Building inspectors check structures such as homes and commercial buildings for compliance with government building codes and safety guidelines. In addition to having an eye for detail, this career requires a thorough understanding of building codes and construction processes, which you can usually gain through on-the-job training, self-study and, possibly, a post-secondary program in building inspection technology. Building inspectors often need to obtain state-specific certification or licensure as well, which can involve additional education and experience requirements along with a final exam.
Building inspectors use their knowledge of building safety codes and construction to verify that structures, utility systems, foundations and all other building components meet governmental standards. They coordinate with those involved with the construction process to schedule regular inspections, analyze blueprints and drawings, note issues needing correction, and complete extensive documentation about their findings. These duties require building inspectors to have good physical stamina, solid communication skills, an attention to detail and excellent mechanical knowledge. In addition to working at the building site, inspectors also spend some time in the office, maintaining records and performing computer-based tasks such as creating spreadsheets and reports.
Employers generally seek high school graduates for building inspector jobs, but they may want you to have a building inspection technology certificate or an associate's degree from a community college or trade school. These programs usually give you experience watching inspections along with coursework on topics such as building codes; blueprint reading; safety; and building construction and utility systems, such as plumbing and electrical components.
You'll also need to check with your state to learn about its building inspection certification or licensure requirements. You may need to complete a state-specific credentialing program or pursue certification through an organization such as the National Institute of Building Inspectors or the International Code Council. You can expect to need to meet any building inspection technology education and experience requirements and take an exam to get your credentials.
Once employed, you can expect to complete on-the-job training, in which another inspector teaches you important techniques and supervises some of your inspections. Your employer usually will have you do some independent study about building codes, and you can expect to complete continuing education as changes occur.
Although some are self-employed, most building inspectors work for local and state governments as well as for firms that offer architectural, engineering, scientific and other professional services. A typical workday can require traveling to multiple sites, performing inspections indoors and outdoors, making your way through tight areas, and working both alone and as part of a team. While you'll likely work a regular day shift, you may work evenings and weekends if you're self-employed, when your employer has a lot of construction activity or if an emergency occurs.
Years of Experience and Salary
A building inspector's median annual salary – meaning half earned more and half earned less – was $59,700 in May 2018, based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The 10 percent earning the least made below $35,440, and the 10 percent making the most received more than $97,310. Of the top two employers, local governments paid an average wage of $62,080, while architectural and engineering services firms paid inspectors $63,860, on average. The electric power generation, transmission and distribution industry paid the highest average salary: $89,830.
This July 2019 average salary projection from PayScale shows how building inspectors see modest salary increases as they gain years of experience:
- Less than one year: $44,000
- One to four years: $49,000
- Five to nine years: $54,000
- 10 to 19 years: $58,000
- 20 or more years: $59,000
Job Growth Trend
The BLS expects building and construction instructors to have very good job prospects due to an increased focus on building safety and construction quality. Between 2016 and 2026, this occupation will grow by 10 percent, leading to 10,500 more positions in the field. Governments and engineering firms, in particular, are projected to seek more building inspectors during this time.
You can make your job prospects even better if you have building inspector certification along with relevant training and work experience. However, you may see more fluctuations in demand if you're a self-employed building inspector.