Get your teeth into career as watchdog

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WORKING as a trading standards officer in local government, you would help to safeguard members of the public and protect people from rogue traders.

Local government trading standards officers are usually office-based, but spend most of their time visiting traders and suppliers.

They may also have to make appearances at court to give evidence against individuals or firms, and they have to enter all sorts of premises, some of which are dirty and unpleasant.

They may work alone, or within a team depending on the scale of an investigation.

Their work is generally involved in protecting shoppers and consumers against fraud, counterfeit or unsafe products and criminal practice.

Trading standards work has three broad aims:

l to educate, inform and advise consumers;

l to educate, inform and advise businesses;

l to ensure that trading takes place in a fair and safe environment.

Trading standards officers have a number of important roles.

They provide advice to consumers about their rights, monitor the standard of products and services, make routine inspections to businesses, investigate complaints and on occasions have to enforce consumer law.

The work varies according to location. Those working in rural areas might spend a lot of their time on animal health and agriculture, those based in more urban areas might be concerned with street traders, shops and factories and those based in ports work closely with Customs examining import goods.

Some of the tasks a local government trading standard officer might expect to be involved in are:

l ensuring the correct transport of livestock to market;

l checking weighing machines and food labels in shops;

l checking beer and spirit measures in pubs;

l dealing with traders selling faulty goods;

l investigating misleading advertising campaigns;

l identifying potential hazards, such as unsafe electrical goods or unroadworthy vehicles;

l giving legal advice to people about their consumer rights;

l giving evidence in court cases against rogue traders.

Local government trading standards officers might expect to earn £24,000 – £34,000.

The Trading Standards Institute (TSI) professional qualifications in consumer affairs and trading standards are at four levels: Foundation Certificate in Consumer Affairs & Trading Standards; Module Certificate in Consumer Affairs & Trading Standards; Diploma in Consumer Affairs & Trading Standards (DCATS); Higher Diploma in Consumer Affairs & Trading Standards (HDCATS).

You can combine study with paid employment and work up through the qualifications, or you can study for a TSI accredited degree and start professional qualifications at a higher level.