What Does a Field Inspector Do?

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Field inspectors are professionals who visit locations to assess and report on the condition, functionality, or compliance of specific items or processes based on predefined criteria. 

If this definition seems broad, that’s because the roles and responsibilities of a field inspector can be quite expansive. 

The reason? Almost any type of inspector could be called a “field inspector” because, in its most general sense, the term simply describes an inspector who performs their work in the field, or onsite, as opposed to in an office setting.


In this guide to field inspectors, we’ll cover what a field inspector is in more depth, take a look at the work of field inspectors in local government and elsewhere, and then go over how to become a field inspector. 

Let’s get started.

What Is a Field Inspector?

As we just mentioned, a field inspector is any inspector who goes into the field to do inspections.

When doing these inspections, the field inspector’s role is typically to ensure codes, standards, guidelines, and protocols are being followed. 

But there are some exceptions. In real estate, a field inspector’s job is to do condition assessments of properties not for code enforcement, but for other reasons: To inform a homebuyer of the condition of a home they’re considering buying, or to assess the value of a home for loan or tax purposes.

In this guide, we’ll focus primarily on the work field inspectors do when enforcing codes—that is, the work of field inspectors in local government.

Some examples include:

  • Building inspections. Ensuring new buildings comply with local codes.
  • Health and safety inspections. Ensuring workplaces adhere to occupational health and safety standards.
  • Fire safety inspections. Ensuring buildings comply with fire safety codes, including the proper functioning of fire alarms and extinguishers.


In contrast to inspections to enforce codes, the work of field inspectors in specific industries, like Oil and Gas or Mining, is typically to enforce set standards. Often, complying with these standards is mandated by the law.

Some examples include:

  • Oil and Gas facility inspections. Checking for compliance with safety and environmental regulations, examining equipment conditions, and ensuring proper operation of drilling sites and refineries.
  • Mining site inspections. Ensuring adherence to safety standards in mining operations, monitoring environmental impact, and verifying that mining practices comply with regulatory requirements.
  • Pipeline inspections. Examining the condition and maintenance of pipelines, checking for leaks or potential hazards, and ensuring compliance with safety standards.

In the latter category, there is a huge array of documented standards and rules that inspectors need to follow, many of which require specific training and certifications.

Those details are beyond the scope of this guide.

But it’s worth noting that each type of industry, and often individual types of inspections in specific industries, can be complex and come with a  host of rules. 

As an example, an API 510 inspection describes the specific standards for inspecting pressure vessels as created by the American Petroleum Institute and includes requirements for the frequency of inspections, data collection and validation, and certification requirements for the field inspector doing the work.

7 Common Challenges for Field Inspectors 

Field inspectors have to collect and process a lot of data on a daily basis. And, when it’s paper-based, it can be hard to manage all of that information.

Here are some of the most common challenges that field inspectors face.

1. Inefficient, Paper-Based Processes

Traditional paper forms and manual record-keeping methods can be time-consuming and prone to errors. Inspectors often find themselves bogged down by paperwork, which can lead to delays in inspection cycles and a backlog of cases. 

Paper-based inspections are also inefficient because they can require duplicate entries—the inspector fills out a form, and then they or someone else types that information into a database—making that data inherently siloed and hard to use.

2. Siloed Data

In a paper-based system, inspection data is just one type that gets siloed. Inspectors also face challenges related to siloed data that would help them do their job better, including an inability to easily access historical inspection records or updated codes and regulations. This limitation can lead to inaccuracies in inspections and slower decision-making overall.

3. Difficulty Sharing Photos

Photos are the lifeblood of any inspection. They show the issue an inspector found, providing key support to a written report that shows what is wrong and what needs to be done. But the power of photographs in inspections is incredibly hard to leverage when using a paper-based process. After all, a printed photo can only exist in any one location at a time, making it impossible to share with multiple parties at once.

4. Trouble Scheduling and Tracking Inspections

Managing and tracking inspections using traditional methods can be cumbersome. Inspectors face challenges in efficiently scheduling their visits, leading to potential overlaps or gaps in inspection coverage.

[Related read: South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Cuts Two Hours Per Day with Streamlined Tasking]

5. The Limits of In-Person Data Collection

Inspectors face the stark reality that they can only be physically present in so many places on a given day. Traffic, travel time, and other delays on the road limit the amount of work an inspector can do.

6. Frustrations with Communication and Collaboration

Traditional approaches to inspections often hinder effective communication between inspectors, other departments, and stakeholders, creating ongoing challenges in providing timely updates and keeping everyone in the loop on the progress toward securing a permit. These process issues can result in delays and misunderstandings, which can result in unnecessary delays in the building process and resulting frustration among builders and permit applicants.

7. Delays in Permit Approvals

As we just noted, paper-based processes come with inherent delays in communication, data processing, and simply executing the inspection itself. And all of these delays add up to time lost in a speedy permit approval.


OpenGov Permitting and Licensing was designed to help inspectors overcome all of these challenges. 

Here’s how:


What Does a Field Inspector Do?

Field inspectors are the vital eyes and ears on the ground, ensuring compliance with regulations and safety standards. 

Acting as a critical bridge between the realities of the field and the decisions made in boardrooms or government offices, they maintain and enhance the integrity of businesses and public systems.

Here is an overview of the work field inspectors do:

  • Evaluation and reporting. The primary duty of a field inspector is to meticulously assess conditions, whether it’s the structural aspects of a building, the quality of a product, or the environmental impact of a site. These evaluations culminate in comprehensive reports shared with relevant stakeholders.
  • Regulatory adherence. In sectors like construction, agriculture, or oil and gas, inspectors ensure that operations abide by local, state, and even international regulations, mitigating potential risks and violations.
  • Technical application. Field inspectors wield a range of tools tailored to their industry. For example, those in agriculture might deploy soil testing kits, while those in real estate use advanced imaging tools.
  • Interpersonal interactions. Inspectors constantly interface with various stakeholders, from site managers and property owners to local authorities. Through these discussions, they not only pinpoint flaws but also actively contribute to formulating solutions. Effective communication, both written and verbal, is paramount.
  • Capturing documentation and evidence. Beyond their observations, inspectors also emphasize capturing visual evidence. Photographs, videos, or even digital renderings provide a more complete view of an inspection site, bolstering written reports and ensuring transparency.
  • Establishing and maintaining safety and trust. In many industries, especially high-risk ones like construction, field inspectors are the primary defenders of safety. Their vigilance can directly prevent accidents, ensuring the welfare of workers and the public.

Engineer or inspector checking progressing work in construction site

Industries that Use Field Inspectors

Field inspectors play an indispensable role across a myriad of industries, ensuring that standards, regulations, and best practices are met. 

Here are the main sectors and industries that rely on these professionals:

1. Government/Public Sector

Type of work:

  • Regulation-based inspections. Conducting audits and condition assessments to ensure compliance with governmental regulations.
  • Compliance checks. Monitor public services, businesses, and facilities to ensure they align with local, state, or federal statutes.

2. Health and Safety

Type of work:

  • Workplace audits. Scrutinize workplaces to verify they meet the stipulated health and safety criteria.
  • Hazard identification. Pinpoint potential risks and suggest remedial measures.
  • Regulatory compliance. Ensure businesses comply with labor laws and associated safety standards.

3. Construction

Type of work:

  • Compliance monitoring. Ensure that all construction activities adhere to the set building codes, project blueprints, and safety protocols.
  • Quality assurance. Scrutinize the quality of construction materials and the workmanship involved.
  • Infrastructure verification. Confirm the correct installation of essential systems like plumbing, electricity, and HVAC.

4. Insurance

Type of work:

  • Claim investigations. Investigate insurance claims by inspecting damages to assets such as property or vehicles.
  • Evidence gathering. Document all findings, capture photographs, and interact with witnesses or claimants.
  • Claim valuation. Assist insurance providers in ascertaining the authenticity and worth of a claim.

5. Agriculture

Type of work:

  • Farm inspections. Survey farms and related agricultural processes, ensuring they align with health and safety guidelines.
  • Regulatory compliance. Ensure farms adhere to environmental norms.
  • Health monitoring. Oversee the health and well-being of crops and livestock.

6. Environmental

Type of work:

  • Risk assessment. Examine sites to determine potential environmental threats or damages.
  • Sample collection. Extract samples like soil or water for comprehensive analysis.
  • Regulatory adherence. Ensure all operations align with prescribed environmental standards.

7. Oil and Gas

Type of work:

  • Safety checks. Inspect facilities, equipment, and processes for adherence to safety guidelines.
  • Infrastructure assessment. Evaluate the status and condition of critical structures like pipelines and tanks.
  • Operational monitoring. Ensure all activities respect environmental and safety regulations.

8. Real Estate Field Inspector

Type of work:

  • Property verification. Inspect homes, commercial establishments, and vacant plots to assess their condition.
  • Status checks. Ensure that properties are secure, and determine occupancy statuses.
  • Damage assessment. Document any damages, potential hazards, or repairs required.
  • Documentation. Capture photographs and generate detailed reports for financial institutions like banks and mortgage lenders.
  • Mortgage field inspections. Take photos and determine if the property is occupied or vacant and determine the general condition of the property.

Field Inspectors for Local Government

Field inspectors in local government work on the frontlines of public safety.

They are the ones who ensure that community standards are upheld, safety measures are enforced, and local ordinances are met.

[Related read: Everyday Heroes—Three Government Leaders Who Keep People Safe by Keeping Buildings to Code]

Just because new safety standards become law doesn’t necessarily mean they will be implemented. The only way to make sure these standards are followed is to go into the field and check. 

And that’s why the work of the field inspector is so important. These professionals operate at the crossroads of regulatory codes, safety protocols, and on-the-ground realities, ensuring that building and community growth happen safely.

Types of Local Government Inspections

Here are the most common types of inspections performed by field inspectors working in local government:

  • Building inspections. Ensuring that construction projects comply with local building codes, zoning regulations, and safety standards.
  • Road and infrastructure inspections. Assessing the condition of roads, bridges, and public infrastructure for maintenance and safety issues.
  • Environmental compliance inspections. Checking if local businesses and industries comply with environmental regulations and standards.
  • Public facility inspections. Examining public buildings like schools, libraries, and community centers for safety and maintenance needs.
  • Utility inspections. Overseeing the condition and operations of water, sewage, and electrical systems within the community.
  • Land use and zoning inspections. Verifying that land developments and uses adhere to zoning laws and land-use plans.
  • Health and safety inspections. Local governments deploy inspectors to various establishments, especially food-related businesses like restaurants or cafes, to evaluate hygiene standards, safety protocols, and overall health compliance.


The Field Inspector’s Four Areas of Responsibility in Local Government

Above, we covered the work field inspectors do in general. 

But what are the key focus points for field inspectors working in local government?

There are four main areas—here they are.

1. Safety Overviews

At its core, the work of a field inspector is to be a steward of public safety. Their primary mission is to ensure that structures, whether commercial or residential, are built and maintained according to safety standards and local codes. This means that every evaluation they conduct and every discrepancy they point out is a potential accident or mishap averted.

2. Building Codes and Regulations

Local governments establish building codes based on geographical needs, historical data, and anticipated challenges. Field inspectors ensure that these codes, which are designed to prevent structural failures, fire hazards, and other potential dangers, are stringently followed. For instance, in an earthquake-prone area, inspectors will ensure buildings are constructed with the necessary reinforcements to withstand seismic activities.

3. Proactive Prevention

Through their inspections, field inspectors not only identify current issues but also preempt potential future hazards. They might notice wear and tear that could become a significant risk if not addressed, or they might find that a newly constructed building section doesn’t meet the necessary fire safety standards. By catching these issues early, field inspectors play a proactive role in accident prevention.

4. Collaboration with Stakeholders

One of the essential aspects of a field inspector’s role is the collaboration with builders, homeowners, and businesses. They’re not just there to point out what’s wrong—they also provide guidance and resources to ensure that structures and processes can be corrected and brought up to standard. This constructive feedback mechanism ensures that safety remains a collaborative effort between local government and its residents.

How to Become a Field Inspector

As we’ve covered, there are all kinds of field inspectors. And to do specific types of inspections, you may need specific types of certifications.

But at a high level, there are a few key steps you can take to become a field inspector.

Here they are.

1. Education

  • High school diploma. Most field inspector roles require at least a high school diploma as a foundational educational qualification.
  • Advanced degrees. For specific industries, such as engineering or architecture, pursuing an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in the related field can be advantageous. However, many types of field inspection work won’t require advanced degrees, so make sure to do your research to understand the requirements for the type of work you want to do. 

2. Gain Practical Experience

  • Entry-level positions. Begin your career in roles that offer on-the-job training to familiarize yourself with industry norms.
  • Internships and apprenticeships. Many companies and sectors provide internship opportunities, allowing you to gain hands-on experience and network with professionals in the field.

3. Certifications and Licensing

  • Industry- and inspection-specific certification. Depending on your chosen field, you might need certifications from recognized institutions like the International Code Council (ICC) or the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI).
  • Licensing. Some states or regions require licensing for certain types of inspections, especially in specialized areas such as construction or pest control. Make sure you’re aware of and comply with local regulations.

4. Sharpen Essential Skills

  • Technical proficiency. Equip yourself with the know-how of tools and technologies pivotal to inspections in your industry.
  • Observational prowess. Hone your ability to detect anomalies or deviations from set standards.
  • Communication skills. Develop your communication abilities to articulate findings lucidly, ensuring stakeholders understand your observations.
  • Report writing. Work on becoming proficient in the art of drafting succinct, clear reports detailing your inspection outcomes.

5. Networking

  • Professional associations. Enroll in industry-specific organizations to access networking events, educational resources, and potential job opportunities.
  • Industry events. Attend seminars, workshops, and conferences to remain abreast of industry trends, emerging technologies, and regulatory shifts.

6. Consider Specialization

  • Focused expertise. As you progress, you might identify niches within your industry, such as electrical systems or plumbing inspections. Specializing can elevate your career trajectory and potentially lead to higher remuneration.
  • Continuous learning. If specialization is your goal, commit to ongoing education and training to stay at the forefront of your niche.

What’s Next for the Work of Inspectors?

Many inspectors in local government are taking advantage of modern systems to conduct inspections remotely, having others collect data so they don’t have to be physically present on-site.

Doing inspections virtually makes it possible for an inspector to do many more inspections in a single day, since they eliminate the time needed for travel.

Learn all about virtual inspections in our in-depth guide.