Pros and Cons of a Building Code Inspector Career
Building code inspectors help maintain the safety of residential, commercial and industrial buildings. Read on to learn about more pros and cons associated with this profession.
|Pros of Being a Building Code Inspector|
|Above-average salary (mean annual wage of $58,000 in 2014)*|
|Typical 40-hour work week with some overtime*|
|Work niches in green technology could increase employment*|
|Few educational requirements (17% have some college, no degree, 25% have a bachelor's degree, 25% have a postsecondary certificate)**|
|Cons of Being a Building Code Inspector|
|Must meet training requirements and stay on top of new codes and regulations*|
|Inspectors must be very accurate**|
|Job may be physically taxing*|
|Certification and/or licensure required for many jobs*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*NET OnLine.
Essential Career Information
Job Duties and Description
A building code inspector is a professional who examines buildings for their structural integrity and safety. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) adds that a building code inspector checks the overall condition of a structure, such as the building's foundation (www.bls.gov). The BLS notes that other housing aspects may be checked, such as the electrical, heating or plumbing systems, though these tasks sometimes given to other experts to review.
Building code inspectors are often on-site for new construction and to perform check-ups for buildings. They investigate to see if a project is being built to structural specifications and to determine if the foundation of a building is strong. They may need to enter or climb into spaces of buildings to make sure the foundation is set in each part of the home. Often a building code inspector compares and contrasts the blueprints of a building to what is observed at the building site, making sure the blueprints and the physical structure match. Overtime hours may occur, usually when the building code inspector works on new construction sites.
According to the BLS, a building code inspector earned a median salary of around $56,000 in May 2014, and a mean salary of $58,000. In the same year, the 10th percentile of workers earned a median salary of around $33,000, while the 90th percentile of workers earned around $88,000. The BLS projected that the demand for building code inspectors would grow by about 12% from 2012 to 2022, which was considered as fast as average. Prospects should be high for workers who practice green building designs, as these buildings might need more code inspectors during and after construction.
The BLS states that most employers want workers who hold at least a high school diploma. Many jobs may require the candidate to hold a certificate or associate's degree in architecture or engineering. Courses in algebra, geometry, construction technology or building inspection will provide needed academic experience.
Training for a building code inspector typically comes from on-the-job experience. The BLS explains that most aspiring building code inspectors work under the authority of a senior inspector. The senior inspector shows prospective inspectors all the day-to-day duties of the job while also teaching them building codes, rules and regulations, local and state building ordinances and how to report code violations to the state.
Licensing and Certification
States and regions may vary on the licensing or certification for building code inspectors. Certification can be general or specific depending on the niche profession you wish to work in, such as electrical, fire or plumbing inspection. Most states have licensing or certification examinations given to home inspectors by independent testing groups.
What Do Employers Look for?
Many jobs want building code inspectors to have knowledge in local city ordinances. Other job listings highlight the need for certification, even for part-time positions. Some job listings want their candidates to hold some prior job experience as well, typically in construction or building work. The following job postings are available as of May 2012:
- A California city needs a building code inspector to inspect all facilities in the city. Applicants need five years of construction or building experience and ICBO certification. Inspectors will approve permits and investigate the structural integrity of other buildings.
- A Texas city needs a building code inspector to enforce the city ordinances. The inspector will review construction sites and residential buildings during scheduled code reviews. The candidate needs a valid driver's license with a clean driving record.
- A borough in Pennsylvania needs a part-time building code assistant. The assistant needs state certification for residential properties.
How to Stand Out in the Field
The BLS reports that more than 35 states have some level of licensing and certification regulation for building home inspectors. One certifying body that many states use for their requirements is the International Code Council (ICC). The ICC helps establish the safeguards for home structures and safety, with all fifty states and Washington, D.C., adopting some of ICC's codes and standards on the state or local level (www.iccsafe.org). You may want to invest in one of the several certification programs the ICC has, such as the Certified Code Safety Professional Certification.
Alternative Careers to Consider
If you enjoy construction, but would prefer to build instead of inspect, you may want to become a carpenter. A carpenter is a professional who constructs or repairs various aspects of a home, ranging from drywall to stairways. They measure dimensions, remove previous building parts, and use various tools to install and construct the foundation and infrastructure to the home. Carpenters typically attend technical school and then enter a three to four year apprenticeship program. The apprenticeship programs are usually sponsored by unions or association groups. The BLS reported that there should be a 20% employment growth of carpenters between 2010-2020. This is mainly due to remodeling existing homes and constructing new homes. In May 2011, the median salary of carpenters calculated to around $40,000 annually.
An electrician inspects electrical components at a property or construction site and then follows blueprints to install or repair electrical codes. Like a code inspector, electricians must comply with a building code for specific states and cities, making sure each building is electrically safe for residents, workers or visitors. Most electricians need to attend a technical school and then enter into a four-year apprenticeship. The BLS projected that there would be a 23% increase of electricians due to new electrical technologies, such as solar or wind energy, between 2010 and 2020. The BLS stated that the median salary of electricians calculated to around $49,000 in May 2011.