Should I Become a Fire Inspector?
A fire inspector is tasked with investigating buildings to verify that all of the federal, state, and local fire regulations are followed. They test fire safety equipment and ensure that all fire extinguishers are in working condition. While most fire inspectors work for local and state governments, some may find positions with attorney's offices or insurance companies.
Fire inspectors work on a full-time basis, primarily during business hours. Their work hours are split between completing investigations in the field and compiling reports in an office setting. There is some risk in entering burnt buildings and other fire sites, but inspectors use protective gear to avoid injury and illness.
|Degree Level||No degree is required; undergraduate degree can be helpful|
|Training||Academy-based training and on-the-job training typically required|
|Certification||The National Fire Protection Association and other organizations offer voluntary certification|
|Experience||Work experience in a related career, such as firefighting|
|Key Skills||Able to communicate clearly, critical thinking abilities, able to make unbiased judgments, understanding of how fire alarm and fire prevention equipment works|
|Median Salary (2015)||$54,790|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Becoming a Fire Inspector
Step 1: Earn a Degree
Most employers require applicants to have a high school diploma and some form of formal training and experience. Completing an associate's or bachelor's degree program in fire science or a related field can also be very beneficial, as some employers prefer to hire inspectors who have a degree. Programs usually cover leadership and management techniques, communication skills, problem-solving, and fire science practices. Some courses in a fire science program may include emergency medical service, financial management, integrated operations, and public policy.
Find a program with courses that can help you become a fire inspector. Since fire inspectors often work to prevent fires and ensure that people can be safe in the event of a fire, finding a program that gives you course options that deal with these topics can give you a chance to get ahead while you're still in school. Courses that may help you include fire prevention program management, fire prevention approaches, and fire analysis.
Step 2: Gain Work Experience
Common employers of fire inspectors include fire departments and insurance companies. Many fire departments provide on-the-job training. Common duties include examining building blueprints, researching building fire code regulations, testing fire safety equipment, and reviewing the cause and effect of previous fires. Fire inspectors should look for jobs that give experience handling one or more of these duties. An aspiring fire inspector can look for volunteer firefighting opportunities while in school. Working as a paid firefighter can also be a solid way to get the necessary experience to become an inspector.
Step 3: Complete Academy Training and On-the-Job Training
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, fire inspectors typically need to complete some inspection-specific training at a fire academy. On-the-job training under a supervising officer is typically required as well.
Step 4: Earn Certification
Fire inspectors may need to be certified, although this requirement varies between states. Fire inspectors wishing to become certified usually take classes to learn about safety codes, fire prevention techniques, and technical advancements in the field. At the end of a certification program, students take an exam that tests them on everything they have learned. Most of the standards that states set for certification come from the National Fire Protection Association, according to the BLS.
To get the most out of certification, choose a recognized certification. In addition to the National Fire Protection Association, there are other professional organizations that offer fire inspector certifications, such as the National Association of Fire Investigators (NAFI). NAFI has multiple certification levels, so fire inspectors can gain a more advanced certification later in their careers if they choose.
Additionally, certified fire inspectors may need to continue their education. Many certifications require follow-up exams or seminars for the holder to maintain certification. The training requirements usually vary between certifications, so fire investigators should be aware of how often they need to attend classes to keep their certification valid.
To recap, with a post-secondary education, academy training, and work experience, fire inspectors make about $55,000 a year to investigate buildings to verify that all of the federal, state, and local regulations are followed.