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Construction, Building and Electrical Inspector Career and Job Information

Career and Job Highlights

Most construction and building inspectors are employed by governmental agencies like municipal or county building departments. There is a recent trend of involving inspectors in buying homes, which creates higher demand. A college education, experience as construction supervisors and craftworkers, or training as an architect or engineer will be beneficial to those entering the profession. Inspectors can gain formal certification as plan examiners or construction inspectors.

Construction, Building and Electrical Inspector Career Overview

Construction and building inspectors are involved in assessing construction or renovation of structures like buildings, roads, water systems, etc, to make sure that they comply with local building codes and regulations concerning zoning, and adhere to the stipulations of the contract. Building codes and guidelines are the way the government ensures the safety of the public by regulating construction. During the preliminary stages of building, the inspectors visit the site and make assessments. They inspect the area before the foundation is even built, check the depth of the footings, and make sure the land on which the structure is built is stable. They return to look at the foundation after it has been poured, continue to make periodic inspections for the duration of the construction, and a final inspection after it is finished. Inspections can vary widely. Different locations have different guidelines. For example, areas where earthquakes or tornados are common might have specific safety guidelines. Also, inspectors look at both structural soundness and fire safety. Based on the size and kind of structure, the surrounding buildings, and what will be kept in the building, they make sure that buildings have proper sprinkler systems, smoke control, emergency exits, and alarm systems.

Previously, most cities and counties made codes that were variations on regional form codes that were developed by the Building Officials and Code Administration (BOCA), the Southern Building Code Congress International (SBCCI), or the International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO). This made it difficult for inspectors to transfer to different areas as they were unfamiliar with the codes in the new area, which differed greatly from their old codes. To solve this problem the three organizations joined together in 1994 and created the International Code Council (ICC). By 2000 they’d created a set of building codes that were applicable to the entire country. The three different organizations concentrated all of their functions into the ICC by 2003. All new codes and programs that support inspectors are now administered by the ICC, which has simplified life for inspectors in the whole country.
There are many different professions within the industry.

  • Building inspectors: They evaluate the security and structural integrity of structures. Some focus on specific area like reinforced concrete or structural steel.
  • Plan examiners: They look at the blueprints and plans for buildings to before any construction begins to see if they comply with building codes, environmental regulations, and the zoning for the site.
  • Electrical inspectors: They make sure that electrical equipment and systems are properly installed and adhere to electrical regulations. They assess new and existing alarm systems, lighting, generators, sound systems, etc. They also look at the electrical components of kitchen appliances, air conditioners, etc.
  • Elevator inspectors: They make sure that lifting and transporting equipment is properly installed and functions correctly. They might inspect elevators, ski lifts, roller coasters, moving sidewalks, escalators, raised trains, etc.
  • Mechanical inspectors: These professionals check to make sure that kitchen appliances, climate control equipment, gas tanks and piping, and other mechanical appliances are installed properly. Some mechanical inspectors focus on one area like boilers or air conditioning.
  • Plumbing inspectors: These professionals specialize in all sorts of plumbing systems, like waste lines, drainage, water supply and distribution, private disposal arrangements, vent lines, etc.
  • Public works inspectors: They evaluate governmental construction projects all at levels. They look at roads, bridges, sewer systems, and water treatment plants to make sure that they adhere to regulations and the stipulations of contracts. They keep accounts of what materials and labor are used so they can determine expenses. They are also involved in excavation, disposing of fill, cement mixing, paving, grading, and situating forms for concrete pouring. Public works inspectors might focus on one specific area like road building, reinforced concrete, structural steel, drainage, or dredging procedures for building structures that involve water like harbors or dams.
  • Home inspectors: They evaluate both new and old homes. It is becoming increasingly common for home inspectors to be involved in the process of buying homes. Hopeful homeowners will hire inspectors either before making an offer or as a stipulation to a sales contract to make sure that their prospective home is a sound investment. Home inspectors look at all aspects of a residence, including structural soundness, roofing, electrical systems, plumbing, air conditioning, kitchen appliances, and heating systems.
  • Specification inspectors: They are hired by people who are in the process of building a new structure, and represent their interests, not the interests of the public. Their primary job is to make sure that all aspects of the construction adhere to the design specifications laid out in the contract. Specification inspectors might also be hired by insurance or financial companies.

Inspectors often use computers in their work. They might bring a laptop to the site to record and organize details about the construction, specific wording of regulations, the details of previous inspections, the status of permits, etc. Computers allow inspectors to keep these records ordered and updated.

Most inspections involve visual surveys of the area and construction. However, inspectors also use some tools, like tape measures, meters, survey equipment, and special equipment designed to test the strength and quality of materials like concrete. They keep detailed records of their findings, take pictures, file their reports with their agency, and, if there’s a problem, they take action to rectify it. For instance, if an inspector finds something that doesn’t comply with building codes or the contract, s/he might contact the construction contractor or supervisor. They specify a period of time for the builders to fix the problem, and if it isn’t fixed governmental inspectors are authorized to issue a “stop work” order.

Inspectors also look into building activities or renovations that are being conducted without the correct permits. Inspectors who work for municipal offices are responsible for enforcement of regulations concerning correct design, construction, and how the buildings are utilized. They inform law-breakers about what permits whey need and how to obtain them.

Inspectors are more likely to work individually than as part of a team. However for especially large or multipart projects inspectors who specialize in different areas might work together. Inspectors spend most of their time conduction inspections on-site, but they also work in an office where they read blueprints, file reports, correspond with clients or agencies, and make schedules.

Inspectors spend most of their time on construction sites which may be messy, full of equipment and materials, and unstable. They have to follow safety guidelines like other construction workers, such as wearing goggles or hardhats. Also, they may have to climb ladders on unfinished buildings or examine very small spaces.

Most inspectors work a regular forty-hour work week with normal daytime hours. However, they may have to work overtime during a busy season or when involved with a big project that is nearing deadline. Also, they have to be able to respond instantaneously and at any time if an accident takes place. Inspectors who aren’t employed by a governmental agency may have a more irregular work schedule, and might work on weekends or nights.

Construction, Building and Electrical Inspector Career Training and Job Qualifications

The skills required to be a good inspector vary based on type of employer. However, there are a few skills that are common to all inspectors. They should be conversant with material and practices used in construction. Inspectors might have general knowledge, like knowing how to judge structural quality, or specific knowledge, like ventilation systems or reinforced concrete. Also, they have to have experience in construction, such as being a construction manager or contractor. Many inspectors got their start working as craftsmen like carpenters, electricians, etc.

Inspectors, unlike some other construction professions, are recommended to have some formal training, as their job involves so much complex technical and practical knowledge. To get a job, most applicants need a high school diploma at least, regardless of how much experience the applicant has. Most hirers will also prefer an applicant with post-secondary education, like a degree from a community college, university, or vocational school. They look for people who have training in architecture, engineering, building inspection, drafting, or construction technology. Classes in language arts or mathematics are also beneficial. Associate’s degrees in building inspection are offered by many community colleges.

Inspectors have to be physically fit enough to be able to thoroughly inspect construction sites. They also need to be a licensed driver and often have to pass a civil service exam to work for the government.

Inspectors usually gain most of their skills through practical on the job training. They are paired with an inspector with lots of experience, and then learn how to conduct an inspection, about different does and regulations, how to read a contract, and how to keep proper records. They often start out by inspecting simple structures like residences, and are given more responsibility as they gain experience. In order to advance to a position in management or supervising, most candidate need a degree in architecture or engineering.

It is important for inspectors to remain au courant of new developments in construction methods, material, building codes, and regulations. Thus, most employers provide programs in continuing education. Inspectors who are self-employed or who work for small organizations can gain their continuing education through programs sponsored by their state or by taking courses offered by community colleges or professional organizations.

The majority of local and state governments require that inspectors receive some kind of formal licensure. Even if their area doesn’t require it, professional certification is still helpful inspectors as it demonstrates a level of competence. Certification usually involves experience, education, and a passing grade on examinations about different building codes, construction methods, and construction materials. Many professional organizations, the ICC among them, sponsor voluntary certification programs. Usually there are no educational requirements for these types of certification, though they may require an examination. There are many different certifications for many different specialties. One of the most common is the designation of Certified Building Official (CBO).

Job and Employment Opportunities

Employment is expected to grow at the average rate for building inspectors in coming years. The creation of new jobs can be attributed to the increasing awareness of safety issues by the general public, and the demand for high quality construction. Also, some job openings will be the result of experienced workers leaving the industry or retiring.

Inspectors can maximize their employability by gaining lots of experience in the construction industry as craftworkers or construction managers. Having a college education, formal training as an engineer or architect, and being certified will also enhance an inspector’s opportunities. Inspectors also need to be competent in reading blueprints, contracts, and plans.

Inspection, like all areas of construction, is sensitive to changes in the economy. However, it is less susceptible than most because they aren’t only involved in new construction, but in repair and renovation as well. The increasing population is leading to the building and renovation of many homes, and so there will be very high demand for home inspectors. Also, inspectors who specialize in architecture and engineering firms will have good opportunities as many governmental agencies hire outside inspectors on a contract basis.

Historical Earnings Information

The majority of inspectors earned between $15.80/h and $25.00/h in 2002. The median annual income was $41,600. The lowest tenth of the pay scale earned under $12.50/h and the highest tenth earned over $30.00/h