Be a Government Inspector: Education and Career Roadmap

Mar 05, 2020

Learn what is required to work as a government inspector. Read about the education and certification requirements, job duties, and professional experience recommended to begin your career as an inspector.

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Become a Government Inspector

Government inspectors work in multiple industries, such as fire safety, public works, and construction. They examine products and work areas to verify that specific standards are being met. If anything is not up to code, inspectors report the issue to the proper authorities, and some inspectors have the power to stop production completely until the problem has been resolved.

Inspectors might be exposed to a range of risks, such as toxic materials, unstable buildings, and dangerous equipment. As a result, inspectors must use protective clothing and gear to minimize illness and injury. Most inspections are completed during business hours, although if an emergency occurs, weekend and night shifts may be necessary.

Degree Level High school diploma; an associate's degree or bachelor's degree is also beneficial and sometimes required
Degree Field Engineering or architecture; fire science or chemistry for fire inspectors
Experience Training in a construction trade preferred for building inspectors; up to 1 month of on-the-job training required for occupational safety and quality control inspectors; several months of fire academy instruction for fire inspectors
Licensure and Certification Licensure is often required for an inspector; certification is available
Key Skills Communication skills, attention to detail, physical stamina, mechanical and architectural knowledge, dexterity, math skills, critical thinking skills, problem solving skills
Salary (2018) Occupational health and safety specialists: $61,770 on the state government level and $84,450 on the federal level; $58,180 on the state level and $62,080 on the federal level for construction and building inspectors.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Government inspectors need communication, math, critical thinking, and problem solving skills, along with attention to detail, dexterity, and physical stamina. They also need mechanical and architectural knowledge.

Salaries for government inspectors vary by specialty and the branch of government for which they work. For example, as of May 2018, occupational health and safety specialists earned an average annual salary of $61,770 on the state government level and $84,450 on the federal level, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This compared to an average yearly wage of $58,180 on the state level and $62,080 on the federal level for construction and building inspectors, based on BLS figures.

Let's find out how you can become a government inspector.

Step One: Earn a High School Diploma

Since many government inspector jobs provide specific on-the-job training, some employers only require that applicants have a high school diploma or the equivalent. Students who want to become inspectors need strong skills in math, technology, and reading comprehension ( Another essential skill for inspectors is the ability to quickly understand and follow instructions concerning inspection procedures.

Step Two: Familiarize Yourself with Standards

One of the main tasks of inspectors is making sure everything is up to set standards. Thus, they must familiarize themselves with codes and laws aimed at assuring quality and safety. Sometimes a quick visual examination can verify if procedures have been followed, but inspectors also use technical equipment and computer software to maintain quality control. If something does not pass examination, inspectors must report the defect to specified supervisors.

Step Three: Accrue Relevant Work Experience

Before becoming a government inspector, most people obtain a thorough knowledge of the industry they'll be working in. For example, most fire inspectors first work as firefighters. Likewise, building and construction inspectors often work first as carpenters, metal workers, or plumbers. Working within the industry provides a well-rounded knowledge about what tools and materials are used, how individuals perform jobs, and what codes to follow.

Step Four: Earn a College Degree

While certain inspectors receive sufficient training in the field, others need to earn an associate's or bachelor's degree prior to employment. For example, public works inspectors need to take undergraduate courses like infrastructure construction, cost estimating, and site inspection.

Likewise, occupational safety and health inspectors need training in construction safety, ergonomics, and hazard prevention. Usually, if an industry involves multiple health and safety regulations, inspectors will require more classroom training to understand the vast amounts of information.

Step Five: Earn and Maintain Credentials

In industries like construction and public works, inspectors often must be licensed in accordance with state law. Additionally, some cities, counties, and states require both licensing and certification for certain inspection fields. Many groups provide inspector certification programs, such as the International Code Council and the American Society for Quality. Earning certification from these programs usually requires a specified amount of work experience and education and passage of an exam.

Some inspectors, such as those in fire safety, need additional training every year to maintain certification.

In summary, the path for government inspectors varies by specialty but might include on-the-job training, postsecondary education, and licensure or certification.

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