Becoming a Building Inspector
A city building inspector monitors buildings to ensure compliance with local ordinances and zoning regulations. They also are responsible for verifying compliance with local and national building codes for new construction projects, as well as approving changes and repairs to existing buildings.
While most building inspectors work full-time during regular business hours, some overtime, weekend, and evening shifts may be required as their workload and deadlines demand. Building inspectors working for city governments will generally enjoy an element of job security, as well as competitive pay and benefits.
While some building inspector positions will only require a high school diploma or its equivalent, others will require or prefer candidates to have a certificate or degree in a field such as engineering, architecture, inspection, drafting, or construction technology. Licensing programs vary by state, and certification is available through associations like the International Code Council.
Most building inspectors are required to have previous work experience in a related construction occupation. Key skills for the job include:
- Communication skills
- Attention to detail
- Time management skills
- Knowledge of automated permit system software
- Knowledge of meters and other testing equipment
In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that building inspectors made a median salary of $57,340 per year.
Now that we've gone over the basics of the profession, let's look in more detail at each step necessary or recommended to get started in this career.
Earn a Certificate or Degree
While only a high school diploma is necessary for city building inspector careers, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that employers might also seek applicants that have completed a formal training program. Degree and certificate programs are available at community and technical colleges and train students to understand construction code and conduct plan reviews. Building inspector programs examine concepts in field inspection, code administration, plan review and electrical inspection.
Programs may offer students the opportunity to complete an optional internship, which allows them to gain necessary experience in the field. Additionally, internship experience can be used toward certification or licensure requirements.
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Training for building inspectors varies by state and jurisdiction; however, most city building inspectors must have some kind of job training. This can be completed through a state training program or on-the-job training program. In the training experience, prospective city building inspectors will complete supervised on-site inspections and work with an experienced inspector to learn codes, ordinances and regulations.
Cities may have building codes and ordinances that vary by area. Knowledge of specific differences is typically required for city specific building inspector careers. Also, employers may prefer individuals that possess technical knowledge in a related work field, such as electrical or plumbing. Previous work experience in a related field may also be helpful in passing licensure and certification exams.
Become Licensed and Certified
Licensing and certification may be required in this field, and each state or city can have its own requirements. Some certifications may require work experience and/or passing an approved exam. Many professional associations offer certification, including the International Code Council (ICC) and the International Association of Electrical Inspectors. Some positions may require different levels of inspection certification. For example, a journey-level license may be required. Some city building inspector positions may require building inspectors to hold a general contractors license.
Some states, such as Michigan, require inspectors to complete continuing education units in order to maintain registration. Even in states without this requirement, completing continuing education units or even earning a bachelor's degree can keep you abreast of current knowledge or changes in the field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a majority of inspectors must renew their license on an ongoing basis in order to stay legal and current. In addition, inspectors might also be required to keep current with their insurance to keep working in the field.
In summary, many employers in this field prefer to hire city building inspectors who have some training and/or education, learned either in a school program or on the job. Licensure requirements vary by state.