Education and Training Requirements
People interested in becoming construction inspectors must be high school graduates who have taken courses in drafting, mathematics (especially algebra and geometry), physics, speech, computer science, and English. Additional shop courses will undoubtedly prove helpful as well.
Some technical high schools offer specialized programs in electronics, carpentry, plumbing, and other trades. Some programs allow participants to earn credits toward future completion of an apprenticeship program.
Employers prefer graduates of an apprenticeship program or community or junior college, or people with at least two years toward an engineering or architectural degree. Required courses include construction technology, blueprint reading, technical math, English, and building inspection. Many community colleges offer programs in building inspection technology. A growing number of inspectors (especially those without a lot of industry experience) are entering the profession with a bachelor's degree.
Most construction inspectors have several years' experience either as a construction contractor or supervisor, or as a craft or trade worker such as a carpenter, electrician, plumber, or pipefitter. This experience demonstrates knowledge of construction materials and practices, which is necessary in inspections. Construction inspectors receive most of their training on the job.
Other Education or Training
The American Society of Home Inspectors, International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, International Association of Electrical Inspectors, International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials, International Code Council, NAESA International, Women in Code Enforcement and Development, and National Association of Women in Construction offer continuing education classes, webinars, workshops, and other learning opportunities for inspectors. Contact these organizations for more information.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
Some states require licensure or certification for employment. Inspectors can become certified by passing examinations on construction techniques, materials, and code requirements. The exams are offered by the International Code Council. The American Construction Inspectors Association, Association of Construction Inspectors, International Association of Electrical Inspectors, International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials, International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, and NAESA International also offer certification programs for inspectors.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Aspiring construction inspectors should obtain several years’ experience working either as a construction contractor/supervisor or as a craft or trade worker.
A construction inspector should have experience in construction, have a good driving record, be in good physical shape, have excellent communication skills (including writing), be able to pay attention to details, and have a confident personality. Although there are no standard requirements to enter this occupation, an inspector should be a responsible individual with in-depth knowledge of the construction trades. Inexperience can lead to mistakes that can cost someone a staggering amount of money or even cause a person's death.
The trade is not considered hazardous, but most inspectors wear hard hats as a precaution. Inspectors might need to climb ladders and walk across rooftops or perhaps trudge up numerous flights of stairs at building projects where elevators are not yet installed. Or they might occasionally find themselves squirming through the dirty, narrow, spider-infested crawl space under a house to check a foundation or crawling across the joists in a cramped, dusty, unfinished attic, inhaling insulation fibers and pesticides.
After the inspection, a construction inspector needs to explain his or her findings clearly in reports and should expect to spend many hours answering questions in person, by telephone, via e-mail, and in letters. Because inspectors often deliver bad news, they also need the emotional strength to stand firm on their reports, even when someone calls them a liar or threatens to sue.
On the other hand, an inspector knows that their work is to protect people. For example, they help ensure that a couple's new house will not be apt to burn down from an electrical short, and they might point out less dangerous problems, such as a malfunctioning septic tank or a leaking roof, that could require expensive repairs.