Become a Fire Protection Inspector: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a fire protection inspector. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career in fire safety inspection. View article »

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  • 0:01 Become a Fire…
  • 0:56 Career Requirements
  • 1:22 Career Steps to Follow

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Video Transcript

Become a Fire Protection Inspector

Fire protection inspectors examine commercial buildings, houses, and public places to ensure fire prevention safety measures have been met. They perform construction site or building inspections to ensure compliance with local, state, and federal fire codes. Job duties may also include installation and repair of various types of fire prevention equipment, such as sprinkler fire protection systems, fire alarm systems, fire hydrants, and backflow prevention assemblies.

Some risk may be associated in visiting buildings where a fire has occurred; safety and precautionary measures are taken in order to keep inspectors free from harm. Most fire inspectors work full-time during regular business hours. Some longer hours and/or nights and weekends may be required, depending on particular circumstances of fire events needing investigation.

Career Requirements

Degree Level High school diploma or equivalent; associate degree or postsecondary training preferred
Degree Fields Fire science or technology, engineering, chemistry, or related field
Licensure and/or Certification Many states require fire inspection certification
Experience 1-3 years in a related field
Key Skills High attention to detail; communication and critical thinking skills; integrity; knowledge of data entry, word processing, and fire protection systems and equipment; comfortable with overtime or flexible work hours; capable of passing background check and drug test; valid driver's license
Salary $56,730 (2015 median for fire inspectors and investigators)

Sources: Online job postings in November and December 2012, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Key skills a fire protection inspector needs include a high attention to detail, communication and critical thinking skills, integrity, and knowledge of data entry, word processing, and fire protection systems and equipment.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that in May 2015, fire inspectors and investigators earned a median wage of $56,730.

Career Steps to Follow

Let's now go through each of the steps needed to become a fire protection inspector.

Step 1: Complete a Certificate or Degree Program

A minimum of a high school diploma is usually required to enter this career, but employers may prefer postsecondary training in fire technology, fire science or a related field, such as engineering or chemistry. Aspiring fire protection inspectors can earn a certificate in fire science technology.

Some of the topics covered in a certificate program may include fire apparatus, fire prevention, hazardous materials, fire hydraulics and fire investigation. An associate's degree program in fire science includes similar specialized courses along with general education classes. Some degree programs offer a fire inspector specialization, which includes instruction on fire codes and interpretation of building plans.

Step 2: Earn Required Certifications

Certification requirements vary depending upon the state in which a fire protection investigator is employed. Some nationally recognized professional associations provide certification programs, which may fulfill requirements. The International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI) offers a Certified Fire Investigator (CFI) program with several online training modules. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) offers Fire Inspector I and II (CFI-I and CFI-II) and Fire Plan Examiner (CFPE) certification programs, with applications, handbooks and exams available online. These programs help ensure that an inspector has adequate knowledge of fire codes and fire protection systems.

Be sure to:

  • Check local and state requirements. Requirements regarding formal training of fire protection inspectors vary by state, and some college credits may be necessary for state certification or licensure. To be eligible to earn such credentials, some formal training and a written examination must usually be completed.

Step 3: Gain Work Experience

Prior to gaining a professional position as a fire protection inspector, gaining entry-level experience is beneficial. States and employers might require that inspectors have experience as building inspectors or fire safety directors prior to hire. Aspiring inspectors may wish to gain employment in a related area, such as installing extinguishing systems or fire suppression systems. Candidates should also possess verbal and written communication skills.

Step 4: Apply for Employment

Aspiring fire protection inspectors may secure employment with various governmental agencies or businesses. Working with governmental agencies or businesses can provide career advancement opportunities for dedicated fire protection inspectors, who are looking to advance in the field. Candidates must be able to review blueprints and plans, to research city, state, and federal codes accurately, and to know how to issue appropriate violations. Applicants may need to pass a background check and drug test, and should also possess a valid driver's license and a clean driving record.

Step 5: Advance With Experience

With enough field experience, fire inspectors may advance to supervisory roles within fire departments or law enforcement agencies.

In summary, a fire protection inspector usually needs a high school diploma and/or postsecondary training, some relevant work experience and possibly certification or licensure.

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