Survey of Building-Code Pros Forecasts Exodus of Talent

Sept. 2, 2014
The “typical” code professional has 20 to 30 years of experience and works at the local level as a jurisdiction employee.

Building-code officials are a mature group and planning to retire in significant numbers in the not-too-distant future, a recent survey conducted by the National Institute of Building Sciences on behalf of the International Code Council (ICC) reveals.

According to the survey of 3,850 federal, regional, state, and local building-code-compliance professionals, the “typical” code professional has 20 to 30 years of experience and works at the local level as a jurisdiction employee.

Nearly 85 percent of the respondents are over the age of 45. More importantly, more than 80 percent of the respondents expect to retire within the next 15 years, and more than 30 percent plan to do so within five years. Such a massive exodus of public-safety professionals could have a serious impact on jurisdictions, as more than half of the respondents work in departments of nine or fewer employees.

“We must take action now to ensure our communities remain safe and protected by an adequate workforce of code officials,” ICC Board President Stephen D. Jones, CBO, said. “This survey highlights important needs and ways that we can now proactively begin engaging, training, and producing the next generation of code professionals.”

The majority of the respondents reported entering the code profession through building-related educational programs or transitioning from work in a related field. However, more than a quarter of the respondents with bachelor’s degrees reported earning them in seemingly disconnected majors—particularly business-related programs (business, management, administration, finance, etc.).

The survey also revealed:

  • Nearly 80 percent of the respondents work in departments of fewer than 15 employees, while 57 percent work in departments of nine or fewer.
  • A majority (59 percent) of the respondents serve communities of fewer than 75,000 residents.
  • A majority (60 percent) of the respondents have worked in the building industry for more than 25 years.
  • More than a quarter (27 percent) of the respondents hold bachelor’s degrees, while nearly half (48 percent) attended community college, hold an associate’s degree, or have a high-school diploma.
  • The respondents often are responsible for more than one job function, such as plan review (52 percent), building inspections (48 percent), and department management (46 percent).
  • The median salary for respondents is between $50,000 and $74,999 per year.

To download a report of the survey results, go to

About the Author

Scott Arnold | Executive Editor

Described by a colleague as "a cyborg ... requir(ing) virtually no sleep, no time off, and bland nourishment that can be consumed while at his desk" who was sent "back from the future not to terminate anyone, but with the prime directive 'to edit dry technical copy' in order to save the world at a later date," Scott Arnold joined the editorial staff of HPAC Engineering in 1999. Prior to that, he worked as an editor for daily newspapers and a specialty-publications company. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Kent State University.