Trading standards officers are the knights in shining armour of the consumer world, defending the public from rogue traders and illegal trading practices. They are responsible for keeping unsafe products off the streets (and out of homes) and protecting consumers from being duped by things like designer products with fake labels.
Trading standards officers get right into the thick of it: monitoring the standard of products, inspecting businesses and investigating complaints from consumers. Sometimes, they might even have to get a bit heavy handed and enforce consumer law.
These trading heroes have an advisory role as well as their investigative role. They educate the public and businesses against fraud, dodgy products and criminal practice. They are largely office-based, but trading standards officers will spend plenty of time visiting traders and suppliers, sniffing out malpractice and even appearing in court to give evidence.
Work can vary hugely – a trading standards office might be involved in investigating a misleading advertisement, checking that livestock are transported to market properly, or offering legal advice to the general public.
Don’t think that it is all sunshine and roses though. Plenty of paperwork and red tape comes with the territory. Trading standards officers might have to enter mucky and unpleasant premises and, unfortunately, they are often seen as the bad guys, so you’ll need a pretty thick skin to thrive in this career.
Salary & benefits
Trading standards officers working for local governments might receive salaries of £24,000 to £34,000 a year, whilst those at a senior level are looking at earnings between £30,000 and £70,000 a year.
Private sector trading standards officers are usually paid more.
Most trading standards officers work a normal working week, clocking nine-to-five, Monday through Friday. Occasionally, however, they might be required to work unsociable hours.
In order to become a trading standards officer, you’ll need to gain some professional qualifications from the Trading Standards Institute (TSI). There are two routes. You can combine study for the qualifications with employment, effectively studying on the job. In this situation, you’ll probably need at least five GCSEs and two A-Levels to be eligible to study the Foundation Certificate in Consumer Affairs and Trading Standards.
Alternatively, you can go down the degree route, gaining a TSI-accredited degree, and studying for the higher levels of professional qualifications once you have graduated and become a trainee trading standards officer.
Trading standards officers need to be great communicators, have top investigative skills, show initiative and practical ability, and be able to keep their cool under pressure. Prior basic knowledge of civil and criminal law, whilst not essential, might be advantageous.
Training & progression
People might start out at a technical and assistant level and their way up the career ladder through to a consumer adviser, trading standards officer and more senior levels.
Ambitious trading standards officers might aspire to managerial positions, whilst others might move into other public protection services. Some training standards officers go on to set up their own consultancies to advise private businesses.