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Building Inspector

Published on March 1, 2011.
Becoming a Building Inspector: A Career in Public Safety

If you are a detail-oriented person with knowledge of construction and a commitment to public service, consider work as a building inspector. These professionals help monitor the safety of business and residential structures and keep their occupants out of harm's way.

Job Duties

The primary duty of building inspectors is to ensure that a structure is safe for use and occupation. Most building inspectors work for local or state governments, or in some cases the federal government. Other building inspectors are self employed and are hired to do private inspections. One of the primary ways that building inspectors check if a structure is safe is to make sure it is built in compliance with local and national building codes.

There are many specialties within the building inspector profession. You may decide to become a structural inspector, an electrical inspector, a plumbing inspector, a mechanical inspector, or even a safety inspector. Building inspectors, regardless of their specialty, often do several inspections on the same structure as it is being built. They may do an inspection prior to sheet rock being installed and another before the building is occupied by the public.

Job Skills

A building inspector should have a general knowledge of construction methods and in-depth knowledge of their specialty within the field. Building inspectors need good communication skills, as they have to work closely with contractors, business owners, and government officials. A building inspector must have the fortitude necessary to tell a contractor that they have to redo a portion of their work.

Building inspectors often spend a good portion of their day walking through structures under construction, so you should enjoy exercise.


The income of a building inspector can vary depending on whether they are self employed or working for a company or municipality. Income can also vary based on the level of education of a building inspector, the amount of knowledge within their field, and certificates and programs they have completed.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in May 2008, the median salary of building inspectors was $50,180, and the highest ten percent made in excess of $78,070. Income for building inspectors tends to be higher in metropolitan areas, where more construction projects of a complicated nature are usually under way.

Training and Education

Building inspectors usually have at least a high school diploma, and many have taken construction related classes at vocational schools, community colleges, and colleges. Classes in construction management, drafting, math, and building inspection are often helpful. Many building inspectors have prior experience in the construction industry, such as being supervisors with residential or commercial builders.

Many municipalities allow building inspectors to start in entry level positions while gaining experience on the job and by taking classes in the evenings. The requirements for self-employed building inspectors differ from state to state, but they usually must be licensed and pass testing to achieve certification.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that about 106,400 positions classified as construction and building inspectors were filled in 2008. Most of these inspectors worked for local, county, and state governments. Approximately 27 percent worked for architectural and engineering firms, and 8 percent were self-employed.

Job Outlook

The occupation of building inspector is projected to grow by 17 percent between 2008 and 2018, which is considered to be faster than average when compared to other professions. A national concern with being better prepared for natural disasters by having qualified building inspectors enforcing codes should contribute to the need for additional knowledgeable inspectors in the profession. The desire to make construction projects more environmentally friendly should also cause employment in this occupation to expand.

Job prospects for people with prior experience in construction or classes and training in construction-related areas should be very good.

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