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Aging Code Officials Set for Mass Exit

Friday, October 31, 2014

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More than 80 percent of building-code professionals across the U.S. expect to retire within next 15 years, and more than 30 percent plan to leave within five, according to a new report.

Such a massive exodus of public safety professionals could have a serious impact on thousands of communities in the United States, according to the International Code Council.

The Future of Code Professionals” is based on a 25-question survey of 3,850 code professionals who work at the federal, regional, state and local levels across the country.

ICC graph

The study largely confirmed the observations of code organizations and officials in the field: The typical American  code professional is 55 to 64, has worked five to 15 years as a code professional, and works at the local level.

The report offers key demographic information about the current code workforce, forecasts future workforce needs, and highlights untapped avenues for reaching new recruits.

Action Needed

“We must take action now to ensure our communities remain safe and protected by an adequate workforce of code officials,” said ICC Board President Stephen D. Jones, CBO. 

“This survey highlights important needs and ways that we can now proactively begin engaging, training and producing the next generation of code professionals.”

The survey was conducted by the National Institute of Building Sciences on behalf of the ICC.

The ‘Typical’ Code Professional

The survey results largely confirmed the observations of code organizations and officials on the ground: The “typical” code professional is older (between ages 55 and 64), works at the local level as a jurisdiction employee, and has 20 to 30 years of experience, according to the ICC.

The official earns $50,000 to $75,000 a year and has between 26 and 35 years of experience in the building industry, but only five to 15 years spent as a code professional.

Building inspector
© / Kuzma

Building-code professionals wear multiple hats given the small size of enforcement departments.

A majority of respondents entered the profession through building-related educational programs or transitioned from work in a related field. Typically, the first job of the building code official was as a tradesperson.

The professional may possess a bachelor’s degree (27 percent) or may have not pursued any additional training beyond high school (25 percent). If a bachelor’s degree was obtained, it was either in engineering (30 percent) or a business-related major (27 percent).

The official has a professional license, certificate, certification or other credential and acts as an inspector (general, building or residential), plan reviewer or in departmental management.

Given the size of many building code departments, it is likely the professional performs many functions. More than half of the respondents work in departments of nine or fewer employees.

The survey did not cover gender or ethnicity.

Planning for the Future

The impending retirement of so many code officials will result in a signifcant loss of institutional memory and capacity, ICC says.

The ICC says the survey findings may help jurisdictions and the building industry make plans for the future.

For example, the findings suggest that introducing codes (and the related topic of standards) into the curriculum of business schools may be a means of actively introducing building regulatory careers to a new group of students.


Tagged categories: Building codes; Energy codes; Good Technical Practice; Government; Inspection; North America; Personnel; Worker training; Workers

Comment from Peter Andruskiewicz, (10/31/2014, 8:05 AM)

And there are still those who long for the good old days before Hammurabi.

Comment from Ron Cros, (10/31/2014, 12:22 PM)

Oldest Code Known The oldest known evidence of a law code are tablets from the ancient city Ebla (Tell Mardikh in modern-day Syria). They date to about 2400 B.C.E. — approximately 600 years before Hammurabi put together his famous code.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (11/3/2014, 8:19 AM)

Not really news. Code officials typically enter the job as a second career. Not surprising they don't spend that many years as code officials. They work in the trades for 15-20 years, then move on to code work.

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