How to Become a Fire Inspector
WHAT DO FIRE INSPECTORS DO?
Fire inspectors are responsible for inspecting fire safety equipment and extinguishers to make sure everything is in safe, working condition. Additionally, they investigate buildings to ensure that all fire regulations are being met on the federal, state, and local level. Fire inspectors can be found working for the state and local governments, as well as insurance companies or even law offices.
While fire investigators work during typical business hours, their workspace varies depending on the task at hand. Sometimes, they will be working outdoors investigating in the field, and other times, they will be working in an office space compiling necessary reports and data entry. Fire inspectors are required to wear protective gear to prevent any injuries or illnesses on the job.
While a college degree is not required to become a fire inspector, many employers prefer candidates with firefighting experience and post-secondary training in fire science.
HOW MUCH DO FIRE INSPECTORS MAKE?
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, fire inspectors make an average annual salary of $54,020. Salaries vary from state to state.
A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO BECOMING A FIRE INSPECTOR
Step 1: Start off as a professional firefighter and stay involved.
Fire inspectors usually begin their careers by working as a professional firefighter at a firefighting agency for a few years to familiarize themselves with fire origins, causes, federal and state building codes, and fire safety regulations, to name a few. Fire inspectors are also expected to be familiar with firefighting tactics and how to use necessary tools on the job in residential, industrial, and commercial properties. In addition to working as a firefighter, you’ll have to enroll in basic fire science training at a firefighting academy. There, you’ll learn how to suppress and extinguish fires, become familiar with alarm systems, fire prevention, and emergency medical services, to name a few.
Step 2: Begin fire inspector training.
Most employers in the profession prefer aspirants with some training in the field, whether it be in fire protection engineering, architecture, building construction, or related two-year training. What you learn from training will vary a bit from state to state, but generally speaking, you can expect to learn about fire safety and prevention, hazardous materials handling, investigation procedures, maintenance codes, and building laws and codes. You’ll also learn how to inspect for compliance and follow up with legal action if a building is not meeting basic required standards.
Training programs are offered in different term lengths: one-year, two-year, and four-year fire science degree programs. While it is not mandatory to have higher education, it is strongly encouraged, as these programs will likely lead to certification and employment.
Stumped on which program is best for you? Asking your prospective state employers may provide you with a better idea of work requirements as a fire inspector with their agency. From there, you can decide what certifications you’ll need to proceed.
Once you’ve completed training, it’s time to become a fire inspector! You can either promote from your current firefighting position, or apply for a new fire inspector job from the job market with the new training and experience you have.
Step 3: Advance your career.
Individuals who work in the firefighting field generally get promoted as they work over time, get more educated, or gain practical experience through increased responsibility. Seeking advanced training is a great idea for those who are seeking to go up the ladder further and acquire a higher-level fire inspector position. Advanced training will prepare students for a fire inspection certification exam. Established standards and qualifications for fire inspectors have been set by the National Association of Fire Investigators and National Fire Protection Association. Certification levels are as follows:
- Certified Fire Inspector
- Certified Fire Inspector, II
- Certified Fire Plan Examiner
- Certified Building Inspector
- Certified Building Plans Examiner
- Certified Fire Protection Specialist
In addition to testing for certification, it is recommended that fire inspectors go back to school for refresher courses to stay up-to-date with technology changes, protocol updates, and new information related to fire and building technologies. Here’s a full list of certificate programs.
FIRE INSPECTOR JOB REQUIREMENTS
Aspiring fire inspectors must meet the following requirements to be considered:
- High school diploma required, but undergraduate degree can be helpful
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have experience as a firefighter
- Must undergo formal academy-based and on-the-job training
- Have strong communication skills
- Be familiar with how fire equipment works
- Able to make unbiased judgment
- Be fit and physically capable
- Be open to working in outdoor settings as well as indoor (office) settings