Pros and Cons of an Electrical Inspector Career
As an electrical inspector, you will verify that electrical systems and equipment are in compliance with codes and regulations. Keep reading to learn more about the pros and cons of a career as an electrical inspector.
|Pros of an Electrical Inspector Career|
|Good salary relative to education requirements (median salary around $56,040)*|
|Can enter this field with just a high school diploma (on-the-job training is common)*|
|Job opportunities are expected to be good for experienced and certified inspectors*|
|Job location flexibility (local governments, electrical companies and construction firms)*|
|Ability to work independently and make own decisions**|
|Cons of an Electrical Inspector Career|
|Some positions require 5-10 years of experience***|
|Could be required to learn about building codes on your own time*|
|May have to work in tight or uncomfortable spaces*|
|Larger jobs may require working nights or weekends*|
|Risk of electric shock*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **ONet Online, **CareerBuilder and Monster.com job postings.
Essential Career Information
Job Description and Duties
Put simply, the job of an electrical inspector is to ensure that electricity is used safely everywhere. Your work as an electrical inspector will involve examining installed wiring for a wide range of systems at different stages of construction. You might visit worksites to inspect electrical circuits, sound systems, motors and other equipment. You'll perform checks during the initial phase of a project and follow-up inspections at points throughout construction. A final and comprehensive inspection is often done when the project is finished.
Electrical inspectors examine a broad range of systems in any given site and ensure compliance with safety ordinances and building codes. The systems you'll be responsible for reviewing and possibly renovating may involve lighting, security or heating and air conditioning. If you work in a manufacturing setting, you'll spend much of your time inspecting mechanical systems and testing electrical equipment used for assembly. Electrical inspectors must keep thorough records of their work and will often take photographs to supplement written records.
Salary Info and Career Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects average job growth for all construction and building inspectors in the coming years, with overall employment expected to increase by 8% from 2014-2024. Demand for inspectors should remain strong due to public safety concerns and a continuing need for construction improvements. As of May 2014, the BLS reported a median annual salary of around $56,040 for construction and building inspectors.
Training requirements for inspectors of any type can vary by location. According to the BLS, a high school diploma and electrical trade knowledge are generally required to work as an electrical inspector. These inspectors often learn their skills on the job. In some areas, you may need to acquire state licensure or get certification from associations such as the International Association of Electrical Inspectors (IAEI).
Communication skills are important for electrical inspectors because they must often describe problems and potential solutions to home or business owners. An organized and detail-oriented nature is also required for electrical inspectors. They need to be able to pinpoint any potential problems and devise strategies for resolving them.
What Are Employers Looking For?
If you have some experience working with electrical systems, there are many settings in which you might find work. Employers may require a state license, high school diploma and the ability to travel. Some job postings open as of April 2012 reflect some specific expectations of electrical inspector positions.
- An oil-refining company in Texas is looking for an electrical inspector who speaks both English and Spanish. The successful candidate will assist in inspection of in-process and completed work activities and perform assessments of subcontractor activities. The position also involves developing reports for the construction quality control manager. A high school diploma, at least ten years of experience and extensive travel are all required.
- A township in Michigan seeks an electrical inspector to perform site inspections and plan reviews. The inspector will inspect new and existing structures to ensure compliance with township ordinances and codes. A high school diploma plus five years of experience in electrical inspection or as a journeyman electrician are requirements of the position. The ability to obtain state registration as an electrical inspector/plan reviewer is also necessary.
- A construction company in Utah is looking for an electrical inspector to perform quality control for a construction project. The job requires inspection of electrical equipment and verification that materials conform to drawings and project specifications. Previous work experience on industrial electrical projects is required and an electrical journeyman or master's state license is also needed.
Standing Out in the Field
If you're looking for a way to beat the competition, you might consider earning an associate's degree. The BLS reports that employers often look for candidates who have completed associate's degree programs that included training in building inspection, blueprint reading, drafting or construction technology. Many community colleges offer electrical construction technology and related programs. While earning your degree, you can learn about the National Electrical Code, wiring methods and construction safety. Advancing your education can be a substitute for the years of professional experience required by many companies and may make your resume more attractive to employers.
Becoming certified as an electrical inspector can help you stand out in this job market, even if certification isn't required by your state. The BLS reports that certified inspectors will have better job opportunities than those without credentials. The IAEI offers the Certified Electrical Inspector (CEI) program to promote professionalism in the field. To earn this credential, you should be employed as an electrical inspector and have substantial experience or training in the electrical field.
Alternative Career Options
If you're not sure that a career as an electrical inspector is right for you, but you're interested in the design and development of electrical equipment and devices and you want to make a higher salary, a career as an electrical or electronics engineer could be a good alternative. These positions are usually found in engineering firms, manufacturing settings and research and development companies. Electrical and electronics engineers must have a bachelor's degree, and the BLS reported a median annual salary of about $86,000 for electrical engineers as of May 2011. However, slower-than-average job growth is expected for this field, with the BLS projecting only a six percent increase in overall employment from 2010-2020.
If you already have some experience working with electrical systems, you might want to pursue a career as an electrician. The BLS projects faster-than-average job growth of 23% from 2010-2020 for electricians, due to an increase in wiring needs in homes and businesses. Training is usually accomplished through a formal apprenticeship, and most states require licensure. As of May 2011, the BLS reported a median annual salary of about $49,000 for electricians.