Becoming a Construction Inspector: Job Description & Salary Info

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A construction inspector's mean annual salary is around $58,000. Is it worth the training requirements? Read real job descriptions and see the truth about career prospects to determine if becoming a construction inspector is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Construction Inspector

A construction inspector examines building plans and construction sites to make sure that builders are following codes and meeting regulations. Read on to learn the pros and cons of a construction inspector career before deciding if this is the best job for you.

Pros of Becoming a Construction Inspector
Minimum educational requirements (A high school diploma is often sufficient)*
Decent expected job growth (12% between 2012 and 2022)*
Most inspectors train on the job**
Can choose to specialize in one of several areas (homes, elevators, public works, buildings)*

Cons of Becoming a Construction Inspector
You may need to work evenings and weekends*
The work can be physically demanding (climbing ladders, crawling into small spaces, working at high heights)**
Most states require certifications or licenses*
May be dangerous (falls from scaffolding, hazards from falling building materials)***

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **California Employment Development Department, ***Michigan.gov.

Essential Career Info

Job Description

Construction inspectors ensure that our private and public buildings, highways, dams, bridges and sewer systems are built, repaired or changed in compliance with all safety codes, zoning regulations and quality expectations. They also help employers make sure that contractors and vendors are meeting all contract specifications. Usually, construction inspectors are involved in all phases of a project. They conduct a preliminary check at the beginning, one or more inspections throughout the duration and a final, thorough inspection at the end.

As a construction inspector, you'll spend most of your time outdoors at construction sites. You'll also spend some time working indoors as you review blueprints and write reports. You'll probably work a standard 40-hour workweek; however, you may need to put in extra hours to keep up with times of intense construction work and deal with unexpected situations and accidents.

Career Paths and Specializations

The majority of inspectors work for the government. Others work for engineering, architectural and related services firms. A small number are self-employed.

Construction inspectors might be responsible for an entire project, or they may focus on one specific project area. For that reason, you might want to specialize in one or more types of construction inspections, such as buildings, elevators, electrical systems, mechanical components (e.g., commercial kitchen components, gas-fired appliances, heating and air conditioning units), public works or homes.

Job Prospects and Salary Info

A growing concern about public safety, especially in the face of natural disasters, will help foster the need for construction inspectors. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts an average 12% increase in jobs between 2012 and 2022. You'll have the best chances for getting a construction inspector job if you have construction experience and certification. Those with experience or education in a related field, such as engineering and architecture, will also enjoy decent job opportunities.

In May 2014, the BLS reported the mean annual salary for construction inspectors was about $58,000. The type of industry you work for can play an influencing role in what your pay will be. For example, in May 2014, the nonresidential construction industry paid construction inspectors an average salary of about $65,000. Construction inspectors working in the electric power generation, transmission and distribution industry earned, on average, about $79,000.

Education Requirements

According to the BLS, most employers require construction inspectors to have at least a high school diploma. Taking courses in algebra, geometry, drafting and English will help you prepare for the job. Some employers prefer to hire those who have completed some kind of additional training, such as an apprenticeship or associate's degree program, and a few are even looking for graduates with a bachelor's degree. However, practical experience appears to be the best credential, and most people prepare to become inspectors through on-the-job training in such fields as plumbing, carpentry and electrical work. Ideally, you'd have both a formal education and practical experience. According to the BLS and the California Employment Development Department (CEDD), some of the skills you'll need to work in the field include:

  • Extensive knowledge of buildings and construction, codes, ordinances, contract specifications and reporting duties
  • Ability to recognize and identify the nature of problems
  • Attention to detail
  • Good judgment and decision-making
  • Communication skills

Licensing Requirements

The BLS reports that many states require construction inspectors to have a license, for which you may need to take a licensing program and/or pass a state exam. Some states require construction inspectors to obtain certification from such professional organizations as the International Code Council or the National Fire Protection Association. Since 35 states have regulations that affect construction inspectors, you'll want to check with your own state government to determine the exact requirements for you.

Real Construction Inspector Job Postings

Nearly all employers look for candidates with construction experience and at least a high school diploma. They also usually specify that you'll need your own vehicle and a valid driver's license. The following list contains examples of real job openings posted in April 2012:

  • An engineering services firm in northern Virginia needed a full-time construction inspector to ensure quality and contract compliance for maintenance and complex roadway projects. The employer was looking for someone with five to seven years experience as an inspector. Candidates also needed to have certification from either the Virginia Department Of Transportation or Mid Atlantic Regional Technician Certification Program in a number of disciplines, including soils and aggregate, pavement marking and work zone traffic control.
  • A consulting firm sought a construction inspector to join their urban land development team in Pennsylvania. The job included reviewing contractors working on public improvement projects, conducting site and building condition surveys, researching permits and utilities and handling user complaints. Job requirements included a high school diploma, construction experience and proficiency in standard office software programs.
  • A geotechnical engineering and materials testing firm in Maryland looked for both entry- and senior-level construction inspectors with experience in materials testing. The posting specified that candidates needed to have at least a high school diploma, up to two years of experience, legal citizenship and a personal vehicle.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Get Certification

While most employers don't require certification, it can provide you with greater access to construction inspector job and advancement opportunities, according to the CEDD. The CEDD suggests getting certification from such professional organizations as the Building Officials and Code Administrators International. The American Construction Inspectors Association recommends the Construction Document Technologist certification from the Construction Specialists Institute.

Pursue Continuing Education

The CEDD also recommends that construction inspectors keep up with changes in building codes and construction technology. The CEDD suggests a few avenues for staying current, such as correspondence courses and professional trade association seminars.

Specialize

Depending on where you live and work, you might want to consider specializing in one or more focus areas, such as plumbing or carpentry. According to the BLS, larger jurisdictions tend to hire specialists, and having some specialized knowledge may improve your job prospects in those areas.

Alternative Career Paths

Construction Manager

If you love construction, another career option for you might be to become a construction manager. They oversee all aspects of construction projects, including personnel and subcontractor management, client relationships, planning, budgeting and vendor relationships. You can get this job with a high school diploma, but many employers are increasingly looking for those with bachelor's degrees. It might be worth getting the extra degree, since the BLS reported the mean salary for a construction manager was about $94,000 in May 2011.

Claims Adjuster

?If you are drawn to the idea of inspecting for a living, but aren't interested in construction, working as a claims adjuster might be right for you. These professionals investigate insurance claims to determine if the insurance company needs to pay them, and, if so, how much. A high school diploma is all you need to get the job. According to the BLS, the average salary for a claims adjuster in May 2011 was around $61,000.

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