What Education Is Required to Become a Transportation Inspector?

Transportation inspectors spend their days around trains, planes, ships and automobiles, making sure all operating, safety and other standards are met. Keep reading to learn about the kinds of transportation inspector jobs available and the education, training and experience needed to obtain them. Schools offering Engineering & Technology Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

Employment as a transportation inspector is available in both the private and government sector, with training requirements varying by industry. However, work experience in the area of transportation that you wish to enter is often required. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 79% of aviation inspectors have a postsecondary certificate or associate's degree while 13% of other types of transportation inspectors have a postsecondary certificate. However, entry-level positions in this industry may be obtained with a high school diploma along with on-the-job training.

Degrees Certificate, associate's degree
Training Moderate on-the-job training, or under the tutelage of an inspector
Median Salary (2017)* $72,140 per year (for all transportation inspectors)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Will I Be Trained On the Job?

Whether you work for a private or governmental agency as a railroad, public transportation, motor vehicle, freight, marine cargo or aviation inspector, you will need an advanced understanding of:

  • Applicable mechanics
  • Safety laws
  • Common concerns
  • Accident prevention techniques
  • Financial issues

Most people learn about these things on the job and work their way up to inspector positions. As a new inspector, you'll most likely work under the guidance of an inspector who has been on the job for a while.

What Kind of Experience Will I Need?

Private employers, as well as the various branches of the U.S. Department of Transportation, each have their own requirements. You will, however, need work experience in the area of transportation you wish to inspect. For example, in order to be considered for an inspector position with the Federal Railroad Administration, you must have progressively responsible experience in the railroad industry. This includes knowledge of safety practices, techniques in accident investigation and equipment, operations and economic factors affecting the industry.

Some inspector areas also contain sub-disciplines with their own set of requirements. Jobs with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are divided into those who inspect pilots, navigators and others who operate or teach aircraft operation, and those who inspect the aircraft itself. The FAA requires the former to have experience as a pilot; if you want to be an aircraft avionics inspector, you will need work experience in the repair and maintenance of aircraft.

Railroad inspectors who inspect signals and train control systems need to know about the design, maintenance and other aspects of these systems and how they work. Those who focus on the operating practices and procedures of railroads need knowledge about worker protection, radio communication, federal regulations and areas related to this specialty.

What Other Skills are Required?

Reading and writing skills are essential for making sure federal safety regulations are met, writing accident investigation reports and developing new safety regulations and standards. General troubleshooting and decision-making ability is necessary for dealing with problems that arise. Math and science ability, as well as computer and mechanical skills, are also helpful for any transportation inspector job.

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