Becoming a Fire Inspector: Salary Information & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a fire inspector career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a fire inspector is the career path for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Fire Inspector Career

Fire inspectors work to ensure that buildings are up to code according to local and federal laws. Check out these pros and cons to see if becoming a fire inspector is the right choice for you:

Pros of a Fire Inspector Career
Minimum required education of a high school diploma*
Work is done in and out of office environment**
Independent, self-directed work**
Average-level annual salary (median annual wage of over $56,130 in 2014)*

Cons of a Fire Inspector Career
Work is travel-based*
Comprehensive knowledge of local and federal building codes**
Requires strong attention to detail**
Below average job growth (expected 6% increase from 2012-2022)*
Possible competition for jobs*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Occupational Information Network.

Essential Career Info

Job Description and Duties

A fire inspector's job involves using specific knowledge of fire codes while performing building inspections to ensure their compliance with safety standards. In addition to inspecting structures, fire inspectors also approve blueprints of new buildings, issue warnings about violations and educate the public about fire safety. You will likely have to travel to conduct inspections and then file the appropriate paperwork regarding code infractions or recommendations. Fire inspectors usually report to fire marshals.

Salary Information and Job Prospects

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in May 2014 that most fire inspectors and investigators made a median annual wage of $34,010-$90,030. The majority of fire inspectors work for local or state government agencies, though a few are employed by investigation/security companies and schools. Employment was projected to increase by 6% from 2012-2022, which is slower than average. As the population grows, there is expected to be an equal increase in buildings and demand for fire inspectors to approve those buildings.

Training and Certification Requirements

A high school diploma is typically the required education for fire inspectors, who receive their training on the job in an apprentice-like capacity. However, there are training programs available from community colleges and vocational schools. These programs are generally geared toward preparing you for certification, according to state laws. Some certificate programs include classes that can count toward an associate's degree in fire science. The U.S. Fire Administration offers courses and programs for fire inspectors through its National Fire Academy, which conducts classes on-campus in Maryland or off-campus through the academy's distance delivery training system.

Certification

Though specific requirements vary by state, all fire inspectors need to be certified by the state in which they work. Typically, you need to meet education and experience requirements and then pass an exam. Certification is usually maintained through state-run courses that update your knowledge of federal, state and local fire codes. Check with your state's department of housing or comparable organization for specific rules and regulations.

Skills

Fire inspectors need to pay great attention to detail in order to make sure building specifications meet fire code standards. They also need to have good communication skills when reporting building violations and conveying them to building owners. Finally, they must be able to honestly report any dangerous conditions they find and possible serve as witnesses in court.

What Employers are Looking for

Job postings for fire inspectors often mention that candidates must have a current, valid driver's license as well as fire inspector certification for the state. Check out these summaries of job postings open in March 2012 to get an idea of what employers are looking for:

  • A university in New Jersey was looking to hire a fire inspector with state certification, five years of experience and the ability to perform moderate physical tasks.
  • A city in Florida was searching for a fire inspector with state fire inspector and CPR certifications to work part-time.
  • A North Carolina company providing infrastructure solutions was looking for a fire inspector with sprinkler certification from the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET) and two years of experience.

How to Stand out in the Field

Beyond the state-required certification, you can seek additional certifications in specific technologies or from national agencies. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) offers four designations: Certified Fire Protection Specialist, Certified Fire Inspector I, Certified Fire Inspector II and Certified Fire Plan Examiner I. The NFPA certification process consists of a written examination and a practicum competency evaluation.

The NICET offers certifications in fire alarm systems, inspection and testing of water-based systems, special hazards suppression systems and water-based layout (sprinklers). Each of these categories has four levels of competency. In addition to passing an examination, you must submit recommendations and proof of work experience to earn these certifications.

Other Careers to Consider

Police Officer

If you're interested in serving the public, but want a more direct involvement with people, you could look into becoming a police officer. Although the work can be dangerous, police academy only lasts a few months after some collegiate-level schooling. The BLS reported in May 2011 that police and sheriff's patrol officers made a median annual wage of over $54,000.

Occupational Health and Safety Specialist

If you'd like to work keeping people safe while they're at work in ways that focus on more than just the building where they are, you could consider becoming an occupational health and safety specialist. While this career might require a bachelor's degree, you could work for the government, insurance companies, hospitals or in any industry with potentially hazardous facilities. The BLS reported that occupational health and safety specialists made a median annual wage of over $66,000 in 2011.

Popular Schools

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    1. Purdue University Global

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      • MS in Homeland Security and Emergency Management
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      • Bachelor: Fire and Emergency Management
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      • Associate of Science in Fire Science
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      • AAS in Public Safety and Security
      • Associate: Criminal Justice
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    2. Saint Leo University

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    Bachelor's
      • BA: Criminal Justice
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      • AA: Criminal Justice
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    3. Colorado State University Global

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      • MS - Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Admin
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      • BS - Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Admin
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    Master's
      • Criminal Justice, M.S.
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    5. Regent University

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Featured Schools

Purdue University Global

  • MS in Homeland Security and Emergency Management
  • Bachelor: Fire and Emergency Management
  • Associate of Science in Fire Science

Which subject are you interested in?

Saint Leo University

  • BA: Criminal Justice
  • BA: Criminal Justice - Criminalistics
  • AA: Criminal Justice

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Colorado State University Global

  • MS - Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Admin
  • BS - Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Admin

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado Christian University

  • Criminal Justice, M.S.
  • Criminal Justice, B.S.
  • Criminal Justice, A.S.

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Regent University

  • Master of Arts in Law - Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Applied Science in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Criminal Justice

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Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Criminal Justice Intelligence & Crime Analysis

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Northcentral University

  • MS - Organizational Leadership: Criminal Justice

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Indiana Wesleyan University

  • Master of Public Administration - Criminal Justice
  • B.S. Criminal Justice
  • A.S. Criminal Justice
  • Undergraduate Certificate - Criminal Justice

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