Spotlights

Job Description

Construction and Building Inspectors are subject matter experts who make absolutely certain that construction work is done in compliance with countless local, state, and federal policies. These can range from building codes to zoning regulations, as well as details listed within the building or structure contract itself. Inspectors closely examine quality and safety issues as well as any requirements unique to the structure. 

There are many subtypes of inspectors, such as coating, electrical, elevator, home, mechanical, plans plumbing, and public works. If that wasn’t enough, there are also special inspectors (covered by Chapter 17 of the International Building Code) who work with critical construction areas, on behalf of companies, insurance agencies, or banks. Inspectors are responsible for dams, bridges, roads, sewers, and all systems including heating and air, electrical, ventilation, plumbing, and refrigeration. Different types of Construction and Building Inspectors share similar general education and training requirements, with specialized certification or licensure needed for specific roles. 

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Ensuring structures that house residents or businesses are safe to live and work in
  • Enhancing the overall quality of local building projects
  • Working in a field that may save lives by enforcing written construction standards
  • Collaborating with multiple companies, agencies, and officials to improve communities
2019 Employment
120,800
2029 Projected Employment
124,600
The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities

Working Schedule

  • Construction and Building Inspectors work full-time, with overtime required in some cases. They must also be able to respond to serious construction incidents and mishaps. Self-employed inspectors can set their own schedules and may opt to work nights or weekends.

Typical Duties

  • Review construction and building blueprints, plans, layouts, and methods
  • Sign off on plans meeting all applicable requirements
  • Conduct routine inspections of under-construction job sites 
  • Test for leaks, damage, or quality problems; ensure all work is done to required specifications and complies with codes, standards, ordinances, etc. 
  • Inspect all systems under their purview, such as plumbing and electrical systems
  • Watch for environmental hazards, such as pollution, asbestos, water contamination, etc.
  • Provide oral or written feedback to construction managers, contractors, stakeholders, and governmental agencies, as needed
  • Keep detailed records, including photos and videos
  • Track compliance findings and their resolutions
  • Cite violations; issue stop-work orders when necessary, especially if there’s a safety concern
  • Survey sites to ensure proper layout alignments and correct building elevations

Additional Responsibilities

  • Ensure permits and licenses have been obtained by builders
  • Participate in mishap investigations as needed
  • Mentor new inspectors
  • Continuously review codes, standards, ordinances, and policies for updates and revisions
  • Complete refresher training for applicable certifications
Skills Needed on the Job

Soft Skills

  • Analytical 
  • Calm under pressure
  • Decisive
  • Evaluation skills
  • Independent
  • Integrity
  • Patience and persistence 
  • Complex problem solving
  • Negotiation and collaboration
  • Psychology and motivational skills 
  • Keen writing and communication skills
  • Realistic
  • Risk management
  • Safety-oriented 
  • Stamina
  • Team player
  • Time management 

Technical Skills

  • Compliance software 
  • Computer aided design 
  • Database reporting 
  • Enterprise resource planning 
  • General accounting 
  • Inspection forms
  • Map creation — ESRI ArcView; Trimble Digital Fieldbook
  • Mechanical know-how
  • Procurement programs
Different Types of Organizations
  • Construction and engineering services    
  • Local and state governments
  • Self-employed workers    
Expectations and Sacrifices

Construction and Building Inspectors have some of the most critical jobs in the sector because they’re the ones ensuring everyone else is doing their jobs correctly. As a result, inspectors must be highly competent and knowledgeable about the guidelines they’re enforcing. 

As you might expect, nobody likes being told that they aren’t doing a good enough job or that they have to stop working because of a compliance problem. Inspectors therefore must be sure of what they’re saying, having the courage to stand behind their words, and the determination to enforce their authority. That said, they should possess diplomatic skills, too, i.e. the ability to explain problems in a way that others can understand. They should offer potential solutions that will meet requirements so everyone can move forward. 

Inspectors aren’t there to hold things up; they work to make sure construction is done safely and in accordance with several different requirements from multiple parties. Sometimes managers, foremen, or stakeholders can get frustrated, but a skilled inspector can often facilitate collaboration in such circumstances. It’s up to Construction and Building Inspectors to hold the line and not cave in to pressure. 

Current Trends

Construction and Building Inspector jobs are not expected to grow substantially in the next decade, however work should be consistent. As older workers retire, new ones will need to fill the gap, and should have training on the most up-to-date methods and technologies. 

Construction projects never stop. From new structures to renovating and expanding existing ones, these jobs require knowledgeable inspectors familiar with all applicable codes, environmental standards, and other regulations. Workers with the most credentials, who can perform multiple types of inspections, will surely be the most competitive in the job markets of tomorrow. Knowledge of current and trending construction technology, engineering, and architecture will also have a leg up. 

Trends include insurance companies taking advantage of inspectors’ ability to obtain analytical and quantitative data that they can use for risk assessment. There’s also the increasing reliance of drones to get a bird’s eye view of elevated work, and the increase in weather incidents that pose serious risks to buildings and other structures. Meanwhile, many businesses are seeking faster infrastructure growth to keep up with competition from overseas economies, so inspectors are vital to verify that growth speed doesn’t come with a sacrifice in quality. 

What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were young...

Construction and Building Inspectors are by-the-book types and probably always were. That’s a good thing, because without their ability to keep companies in compliance with rules, our lives would be less safe and the buildings we live in would have all types of problems. Inspectors are diligent guardians against poor quality, substandard materials, shoddy workmanship, and unsafe practices. 

Odds are they were very responsible as kids, perhaps being older siblings in charge of taking care of younger ones. They may have enjoyed activities in school where they got to learn and enforce policies or perform administrative tasks. Ideally they’re able to help motivate others to understand the reasons why compliance is so important. These soft skills may have been developed at home, in school, or through other work experiences. Inspectors may have enjoyed juggling lots of things at once. Chances are they also loved to get outdoors and work with their hands, yet were equally content reading complex materials that might bore others. 

Education and Training Needed
  • A high school diploma or GED plus sufficient construction or trade work experience
  • A degree isn’t needed but is sometimes preferred; for some employers, experience is more critical than academic qualification
  • Associate’s degree or certifications are enough for many employers
    • Relevant associate-level courses include: building inspection technology, home inspection, construction technology, blueprint reading, drafting, algebra, geometry, writing, and business management for self-employed workers
  • Bachelor’s degrees may be in Architecture or Engineering
  • Construction and Building Inspectors can expect plenty of On-The-Job training on building codes, inspection techniques, ordinances, regulations, recordkeeping, and reporting procedures
  • Every state has different certifications requirements. These depend on the exact job one wants to perform. Certifying organizations include:
    • International Association of Certified Home Inspectors - Certified Professional Inspector
    • International Association of Electrical Inspectors - Certified Electrical Inspector 
    • International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials
    • International Code Council - Commercial Building Inspector B2 Certification
  • Certain states require licensure for home inspectors, via the National Home Inspector Examination which covers building sciences, business ops, reporting, and more
Things to look for in a program
  • According to O*Net, 22% of Construction and Building Inspectors are working with only their high school diploma, while 35% have completed a certification and 17% have an associate’s degree. The site doesn’t list numbers of bachelor’s degree-holders
  • Most workers won’t need a bachelor’s, but find a school accredited by ABET if you plan to do a degree in engineering or tech
  • Whether taking classes at a community college, vocational school, or university, ensure the program features as much hands-on experience as possible
  • Look for any professional and student organizations offering learning opportunities 
  • Ask programs if they help place graduates into good-paying jobs, and check out their career services for assistance with resumes, mock interviews, and job fairs
  • Seek out programs that offer scholarships or that qualify for federal aid Pell Grant funds, if you are filing a FAFSA
  • Online classes are fine, but live experience can be beneficial for certain subjects
Things to do in High School and College
  • Take as many relevant classes as you can in high school, such as drafting, math, writing, and any soft skills-building subjects
  • In college or during vocational programs, complete your classes in building inspection technology, home inspection, construction technology, blueprint reading, or business
  • Get practical experience under your belt by volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and taking part-time jobs or internships in construction/trade work
  • Craft your draft resume early on and add information about new skills as you gain them
  • Do your homework and learn about local, state, and federal safety and building guidelines, to include codes, standards, ordinances, and regulations
  • Talk with working inspectors, including self-employed ones; ask questions, take notes, and learn as much as you can. Try to decide early on which subtype of work you’re going to pursue, so you can tailor your education accordingly 
  • Watch educational videos or take short online courses to gain a better understanding about the work involved 
  • Find out about state licensure requirements and get on the road to gaining your license
  • Become familiar with building owner rights as they pertain to inspections
Typical Roadmap
Building Inspector Gladeo Roadmap
How to land your 1st job
  • Nothing beats practical work experience, so get as much as you can before applying
  • Completing an internship, a few college classes, or vocational training will all be helpful! 
  • Finish any certifications you can upfront, such as the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors’ Certified Professional Inspector
    • After you earn your CPI cert, you can do free online courses like Safe Practices for the Home Inspector, 25 Standards Every Inspector Should Know, or Residential Plumbing Overview for Inspectors. Such courses will boost your credentials  
  • Be completely transparent about your background and goals, and offer proof of work experience, academic credentials, certifications completed, and other relevant data
  • Look for sample resumes online, read job postings carefully, and tailor your resume accordingly
  • Don’t reuse the same old resume; customize it for each job you apply for
  • Learn the terminology of the field, and be ready to speak about topics like a professional
  • Be ready for interviews. Read real-life inspector job interview questions and optimal responses, practice mock interviews with a friend or colleague, and dress for success
  • Find job openings through your network, and by scouring employment portals like Indeed, Monster, and Glassdoor. Don’t forget to update your LinkedIn profile, too
How to Climb the Ladder
  • Complete advanced and specialized certifications 
  • O*Net Online features current links to dozens of advanced certs like:
    • Certified Ventilation Inspector
    • Certified Wood Flooring Inspector
    • Coating Inspector Program Level 1 - Nuclear Specialty
    • Backflow Prevention Cross-Connection Control Surveyor Certification
  • Master the skills needed to do your current job before moving on to advanced training
  • Hone your diplomacy skills. Cultivate strong relations with everyone you interact with and develop your reputation as an inspector with integrity and high standards
  • Follow the book consistently. Do your job by making sure others are doing theirs up to specifications
  • Treat workers with respect but hold them accountable for compliance. Report failure to comply, mishaps, substandard work, when mandated  
  • Be proactive! Work with a sense of timeliness and efficiency
  • Participate in professional organizations, give speeches, write articles, and get your name out there as a leader in the field
Recommended Resources

Websites

  • AACE International 
  • American Concrete Institute 
  • American Council for Construction Education
  • American Institute of Architects 
  • American Institute of Constructors 
  • American Society of Civil Engineers 
  • American Society of Home Inspectors
  • Association of Construction Inspectors
  • Building Inspection Engineers Certification Institute 
  • Housing Inspection Foundation 
  • International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI)
  • International Association of Electrical Inspectors
  • International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials 
  • International Code Council
  • NACE International
  • National Association of Elevator Safety Authorities International
  • National Center for Construction Education and Research
  • National Fire Protection Association

Books

  • Building Codes Illustrated: A Guide to Understanding the 2018 International Building Code, by Francis Ching and Steven Winkel 
  • Building Inspection Manual: A Guide for Building Professionals for Maintenance, Safety, and Assessment, by Karl F. Schimd 
  • Complete Book of Home Inspection, by Norman Becker  
  • DEWALT 2018 Residential Construction Codes: Complete Handbook, by Lynn Underwood  
  • Introduction to Engineering Construction Inspection, by Edward Fisk and Randy Rapp 
  • The Complete Guide to Home Inspection, by Michael Litchfield and Roger Robinson 
Plan B

Construction and Building Inspectors bear a huge burden, and can often expect pushback or even anger from managers, stakeholders, and contractors. It’s not fun when people get mad at you for doing your job, so if you want to try something with potentially less stress, check out similar occupations listed in BLS’s online Occupational Outlook Handbook or at O*Net Online: 

  • Agricultural Inspectors
  • Appraisers and Assessors of Real Estate
  • Architects
  • Carpenters    
  • Construction Managers
  • Electrical and Electronics Engineering Technicians
  • Electrical and Electronics Engineers
  • Electricians    
  • Energy Auditors
  • Environmental Engineering Technologists
  • Fire Inspectors and Investigators    
  • Occupational Health and Safety Specialists and Technicians
  • Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters
  • Surveyors

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