Senior Trading Standards Officer

Trading standards staff can make a big difference to people's lives and they get great satisfaction from successfully exposing rogue traders.  Justice is done. The consumer is protected.  But their impact is not always punitive. They provide the community with advice and support, too - often preventing trouble before it occurs.  Senior trading standards officers cover the same ground as trading standards officers (TSOs) except that they may have extra projects to manage and teams to guide. They are able to use the force of legislation to promote a fair and just environment and stamp out shady practice.  They are employed in all local authorities except district councils.

Work Environment
Senior TSOs are office-based but do spend a lot of time out at trading premises including shops, pubs, restaurants, hotels, factories and markets. Conditions might be noisy, dirty and affected by the weather. Protective clothing is provided - strong boots, overalls, ear/eye/ and head gear. They also attend court hearings.

Daily Activities
TSOs spend most of their time on routine inspection. But they will also visit traders offering advice and guidance, investigating alleged offences and complaints, recording work results and preparing prosecution files. They use and often carry individual equipment such as food sampling and weights and measures devices. Senior TSOs may brief teams of officers to do visits while they handle the paperwork required for legal prosecution and plan special projects such as:

  • illegal sales of age-restricted goods (alcohol sold to underage young people at off-licences, and tobacco products at retailers);
  • adulteration of alcoholic drinks in pubs; 
  • short measure beer, and petroleum; 
  • short weight commodities such as coal, and building aggregates; 
  • misleading price indications of package holidays; 
  • sale of counterfeit goods; 
  • the safey of consumer goods.

They also have to plan targets to meet council objectives and prosecution time limits. Apart from contact with many different kinds of trader they work closely with environmental health officers, police, HM Revenue and Customs, trade organisations, magistrates/judges, solicitors and the general public.

Skills & Interests
You would need the following qualities to be good at this job:

  • practical ability; 
  • attention to detail; 
  • caring nature; 
  • project management ability; 
  • confidence; 
  • ability to get on with people from different backgrounds; 
  • diplomacy; 
  • firmness;
  • good oral and written communication skills.

Entry Requirements
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. The following organisations provide TSI accredited degree courses:

  • Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Manchester Metropolitan University Graduate Diploma
  • University of Wales Institute, Cardiff
  • University of Teesside
  • Queen Margaret's University College, Edinburgh
  • South West Regional Assembly (Distance Learning)

Future Prospects & Opportunities
The promotion prospects are narrow but fairly clear. Experience and length of service can lead to the Chief/Principal Trading Standards Officer post via section head or divisional officer work. There are some opportunities in the private sector as a specialist in quality control or consumer law in large companies.

Further Information & Services
Trading Standards Institute
The Law Society
Institute of Food Science and Technology (retail food)
Chartered Institute of Environmental Health

You may find further information about this area of work through Careers Wales ( or in your local library, careers office or school careers library.

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