Should I Become a Building Inspector?
Building inspectors examine the structural quality and overall safety of a variety of buildings. They ensure that buildings comply with municipal and state codes, ordinances, and zoning regulations. For new development projects, building inspectors will review the plans to ensure that they meet necessary standards and follow up at the building site as the construction proceeds. For existing buildings, inspectors may be called to perform pre-sale inspection, to respond to an emergency, or to address possible code violations. Building inspectors use a range of tools to take measurements, identify potential problems, and sample materials.
The majority of building inspectors work full-time, primarily during weekdays. Some night or weekend jobs may be required. Inspectors split their time between completing evaluations of buildings on location and in an office setting, where they draw up their conclusive reports. Protective clothing and gear is used to keep inspectors safe in the field.
The median annual salary for building inspectors according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2015 was $57,340.
A high school diploma is required to become a building inspector, but some employers may prefer you have a degree in engineering, architecture, or building inspection technology. On-the-job training is commonly provided, but 1-5 years of related experience is usually required to be hired. Certification or licensure is required by most states. In addition, you need to have communication, complex problem solving, time management and critical thinking skills, along with attention to detail, mechanical aptitude, and physical stamina.
Steps to Becoming a Building Inspector
Let's take a look at the steps you'll need to take to become a building inspector.
Step 1: Obtain Postsecondary Education
Although building inspectors need a high school diploma or GED at minimum, some employers prefer candidates who have completed a postsecondary degree program. When considering degree programs, students should ensure that the curriculum of a given program includes drafting, building inspection, construction technology and home inspection coursework. Individuals can also pursue certificate or associate degree programs in building inspection technology. Coursework for these programs typically includes building codes and ordinances, electrical inspection, materials of construction and concrete principles and inspection.
While in school, get familiar with construction practices and skills. The BLS states that individuals who are knowledgeable in a variety of construction practices and skills will likely have the best job prospects. To become more familiar with these skills, students can take courses that emphasize evaluating and reading plans and blueprints. Students can also consider courses in algebra, shop and geometry.
Step 2: Obtain Work Experience
Previous experience is highly preferred by most employers hiring building inspectors. This is especially true for inspectors who do not have postsecondary education and are seeking employment directly out of high school. Aspiring building inspectors can establish themselves in the field and gain the experience needed by working as plumbers, carpenters or electricians. By gaining experience in a variety of construction trades, prospective building inspectors can become knowledgeable in multiple specialties.
Step 3: Get Building Inspector Training
Training requirements differ by jurisdiction, state or inspector type, but many building inspectors receive the majority of their training on the job. While one can expect to receive a variety of training from an experienced inspector, prospective building inspectors may need to learn about building standards and codes on their own. Inspection techniques, recordkeeping, contract specifications, ordinances and reporting are examples of the training one can expect to receive while on the job. This training may also include supervised onsite inspections.
Make sure you have a driver's license. Building inspectors are expected to provide their own transportation to inspection sites. For this reason, they are required to have a valid driver's license.
Step 4: Obtain Certification or Licensure
Many states require building inspectors to hold either a license or certification. Requirements vary by state, but often include meeting the minimum educational requirements, having inspection experience, passing a state-approved examination, and possessing liability insurance. Some states offer their own exams, while others may accept certification from professional organizations or associations, such as the International Code Council (ICC) and National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI).
In addition to licensing, you may also want to earn multiple certifications. According to the BLS, a building inspector who is certified and is able to perform a variety of inspections will likely have the most favorable job prospects. While a larger jurisdiction may prefer to hire an inspector who has specialized knowledge in one particular area, such as plumbing or electrical, smaller jurisdictions usually hire inspectors who have broad knowledge of multiple specialties.
Step 5: Maintain Licensure or Certification
The length of time in which one must renew a license or certification varies and is dependent on the individual organization or jurisdiction. For instance, certification as Commercial Building Inspector or Residential Mechanical Inspector obtained through the ICC typically involves meeting continuing education requirements every 3 years, whereas those who hold the Certified Real Estate Inspector (CRI) designation offered by the NAHI must earn 16 continuing education units every year.
Step 6: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
According to the BLS, building inspectors entering the field with a bachelor's degree is steadily increasing. Inspectors looking to gain more formal education to advance in their careers can consider a bachelor's degree in building construction or building science. Through such programs, building inspectors can take courses like building systems and materials science to learn more about electrical and plumbing systems and components that make up construction material. In some cases, a bachelor's degree may be substitute for work experience.
To become a building inspector, you need at minimum a high school diploma with plenty of experience in the field and a state license; but obtaining a bachelor's degree and certifications can increase job opportunities.