How to Become a Fire Inspector – Fire Inspection Training & Certification Degree Program

Fire inspectors are the professionals who protect properties and lives from fire. Most of the fire inspectors in the USA work with local government fire agencies. Various fire system inspection training options are available for aspirants to become a fire inspector, such as fire investigation and arson detection, fire chemistry and behavior, hazardous materials, fire detection and protection, building construction and codes, etc.

Several organizations like NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) offer certification programs in blueprint reading, fire protection systems, etc., for the aspiring candidates. The NFPA CFI-I (Certified Fire Inspector I) certification program complies with the NFPA 1031 Standard. The training conducted by the NCSA (National Code Services Association) covers a wide range of topics such as fire control principles, exit and emergency procedures, electrical components, the Uniform Fire Code, architectural plan review, flammable finishes, etc.

Fire Inspector Career

The job of a fire inspector is quite demanding and stressful, but at the same time, rewarding too. Since they deal with hazardous fire, they may encounter several health-related issues such as injury, muscle strain, dehydration, and exhaustion. However, they are given rigorous training to prevent any illness or injuries on the job. Aspirants with strong physical stamina, willingness to work under pressure, and serve the society will find this career a thrilling one.

Fire inspectors may work in indoor (office) as well as outdoor settings. Usually, they have fixed working shifts, but in case of emergencies, they may be called anytime – weekends, evenings, and even on holidays. They need to travel to other states if required. They can work in law offices, insurance companies, local and state governments, etc. They can also work with builders and planners to create fire safety plans for buildings. Prevention specialists and forest fire inspectors usually deal with outdoor fire hazards in residential and public areas.

Steps to Become a Fire Inspector

The stepwise procedure to become a fire inspector is as follows:

Step 1 – Undergo Fire Science Basic Training

The primary fire science training programs are designed to impart knowledge about fire safety regulations, federal and state building codes, conditions that are responsible for originating and spreading fires, firefighting equipment and tactics, etc. Aspirants can join a firefighting department or agency as a volunteer to gain the basic firefighting training.

While working for the fire agency or department, you can register yourself for the basic EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) training or apply for firefighter positions to get in-depth knowledge of this field.

Step 2 – Complete Fire Inspector Training

Two-year training in fire protection engineering, architecture, construction, building, or related field enhances your proficiency and possibility of getting hired. The fire inspector course provides you an advanced level of knowledge of building codes and fire prevention. Aspiring candidates will learn to inspect if the legal compliances are met or not, and how to take legal action in case the property is substandard.

You may undertake a certification program that completes in a year or less or may go for an associate’s or bachelor’s degree that takes 2 to 4 years to complete. The course is divided into classroom lectures, field experience, and hands-on research. The program covers the following topics:

  • Investigation procedures
  • Installation and maintenance codes for suppression systems and fire alarm
  • Structure audits
  • Hazardous material handling
  • Architectural blueprints and drawings
  • Fire exit drills
  • Operational capabilities for alarm systems or fire sprinkler

Step 3 – Earn Advanced Certifications

If you want to increase your marketability and enhance your career prospects, you must acquire fire safety inspector certification that is recognized at the national level. The NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) and NAFI (National Association of Fire Investigators) offer advanced certifications for fire inspectors.

You may achieve any of the following certifications based on your career goal:

  • Certified Fire Plan Examiner
  • Certified Building Plan Examiner
  • Certified Fire Protection Specialist
  • Certified Fire Inspector I and II
  • Certified Building Inspector

How Long does it take to Become a Fire Inspector?

Depending on your career goal, it may take 2-4 years to become a fire inspector. Aspiring candidates may pursue an associate’s (2 years) or bachelor’s (4 years) degree in criminal justice, fire engineering, fire science, chemistry or a related discipline. Some employers prefer to hire candidates with a fire science degree along with EMT certification. EMT training completes in 1-3 years, depending on which certification level you choose – EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate or EMT-Advanced.

There is a stepwise procedure to become a fire inspector, and each step completes in a specific duration. Below, we have estimated an approximate duration that each step takes.

  1. EMT Training (1-3 years)
  2. Fire Science Education (2-4 years)
  3. Work as a Volunteer – Firefighter (1 year maximum)
  4. Job Application, Interview and Hiring Process (0-2 years)
  5. Recruit Training (6 months)
  6. Probation (6 months-1 year)

Fire Inspector Qualifications

Aspirants are expected to fulfill the below-given requirements before proceeding further to become a fire inspector:

  • Acquire a high school diploma or credentials equivalent to it, such as GED (General Educational Development).
  • 18 years is the minimum age limit to be a fire inspector.
  • Gain work experience as a firefighter.
  • Earn a certificate or degree in fire inspection.
  • Complete the Academy training and undergo on-the-job training.

Firefighter Skills

If you want to pursue your career as a fire inspector, you must possess the following skills:

  • Effective interpersonal and communication skills
  • Analytical and problem-solving skills
  • In-depth knowledge of fire ordinances and codes
  • Emotional stability and quick decision-making
  • Time management skills, adaptability, and flexibility
  • Learning ability and computer skills
  • Detail oriented and critical thinking skills
  • Patience, sensitivity, and integrity
  • Keenness to promote community safety, and risk prevention

Fire Inspector Duties

Fire inspectors perform the following roles and responsibilities:

  • Inspecting extinguishers, sprinklers, fuel storage tanks, and fire safety equipment to ensure that they are in working condition
  • Investigating the buildings and ascertain that they meet all fire regulations on the local, state, and federal level
  • Educating the people through fire and safety education programs
  • Reconstructing the scene to determine the cause and origin of a fire
  • Collecting and analyzing evidence scenes of explosions and fires
  • Sending the collected pieces of evidence to laboratories for a further test for accelerants or fingerprints
  • Analyzing information with attorneys, engineers, and chemists
  • Evaluating the emergency evacuation plans
  • Preparing and maintaining the fire inspection documents
  • Testifying in criminal and civil legal proceedings

Fire Inspector Salary

The fire inspector pay varies from state to state. Various aspects are taken into account while deciding the salary of these professionals, such as employer (private or federal), state, county or province where the worker is employed, level of education (possess certification or degree), skills, number of years of experience, performance, etc. The total compensation comprises bonus, health insurance, overtime, etc.

The fire inspectors earned mean hourly wages of $29.93 and a mean annual salary of $62,260, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (as of May 2017). California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, and Massachusetts were among the top paying states for fire inspectors that paid annual mean wages of $94,790; $86,910; $85,510; $84,110; and $76,820, respectively.

As of 01 September 2018, the salary of fire inspectors ranged from $46,999 to $73,742 per annum (according to salary.com). According to the payscale.com, the average hourly wage of these professionals was $19.48, while the annual average salary was $51,235. NFPA certified fire inspectors with fire inspector I certification have chances of getting better pay.

Online Fire Inspector Programs

Working as a firefighter and pursue training in fire inspection without leaving your job? In such a scenario, you can consider taking up online fire inspector programs. The online training programs offer flexibility to candidates to learn new skills from experienced professionals at their own convenient time. Those who can’t commute due to some family commitments will find online courses the best option. Online courses offer you only classroom training. Aspirants need a tablet, smartphone or laptop and the internet connectivity or a Wi-Fi compatible device. You will have to enroll in your nearby fire inspector school to complete field training.

Online fire inspector classes come with the following benefits for the aspirants:

  • Online associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs provide a flexible substitute for traditional classes.
  • Students can easily access course materials, interact with professors, submit assignments, and take exams at their convenient
  • Since you need not commute to attend the college, you can enroll in any recognized online fire inspection college of any state.
  • Online classes save you money on course materials and transportation.
  • Aspirants can strike a balance between their job, work, and studies.
  • You can continue your job along with your training.

Fire Inspector Jobs

Fire inspectors with a bachelor’s degree have bright career opportunities. After gaining 3-5 years of working experience as a firefighter, aspirants may attain higher positions such as EMT/Paramedic Supervisor. Some similar jobs to fire inspectors are Flight Inspector II, Fire Prevention Engineer, Fire Inspector Supervisor, Fire Captain, etc. A growth of 10% from 2016 to 2026 in the employment of fire inspectors has been projected by the BLS. The number of job openings for these professionals by 2026 is projected to be 15,400. Since the number of job openings will be limited, aspirants will have to face tough competition.

Fire Sprinkler Inspector/Technician, Lead Fire Sprinkler Inspector, and Fire Alarm Inspector are some of the top fire inspector jobs in the United States. The largest employers for these professionals were manufacturing industries, investigation and security services, universities and colleges, local and state government, etc.

Top Fire Inspector Schools and Degree Programs

Fire Inspector training is available at graduate, associate, bachelor, and certificate levels. Below is the list of top schools that provide courses in fire inspection in the United States.

  1. University of Florida

    Address: Gainesville, Florida 32611
    Contact Number: 352-392-3261
    Official Website: http://www.ufl.edu

  2. Southern Maine Community College

    Address: 2 Fort Road, South Portland, Maine 04106
    Contact Number: 207-741-5500
    Official Website: https://www.smccme.edu

  3. Columbia Southern University

    Address: 21982 University Lane, Orange Beach, Alabama 36561
    Contact Number: 251-981-3771
    Official Website: https://www.columbiasouthern.edu

  4. Aims Community College

    Address: 5401 West 20th Street, Greeley, Colorado 80634
    Contact Number: 970-330-8008
    Official Website: https://www.aims.edu

  5. University of New Haven

    Address: 300 Boston Post Road, West Haven, Connecticut 06516
    Contact Number: 1-800-342-5864
    Official Website: https://www.newhaven.edu

  6. New Jersey City University

    Address: 2039 Kennedy Boulevard, Jersey City, New Jersey 07305
    Contact Number: 201-200-3234/201-200-3409
    Official Website: https://www.njcu.edu

  7. Florida State College

    Address: South Campus, 11901 Beach Boulevard, Jacksonville, Florida 32246
    Contact Number: 904-646-2111
    Official Website: https://www.fscj.edu

  8. Tidewater Community College

    Address: 121 College Place, Norfolk, Virginia 23510
    Contact Number: 757-822-1122/800-371-0898
    Official Website: https://www.tcc.edu

  9. University of Cincinnati

    Address: 2600 Clifton Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45221
    Contact Number: 513-556-0000
    Official Website: https://www.uc.edu

  10. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

    Address: 9201 University City Boulevard, Charlotte, North Carolina 28223-0001
    Contact Number: 704-687-8622
    Official Website: https://www.uncc.edu

  11. Oklahoma State University

    Address: Stillwater, Oklahoma 74078
    Contact Number: 405-744-6678
    Official Website: https://go.okstate.edu

  12. The University of Tennessee

    Address: Knoxville, Tennessee 37996
    Contact Number: 865-974-1000
    Official Website: https://www.utk.edu

  13. Northern Michigan University

    Address: 1401 Presque Isle Avenue, Marquette, Michigan 49855-5301
    Contact Number: 906-227-1000
    Official Website: http://www.nmu.edu

  14. Bowling Green State University

    Address: Bowling Green, Ohio 43403-0001
    Contact Number: 419-372-2531
    Official Website: https://www.bgsu.edu

  15. Western Illinois University

    Address: 1 University Circle, Macomb, Illinois 61455
    Contact Number: 309-298-1414
    Official Website: http://www.wiu.edu

  16. Madonna University

    Address: 36600 Schoolcraft Road, Livonia, MI 48150
    Contact Number: 734-432-5339
    Official Website: https://www.madonna.edu

  17. Cogswell College

    Address: 191 Baypointe Parkway, San Jose, California 95134
    Contact Number: 800-264-7955
    Official Website: https://cogswell.edu

  18. Anna Maria College

    Address: Paxton, Massachusetts
    Contact Number: 508-849-3360
    Official Website: https://www.annamaria.edu

  19. Lewis-Clark State College

    Address: 500 8th Avenue, Lewiston, Idaho 83501
    Contact Number: 208-792-5272/800-933-5272
    Official Website: http://www.lcsc.edu

  20. Providence College

    Address: 1 Cunningham Square, Providence, Rhode Island 02918
    Contact Number: 1-401-865-1000
    Official Website: https://www.providence.edu