By Mike Olson, CFM, City of McGregor, and BOAT Board of Directors
Construction and building inspectors ensure that construction meets local and national building codes and ordinances, zoning regulations, and contract specifications.
Construction and building inspectors typically do the following:
- Review plans to ensure they meet building codes, local ordinances, zoning regulations, and contract specifications
- Approve building plans that are satisfactory
- Monitor construction sites periodically to ensure overall compliance
- Use survey instruments, metering devices, and test equipment to perform inspections
- Inspect plumbing, electrical, and other systems to ensure that they meet code
- Verify alignment, level, and elevation of structures to ensure building meets specifications
- Issue violation notices and stop-work orders until building is compliant
- Keep daily logs, including photographs taken during inspections
- Provide written documentation of findings
People want to live and work in safe places, and construction and building inspectors ensure that construction meets codified requirements. Construction and building inspectors examine buildings, highways and streets, sewer and water systems, dams, bridges, and other structures. They also inspect electrical; heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, and refrigeration; and plumbing systems. Although no two inspections are alike, inspectors perform an initial check during the first phase of construction and follow-up inspections throughout the construction project. When the project is finished, they perform a final, comprehensive inspection and provide written and oral feedback related to their findings.
Construction and building inspectors held about 101,200 jobs in 2014. About 48 percent were employed in government, with most working for local governments. An additional 28 percent were employed in the architectural, engineering, and related services industries. About one in 10 were self-employed in 2014.
Although construction and building inspectors spend most of their time inspecting worksites, they also spend time in a field office reviewing blueprints, writing reports, and scheduling inspections.
How to Become a Construction and Building Inspector
Most employers require construction and building inspectors to have at least a high school diploma and considerable knowledge of construction trades. Inspectors typically learn on the job. Many states and local jurisdictions require some type of license or certification.
Training requirements vary by state, locality, and type of inspector. In general, construction and building inspectors receive much of their training on the job, although they must learn building codes and standards on their own. Working with an experienced inspector, they learn about inspection techniques; codes, ordinances, and regulations; contract specifications; and recordkeeping and reporting duties. Training also may include supervised onsite inspections.
Because inspectors must possess the right mix of technical knowledge, work experience, and education, employers prefer applicants who have both training and experience in a construction trade. For example, many inspectors have experience working as carpenters, electricians, or plumbers. Many home inspectors combine knowledge of multiple specialties, so many of them enter the occupation having a combination of certifications and previous experience in various construction trades. Most states and local jurisdictions require construction and building inspectors to have a license or certification. Some states have individual licensing programs for construction and building inspectors
The median annual wage for construction and building inspectors was $57,340 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $34,800, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $91,600.
Employment of construction and building inspectors is projected to grow eight percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Public interest in safety and the desire to improve the quality of construction are factors that may continue to create demand for inspectors. Employment growth for inspectors is expected to be strongest in government and in firms specializing in architectural, engineering, and related services.
Although employment of home inspectors should continue to grow, some states limit entry into the field to those with related work experience or who are certified. Furthermore, due to shrinking budgets, some state and local jurisdictions may prefer to hire only those who have certification in multiple specialties.
Information obtained from the United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics.