How To Become A Building Inspector

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At Transizion, we specialize in helping students enroll in the college of their dreams – but we want to help all young people as they transition to life as an adult, whether or not college is the right path for them. In this series of articles, we’re exploring a wide range of rewarding professions that don’t require four-year degrees.

Today’s post focuses on how to become a construction and building inspector. We’ll cover education, working conditions, salary, job outlook, and more. Let’s dive in!

What Do Construction and Building Inspectors Do?

Construction and building inspectors ensure that buildings and other structures are safe and up to code. They check to make sure that everything meets contract specifications and complies with zoning regulations and building codes. 

There are many specialties under this umbrella: 

  • Home inspectors examine dwellings and report on overall condition. Home buyers often hire home inspectors to make sure that the roof, plumbing, and other vital components of the home are all in good repair or to learn what renovations are needed. 
  • Electrical inspectors examine a building’s electrical systems to make sure that they are safe and working properly. 
  • Plumbing inspectors help to ensure the safety of drinking water and the proper disposal of waste.
  • Public works inspectors monitor roads, bridges, dams, and water and sewer systems. Usually they’ll specialize in just one of these. 
  • Special inspectors often focus on specific components such as high-strength concrete or steel. They may supervise specific types of construction such as welding. 

Typically, construction and building inspectors will follow projects as they progress and check them a number of times to make sure that everything is still up to code. In the course of their work, inspectors often:

  • Monitor construction sites to ensure overall compliance
  • Use survey equipment to evaluate structures against specifications
  • Review and approve or reject building plans
  • Inspect electrical, plumbing, and other systems to ensure that they’re up to code
  • Use testing devices such as moisture meters to check for leaks or water damage 
  • Document findings in daily logs with writing and digital images
  • Issue violation notices and stop-work orders if building is not compliant

Working Conditions

Most construction and building inspectors spend their time going from site to site monitoring projects. Their work may require them to climb ladders or crawl through tight spaces. They also spend time in offices reviewing blueprints and writing reports. Most of their work is done alone during regular business hours, though many home inspectors work evenings and weekends.

Here are the largest employers of construction and building inspectors according to the BLS:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals 37%

Engineering services 17%

Self-employed workers 7%

Construction 6%

State government, excluding education and hospitals 4%

Many home inspectors are self employed, while other types of construction inspectors are more likely to work for local government or engineering and construction companies. 

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How to Become a Building Inspector

You don’t need a college degree to become a building inspector, though a relevant degree such as architecture or engineering might make you considerably more appealing to employers. Most employers require a high school diploma or GED at minimum.

Construction experience is valuable. Many building inspectors have experience working for electricians or plumbers. Ideally, prospective building inspectors learn on the job, working with experienced construction and building inspectors to learn the trade. 

Important Qualities

If you want to become a building inspector, you’ll need extensive knowledge of safe practices and building codes. Many home inspectors worked in construction before transitioning to a career in building inspection. 

Here are some other important qualities to foster:

  • Communication skills: You’ll need to explain any mistakes or damage that you find and write a report that clearly describes these problems.
  • Detail oriented: Your work will require you to examine buildings and other structures carefully, paying close attention so that you don’t miss anything. 
  • Mechanical knowledge: You’ll need to be able to use testing equipment and to understand how complex systems operate.
  • Physical stamina: This job will likely require you to be on your feet all day, often climbing ladders or crawling through small spaces in the course of your work. 

Education

If your practical experience is limited, you might choose to pursue a certificate or an associate’s degree in Building Inspection Technology. Or if you want to pick and choose specific subjects, many community colleges offer courses in home inspection, building inspection, drafting, and construction technology.

North Hennepin Community College in Minnesota offers an accelerated certificate program in Building Inspection Technology. Students meet one night per week, and the course can be completed in two semesters. After this, students are prepared to pass the State of Minnesota’s Certified Building Official Limited exam. The total cost of the program is $2,848. The program includes field inspections for hands-on experience. 

The College of San Mateo in California offers an associate in science degree program in Building Inspection. They also offer a certificate of achievement in Building Inspection that takes about half as much time as their associate in science degree program. The degree program costs between six and seven thousand dollars, while the certificate program costs closer to three thousand. The following courses are required for both options: 

  • Advanced Building Inspection
  • Electrical Inspection I
  • Electrical Inspection II
  • Plumbing Inspection
  • ADA Building Requirements
  • Mechanical Code
  • Structural Provisions
  • Energy Regulations
  • Introduction to Residential Dwelling Inspection Technology

San Diego Mesa College in California offers both a certificate of achievement and an associate of science degree in Building Construction Technology. Both programs require the same 28 units of study – the same nine courses – but the degree program has additional general education requirements and a total of 60 required units. The certificate costs $1288 and the degree costs $2760.

Portland Community College offers a two-year degree program in Building Inspection Technology. Coursework includes Structural Systems, International Building Codes, Residential & Commercial Print Reading, and Plan Review Software. A course called Field Experience Inspection gives students real-world experience. The total cost for residents of Oregon, California, Washington, Idaho or Nevada is approximately $12,000. The total cost for students from other states is over $24,000.

Try searching for building inspection programs in your state to see what’s available near you.

The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors offers over one thousand hours of training courses online. This resource is $49 per month or $499 per year. Courses include:

  • How to Inspect the Attic, Insulation, Ventilation & Interior 
  • How to Inspect HVAC Systems
  • How to Inspect the Exterior 
  • How to Perform Deck Inspections
  • How to Inspect for Moisture Intrusion
  • Residential Plumbing Overview for Inspectors 
  • Structural Issues for Home Inspectors
  • How to Perform Roof Inspections
  • How to Inspect Fireplaces, Stoves, and Chimneys 
  • Inspecting Commercial Electrical Systems 

The JD Grewell Education Scholarship, funded by the Examination Board of Professional Home

Inspectors, award quarterly scholarships of up to $5,000 to be put towards an online training

course or in-person home inspection training course. To enter, you must write a 500-word essay about your decision to become a home inspector and why you feel you are deserving of the

Scholarship.

Depending on where you work, you may need to take continuing education courses to maintain your credentials.

Licensing

Most states require building inspectors to be licensed, but the exact requirements vary. Thirty-five states use the National Home Inspector Exam to test prospective building inspectors. North Carolina uses its own exam. In fourteen states, building inspectors are unregulated. You can use this map to find out about the state(s) that you (want to) live in. 

To study for the National Home Inspector Exam, you can purchase the ​Mechanical Systems and NHIE Content Manual​ and the ​Structural Systems and Business Manual​ from the Examination Board of National Home Inspectors. The complete set of ebooks costs $150; a printed set is $259.

Even if you plan to work in a state where building inspectors are unregulated, the National Home Inspector Exam exam is a good way to get started, build your resume, or create a more marketable business. It’s also required for membership in useful groups such as the American Society of Home Inspectors and local associations. 

How Long Does It Take to Become a Building Inspector?

If you’re already very knowledgeable about relevant topics, you could pass the exam quite quickly. (And in some states, you don’t even need to pass an exam. It’s completely unregulated.) Of course, finding a job or starting your own business could take some time. And some states do require a certain amount of coursework – check out the information for your state through the link above. 

Because there’s no degree requirement, the time required to become a building inspector is entirely dependent upon how quickly you can learn the relevant information. You could study on your own while working in a relevant field or choose a certificate program that provides opportunities for real-world experience. Realistically, you’ll need at least a few years of relevant work experience before people are ready to trust you with their homes and businesses. 

Career Outlook for Construction and Building Inspectors

Employment of construction and building inspectors is projected to decline slightly over the next few years, but there will still be plenty of jobs available as people retire. The BLS expects there to be about 14,800 openings for construction and building inspectors each year.

How Much Do Construction and Building Inspectors Make?

Construction and building inspectors earned an average of $61,640 in 2021. This was significantly higher than the national average of $45,760.

The lowest ten percent earned less than $38,110, and the highest ten percent earned more than $100,520. The average wage for building inspectors is more or less the same regardless of which industry (engineering, construction, or government) employs them.

The top-paying states for construction and building inspectors are Connecticut, California, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, New York, Minnesota, Illinois, Delaware, Texas, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. In each of these states, the mean wage for building inspectors is over seventy thousand dollars per year. Connecticut is the highest-paying state on average, with a mean annual wage of $92,620. In New Haven, CT, the average is $121,510.

Working as a Construction and Building Inspector: An Overview

A career as a building inspector can be worthwhile and rewarding. It has the potential to pay well, and the skills necessary to the job transfer well to other professions. Though it’s not a rapidly growing field, there will be plenty of job openings in the coming years. 

Here are some pros and cons to consider:

Pros:

  • Above average salary 
  • Varied and interesting work environments
  • Skills and knowledge transfer well to other occupations
  • Potential for self-employment and flexible hours

Cons:

  • Relatively low job growth
  • May need to examine crawl spaces

If you’re interested in this profession, consider contacting local building inspectors to ask about the possibility of interviewing or shadowing them to learn more about this line of work. 

Stay tuned for upcoming articles on how to become a mason, realtor, or carpenter. 

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