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How to Become a Building Inspector

Building inspectors ensure that construction sites meet relevant laws and regulations. These and other responsibilities ensure safe structures for occupants. To become a building inspector, candidates need education and experience. They also need strong communication skills to collaborate with other inspectors and construction specialists.

This page explains how to become a building inspector, including salary data and job-hunting tips. The final section lists resources for students and professionals. Click the embedded links to learn more about building inspector jobs. Colleges and universities with building inspector programs can also provide valuable information.

Questions About Becoming a Building Inspector

Do I need a degree to become a building inspector?

Many workers enter the profession with only a high school diploma. However, a college certificate or associate degree may help professionals in a competitive job market.

What types of building inspectors are there?

Many types of building inspector jobs exist. Some inspectors specialize in construction or existing property. The field also features special-purpose inspection. These workers inspect beams or walls.

How long does it take to become a building inspector?

Candidates usually need 3-5 years to become a building inspector. The process involves an apprenticeship and some classroom instruction. Individuals with an associate degree in engineering or architecture may need less time.

Do building inspectors make good money?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that building inspectors earn about $20,000 more than the U.S. median salary. However, salary varies by employer and geographic location.

What Do Building Inspectors Do?

Professionals working in building inspector jobs perform many duties, including analyzing and approving building plans. They also gauge builders' work through performing observations and running tests on final structures. These professionals use different tools on the job, such as survey equipment and other advanced electronics. Building inspectors learn how to use these tools while in school or during an apprenticeship.

Building inspectors spend most of their day on a worksite or in an office. An office lets them review blueprints and write reports. They also split their time between working independently and collaborating with other professionals.

Job duties vary by specialization. For example, coating inspectors limit their work to paint and related materials. Elevator inspectors ensure these devices run safely. Other specializations include home materials and electrical wiring. Professionals specialize while in school or during an apprenticeship.

Career and Salary Outlook for Building Inspectors

Construction and building inspectors earn a median $62,860 annually, according to the BLS. Many factors affect professionals' salary, including geographic location and employer. Workers in Connecticut, Alaska, and California earn a median salary above $87,000. Other well-paying locations include Washington and the District of Columbia.

Professionals working for engineering services and construction companies made slightly more than the national median in 2020. Some employers, including local and state governments, pay less than the median.

The BLS projects jobs for construction and building inspectors to decrease 3% from 2020-2030. Earning a degree or professional certification can give building inspectors a leg up in a competitive market.

See below for some of the top-paying states for construction and building inspectors.

Top-Paying States
State Annual Mean Wage State Labor Resources
California $91,510 California Occupational Guides
Alaska $90,260 Alaska Department of Labor And Workforce Development
Connecticut $87,280 Connecticut Department of Labor
District of Columbia $87,190 DC Department of Employment Services
Washington $79,310 Employment Security Department

Source: BLS

How To Get Hired as a Building Inspector

Aspiring building inspectors need a high school diploma or associate degree in building inspection technology. Typical classes in an associate program include construction technology, drafting, and blueprint reading. Some employers accept applicants with a GED if they hold relevant professional experience, such as carpentry or plumbing.

Prospective inspectors then apply to a training program or an apprenticeship. Those in an apprenticeship earn a salary while gaining hands-on experience. Workers meeting their state's licensure requirements can apply for a license. Some states refer to a license as a building inspector certification. These states may reject licensure candidates with a criminal history.

Building inspectors can appeal to employers in other ways than licensure and experience. For example, employers want detail-oriented applicants with mechanical knowledge of the latest systems. Job applicants should also exercise regularly to maintain the physical stamina the career requires.

What Are the Education Requirements for Building Inspectors?

Becoming a building inspector involves meeting four education requirements. The process begins as soon as high school. Individuals then complete a building inspector training program at a technical school or junior college. Graduates advance their knowledge and skills with on-the-job experience. Finally, professionals earn a building inspector license or certification.

  • High School or GED Diploma

    Building inspector programs require a high school diploma. High school students interested in this career should explore honors science classes and relevant electives. Some high schools feature a dual-enrollment option. This option lets learners take building inspection classes at a community college.

    Many building inspector programs accept applicants who passed the GED. Learners can prepare for the GED by taking a free or low-cost class at a junior or community college. Many of these schools also administer the GED.

  • Building Inspector Training

    A certificate or degree in building inspection technology provides learners with the educational foundation the profession requires. Specializations may include green buildings and fire prevention. Students in the former take classes in design awareness, architectural design technology, and photovoltaic systems. Other coursework covers state laws and regulations. Classes assess learners with exams.

    A typical certificate requires 18 credits. Most full-time students finish in 1-2 semesters. An associate degree requires 61-62 credits and usually takes 1-2 years to complete. Associate degree-seekers take general education classes alongside major coursework. General education helps students develop transferable skills relevant to building inspection and other careers.

  • On-the-Job Experience

    Apprenticeship programs provide on-the-job experience. Many programs accept applications throughout the year. Requirements include a valid driver's license, examination, and good health. A typical apprenticeship lasts 6,000 hours over many years. Participants earn a salary and receive raises when they meet specific milestones. Other benefits may include medical insurance.

    A typical apprenticeship does not just involve work. Some apprentices take 144 hours of supplemental instruction annually. They complete this requirement outside of work. Successful apprentices may find employment with one of the companies or agencies that trained them.

  • Building Inspector Certification

    Professionals apply for a building inspector certification or license near the end of their apprenticeship. Requirements vary by state. In California, only hospital inspectors need a state-issued certification. As of March 2022, these professionals pay a $100 application fee and a $300 examination fee. Exam questions cover electrical systems, fire safety, and architectural blueprints.

    Certified California hospital inspectors pay a $100 renewal fee every three years. Professionals must pass a recertification exam. Other states may require an exam or continuing education classes (CE) from approved providers. Check a state licensure or certification board website for more information.

How Much Do Building Inspector Training Programs Cost?

Tuition costs vary by school. Prospective students on a budget should explore programs from community and junior colleges. Some programs may charge in-state learners just over $1,000 in tuition. Degree-seekers in an associate program often pay more, as these programs require more credits. However, associate degrees cost less than bachelor's degrees.

Students should note that supplies, books, and equipment may nearly double the cost of a building inspector certificate or associate degree. Learners can work with an enrollment or financial aid advisor to discuss the total cost of attendance. Fortunately, many students with financial need qualify for federal, state, and institutional financial aid programs. Most require the FAFSA.

Students can further lower their out-of-pocket costs by exploring hybrid programs. These programs let them take most classes online, reducing commuting costs. Some hybrid programs feature additional financial benefits, such as free virtual textbooks. Research hybrid programs' websites to compare prices.

Certifications for Building Inspectors

Some states refer to a building inspector license as a certification. The term also applies to professional certifications workers use to advance their career. A certification shows mastery of specific knowledge and skills. Advantages of earning a certification may include preparing for a tight job market and qualifying for a raise.

The National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA's) national fire inspector (NFI) certification helps professionals develop their reputation, improve job performance, and qualify for new career opportunities. NFI candidates need only a high school diploma to start the certification process. As of March 2022, NFPA charges a $350 exam fee. NFIs can renew their certification every three years by taking CE classes.

Building inspectors specializing in plumbing can earn the universal plumbing code inspector certification. The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) awards this certification to professionals who pass a 100-question multiple-choice exam. IAPMO members save 25% on exam fees.

Resources for Building Inspectors

ACIA provides licensed and certified construction inspectors with the registered construction inspectors (RCI) certification. RCI requirements include an exam and relevant professional experience. RCIs complete 36 CE units for certification renewal. ICC unites building and construction inspectors, providing them with information on the best construction standards. ICC features code guides for residential construction, existing buildings, and industrial facilities. Commercial building inspectors join NACBI to receive job and networking resources. Membership benefits include discounts on CE and other training events. NACBI charges a $489 membership fee as of March 2022. Home inspectors register for IACHI's all-access membership to explore CE, practice for certification exams, and review exclusive business success tools.

Photo Credit: fstop123, Getty Images

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