career in Philadelphia, but after a few years I was able to transfer to friendlier cost of living cities, moving to Harrisburg, PA and later Albany, NY.

And lastly, hopefully you find a position that may interest you, but the starting salary is listed as a GS-5, or a GS-7 or a GS-9, and you may be wondering what that means.  The federal government has salary tables specific to certain cities or locations.  Listed below is the salary table for the New York City area.

For example, depending on your education, or your experience, or a combination of education and experience, you will be qualified with a starting salary of a GS-5, or a GS-7 or a GS-9.  If you are slotted as a GS-5, you would make $35,309 for the first year on the job.  After 12 months you would be promoted to a GS-7, with a salary of $43,738, and after another 12 months, you would be promoted once again to a GS-9, with a salary of $53,500 per year.  You would then follow the steps through your career, with a potential salary of $69,545, at the GS-9 Step 10 pay grade.

I hope you utilize the USAjobs web site and good luck in your search!

9 Comments on “USDA Inspection Jobs”

Anonymous Says:

the jobs look real great now with no pay raise for the next two years

tyawman Says:

You are right, the freeze on federal pay for two years will not help with the recruitment of new inspectors and will hurt the morale of the current inspectors. On the other hand, there is currently a job announcement to hire 2 inspectors in the Philadelphia office. The starting pay is $41K, and in the second year the inspector will be promoted to a GS-9, making $50K/year.

Food Inspector Says:

Sorry to let you know but you are usually hired in as a five unless your a VMO (vet). Then in one year you get a automatic promotion to a seven if, you pass any “condition of employment” requirements and you show the ability to preform the job. Then every year after that you receive your “step” raises (1,2,3,etc..). Ever grade after a seven requires you to go to usajobs and submit a resume just like before and you must have at lest one year prior experience at the next lower grade level ( and 99% of the time you have to move for a promotion). If your applying for a Food Inspector job hope you like chicken plants, because that’s probably where you’ll end up!! You could turn them down for a job like that, but I wouldn’t expect another call back. If your trying for a office job they hold on one grade level until you apply for a promotion. But then again every now and then you might find a 5/7/8 which means you get a automatic promotion every year, up to a eight. Keep trying on USAJOBS DON’T GIVE UP!! Soon the people doing the hiring will know your name, and that’s good.
Three Year Food Inspector 7-2 (For a while)

luleka Says:

Hi there. I would like to know if you have this company in south africa. I have ND in Agricultural Management & 5 years experience in exporting the perishable products to be exported & container loading. I,ve done inspection on following products Citrus, Grapes, Apples & Pears.

tyawman Says:

IPT does provide training classes throughout the world, and is based in northern Virginia.

Daniel Wilks Says:

I am a current Agent with Homeland Security. I am a GS 12/3 currently. My father is ill and my body is getting beat up in my current job. I live on the border but want to move closer to Houston where there are quite a few food inspector jobs. However as has been stated they are capped at GS7. Would my current pay grade be taken into consideration if I took a food inspector job?

tyawman Says:

Daniel, yes your current pay grade would be taken into consideration, meaning you may be hired out of the gate at a GS 9 step 10. But check with the USDA hiring office to be sure.

Henry Williams Says:


I am interested in applying for a USDA Fruit/Vegetable inspection job.

I have worked two years as a Federal Fruit inspector in the past and have worked within the fruit business for several years within my background.

I could work in California.

Please advise me on how I can apply for a USDA Fruit/Vegetable inspection position.

Thank you

Henry Williams

916-253-7037 (home phone)
530-927-7280 (cell phone)

tyawman Says:

Henry, thanks for your comment. Although the USAJobs website has changed a bit in the past 5 years, you can still search the website by using the keyword “Agricultural Commodity Grader” to search for inspection jobs. At the present time there are 4 job openings, but no job openings for a fresh fruit and vegetable inspector. My best advice is to set up an account and an alert on the USAJobs website to notify you of future job openings.

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