Pros and Cons of a Career as a Building Inspector
Building inspectors evaluate current buildings and construction sites to make sure structures are in compliance with codes and safety regulations. This career offers reasonably high pay, particularly for a job that entails no postsecondary education; however, you may need to earn licensure and maintain it by taking continuing education courses. Consider both the positive and negative aspects of the career to decide if it's a career you want to pursue.
|Pros of Being a Building Inspector|
|No formal education requirements*|
|Reasonable median earnings (about $56,040 as of May 2014)*|
|Opportunities to specialize in different types of structures*|
|Can be your own boss (11% were self-employed in 2012)*|
|Cons of Being a Building Inspector|
|Licensure often required*|
|Entails continuing education*|
|Can be dangerous (involves climbing ladders and fitting into tight spaces)*|
|Evenings, weekends and overtime common during times of heavy construction*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Essential Career Information
As a building inspector, you'll help ensure that structures are in compliance with codes for safety, zoning and security. During inspections, you'll evaluate already erected buildings and buildings in construction to make sure they're of sound structural quality and safe for use. The process typically involves an initial inspection, follow-up inspections to see that the building is being brought up to code and a final inspection. You'll keep logs and take photos of the issues you come across. You may issue violation notices and write reports to construction teams, city officials or building owners in order to get results.
Some building inspectors choose to specialize in specific types of structures, like reinforced-concrete or steel structures. You might also focus your career on residential homes. Some inspectors examine only parts of structures, like the electrical or plumbing systems.
Salary Information and Job Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for a building inspector was around $56,040 as of May 2014. Job growth for this industry was expected to rise about as fast as the national average at a rate of 12% between 2012 and 2022. Most inspectors work for local, state and federal governments, as well as architectural and engineering firms, as of 2014, per the BLS.
What Are the Requirements?
Inspectors typically hold high school diplomas and complete on-the-job training. During training, you'll shadow a more experienced inspector and learn about building codes and regulations, recordkeeping, inspection reporting and other essential aspects of the career. You might also conduct supervised inspections.
Additionally, many states require you to become licensed or certified to practice in the profession. Depending on the state, you might have to obtain licensure by meeting education and training qualifications and passing an exam, or you might have to earn certification through an organization like the International Code Council. Home inspectors often must hold separate licenses, which can involve purchasing liability insurance and passing an exam. You will typically need to maintain licensure or certification regularly by completing continuing education. You'll also need a valid driver's license in order to travel to inspection sites.
What Employers Are Looking for
A career in building inspection entails a strong attention to detail and basic knowledge of building processes and materials. Employers tend to accept applicants with either formal education or experience in the field. Review these job postings from April 2012 for a better look at what employers look for:
- A city in California is seeking a building/zoning inspector who is capable of reading blueprints to ensure all buildings are in compliance with zoning regulations and estimate the value of construction materials on site.
- A county in Florida is hoping to hire an advanced building inspector to their team. This job requires that the candidate have at least a high school diploma or the equivalent and at least five years of experience in the construction industry.
- A city in Arizona is looking for a building inspector that is currently certified by at least two code certification boards, such as the International Code Council. The ideal applicant has completed a 2-year degree program or apprenticeship in building inspection.
How to Maximize Your Skills
While a high school diploma is the basic requirement, the BLS reports that more and more building inspectors are entering the career with degrees, and many employers prefer those who have postsecondary education. Many 2-year colleges offer associate's degrees in building inspection technology, or you could pursue a bachelor's degree related to architecture or engineering. Additionally, you might benefit from gaining electrical and plumbing instruction, particularly if you want to specialize in either of these fields.
Alternate Career Paths
If you want a career related to the construction and building industries, but a career in building inspection isn't right for you, consider becoming a cost estimator. These professionals gather and analyze data to determine how much a project will cost, including the labor, materials and equipment. These professionals often hold bachelor's degrees, but ample experience in the construction industry may also qualify you. Job prospects and earnings are considerably higher in this career than for building inspectors; according to the BLS, jobs in this field were predicted to grow at a much-faster-than-average rate of 36%, and cost estimators earned a mean salary of about $63,000 as of May 2011.
Real Estate Appraiser
Another similar career is real estate appraisal. Professionals in this field estimate the values of commercial and residential properties for tax, mortgage and sales purposes. Those who appraise residential properties usually hold associate's degrees, while commercial property appraisers must hold bachelor's degrees. Both typically need certification. The BLS reports that employment in this field was expected to grow by seven percent from 2010-2020, and these professionals earned a mean salary of more than $54,000 as of 2011.