Building Code Official: Job Duties & Requirements

Learn how to start a career as a building code official or inspector. Find out how much education is needed to enter the field, as well as what to expect in terms of employment opportunities and salary.

Career Definition

Building code officials or inspectors visit and confirm that existing or new structures are safe, and that they are in compliance with federal and local codes, contractual specifications and zoning laws. Areas of specialization may include cement or steel structures. In general, building code officials may evaluate building plans, inspect construction sites and finished buildings, issue citations or provide corrective advice. In addition to local municipalities, they may be self-employed or work on staff for architectural or engineering firms.

How to Become a Building Code Official

Required Education

In general, building inspectors must have a high school diploma and experience in construction, and the majority of training takes place on the job. Some states also require building inspectors to become certified or licensed. Certificate and associate degree programs, available at community colleges, can provide aspiring inspectors with a background in architecture, construction technology, drafting, blueprint reading and materials science. Equivalent work experience may be obtained by completing a bachelor's degree program in a relevant field of study.

Skills Required

Good communications and interpersonal skills, as well as physical stamina, are key for building code officials. Strong math and analytical abilities, attention to detail and knowledge of mechanical testing equipment are essential. Construction and trade experience can be helpful, especially for candidates who are pursuing state certifications.

Employment and Salary Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of building and construction inspectors is expected to increase by 12% nationwide from 2012 to 2022, an average rate of growth in comparison to all other occupations. Inspectors employed in the field in May 2012 earned median annual wages of $53,450, as reported by the BLS (www.bls.gov).

Alternate Career Options

Construction Managers

Construction managers oversee the budgetary, planning and supervisory aspects of commercial, public and residential buildings, among other types of projects. While a high school diploma and experience may suffice for smaller projects, a 4-year degree in construction engineering, management or science, or even architecture, is rapidly becoming the industry standard. According to the BLS, job opportunities for construction managers are expected to increase by a faster-than-average rate of 16% between 2012 and 2022. Those who were employed in the industry in May 2012 were paid median annual wages of $82,790 (www.bls.gov).

Surveyors

Surveyors use Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to calculate and document property boundaries for cartography, construction or engineering purposes. Completion of a bachelor's degree program, especially one that has been approved by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), along with experience and a license are the usual requirements for working in the field. Nationwide, employment prospects for surveyors nationwide are expected to increase by 10%, or fast as average, between 2012 and 2022, as reported by the BLS. The BLS also reports that, as of May 2012, surveyors were paid median annual wages of $56,230 (www.bls.gov).

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