How to Become a Building Inspector: Education and Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become a building inspector. Learn about the job description and duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career in building inspection.

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Do I Want to Be 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 they meet necessary standards and follow up at the building site as the construction proceeds. For existing buildings, inspectors may be called with the sale of a site, following an emergency, or at random. They use a range of tools to take measurements, identify potential problems, and even 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 in varying types of weather 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.

Job Requirements

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), having a high school diploma or GED and relevant job training are the minimum requirements for working as a building inspector. Some employers may prefer candidates who have completed a postsecondary program and have a combination of experience and technical knowledge. Licensure or certification is also required by most states. The following table contains the core requirements for building inspectors.

Common Requirements
Degree Level High school diploma required; some employers may prefer postsecondary education*
Degree Fields Engineering, architecture, building inspection technology*
Licensure and Certification Certification or licensure required by most states*
Experience 2-5 years' experience required**
Key Skills Strong communication skills, attention to detail*; complex problem solving, time management and critical thinking skills; excellent writing skills, active listening skills***
Computer Skills Knowledge of compliance software, accounting software, spreadsheet software, word processing software, Internet browsers***
Technical Skills Mechanical knowledge*; ability to read blueprints and plans; knowledge of a variety of testing equipment including circuit testers, liquid leak testers, levels, GFI circuit testers and calculators***
Additional Requirements Valid driver's license**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Job postings by employers (December 2012), ***O Net OnLine.

Step 1: Obtain Postsecondary Education

Although building inspectors need a high school diploma or GED at minimum, many 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. One can also pursue certificate programs 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.

A growing number of individuals also pursue bachelor's degree programs in architecture or engineering. In some cases, a bachelor's degree may be a substitute for experience requirements.

Success Tip

  • 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, one 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 out of high school. Aspiring building inspectors can establish themselves in the field and gain the experience needed by working as a plumber, carpenter or electrician. 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 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.

Success Tip

  • Obtain a driver's license. Building inspectors are expected to provide their own transportation to the 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, inspection experience, passing a state-approved examination and possession of liability insurance. Some states offer their own exams, while others may accept certification from professional organizations or associations.

One can find certification opportunities through a variety of associations, including the International Code Council (ICC), National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI), International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO), American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and International Association of Electrical Inspectors (IAEI).

Success Tip

  • 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. Certification obtained through the ICC must be renewed every three years. This typically involves taking continuing education units or health safety and welfare credits. To renew the Certified Real Estate Inspector (CRI) license by the NAHI, one must obtain 16 continuing education credits each year. To maintain the Certified Inspector credential offered by ASHI, one is required to complete at least 20 hours of continuing education every year.

Building inspectors who hold the Certified Electrical Inspector (CEI) credential from IAEI must complete at least 60 points of documented professional development over a 3-year period. Certifications obtained through the IAPMO can be renewed by completing a renewal examination or by participating in various career development activities.

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