According to the National Bridge Inventory (NBI), over 43,000 bridges are in poor condition across the country. With the Biden administration releasing funds for bridge repair and modernization, the demand for bridge inspectors is now at an all-time high. Here’s all you need to know about how to become a bridge inspector.
Who is a bridge inspector?
A bridge inspector is a person who assesses the condition of a bridge to ensure its safety for the traveling public.
During a bridge inspection, a bridge inspector looks for signs of decay, like rust, paint loss, or corrosion. They also examine bridges for defects, such as cracking in the concrete.
What are the duties of a bridge inspector?
According to the Bridge Inspector’s Reference Manual (BIRM), standard responsibilities of an inspector include:
Planning a bridge inspection program, including the evaluation of tasks to be done during the inspection
Establishing a bridge inspection schedule
Organizing the tools and equipment that would be needed to inspect a bridge
Making traffic control arrangements, if necessary
Providing accurate bridge records, including structure history files
Preparing and organizing sketches and notes before on-site inspection
Recognizing bridge components and elements in need of repair to avoid replacement costs
Preparing bridge condition reports that document bridge defects and deficiencies
Alerting engineers or supervisors of critical findings
Tracking changes in the conditions of bridges over time
Collecting and providing information for the structural engineer to use when analyzing and rating a bridge for bridge posting
People considering a bridge inspection job must be comfortable performing these and other responsibilities. They should also be detail-oriented, and not scared of heights.
In addition, inspectors usually have to do field data collection throughout the year, and, depending on the location, this can mean pleasant or unpleasant weather conditions. In other words, you may have to work in challenging situations if you want to become a bridge inspector.
How much does a bridge inspector make in a year?
According to Zippia, the average annual bridge inspector salary in the United States is about $62,000, as of July 2022. That works out to nearly $1,500 per week and approximately $30 per hour.
Entry-level bridge inspectors make around $36,000 per year, while the top 10% earn $104,000 per year.
Apart from the skill level, other factors influencing the salaries of bridge inspectors include the job requirements and the location in the U.S. The same source reports that the highest-paying state for inspectors is Washington ($103,000), with the lowest-paying state being Arkansas ($47,000).
How to become a certified bridge inspector
Bridge inspector certification programs vary by state. Yet, most of the states require you to complete a course from the National Highway Institute (NHI) as a prerequisite.
If you want to meet bridge inspector qualifications, here are a few examples of respected bridge inspection training and certification programs:
NHI’s Safety Inspection of In-Service Bridges (130055)
Developed by the NHI, it’s an intensive FHWA-approved certification course that takes about 10 days to complete. You’ll receive detailed instructions on the inspection, evaluation, and condition rating of in-service highway bridges.
The course costs $2100 for each participant, but usually the agency you work for covers the course price. Participants must get a cumulative score of 70% or better on mid-term and end-of-course assessments to become a certified bridge inspector.
However, to participate in this course, you must complete one of the following three prerequisite courses:
This bridge inspector training course takes 5 days to provide you with knowledge of elementary bridge engineering concepts. It covers topics like the roles of bridge inspectors, common bridge materials and types, loadings and strains, deterioration of bridge members and materials, and material properties.
The course is basically aimed at local, state and federal inspectors and technicians with limited experience inspecting in-service bridges. Even if you’re an engineer lacking bridge experience, you can also participate in this course.
To get the certificate of completion, you need to score at least 70% on an exam at the end of the course.
Completing this course would allow you to serve on a bridge inspection team. However, you can’t qualify as an inspection team leader without additional training and experience.
This 14-hour free online tutorial introduces you to the fundamental concepts of bridge inspection and its associated terminology. Topics covered include bridge components and elements, design features, inspection preparations, bridge materials, and bridge mechanics.
You need to pass each section with a minimum score of 70%. Also, you should preferably have a background in bridge engineering.
This online assessment is free of cost and is divided into three sections. The topics covered in this course are almost the same as the ones covered in NHI Course 130101, outlined above.
You must pass each assessment section with a minimum score of 70%, and you get three chances for each section. Passing all three sections hands you the course completion certificate.
The entire assessment shouldn’t take more than an hour.
State bridge inspector certification courses
Most of the state agencies host NHI’s course no. 130055, described above, several times every year. They can also offer their own courses in conjunction with NHI’s course.
For example, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) offers a training and certification program on the safety inspection of in-service highway bridges.
To participate in this program, you must have completed any one of the NHI’s three prerequisite courses (130101, 130101A, or 130054), four weeks before the scheduled class date.
You can check with state DOTs to learn what courses are available, as well as their course schedules.
How to maintain bridge inspector certificates
The National Highway Institute (NHI) also provides opportunities for bridge inspectors to refresh their knowledge and skills from time to time. In this regard, NHI lets you maintain your current certifications by offering a Bridge Inspection Refresher Training course (130053A).
Along with 2 mock classroom exercises on bridge inspection, you’ll get to refresh your skills in basic visual inspection techniques, documentation and record-keeping, traffic safety measures, and appraisal rating practices, among other topics.
Many state agencies also conduct their own refresher training courses for practicing bridge inspectors.
Using a bridge inspection platform
To become a bridge inspector, you need to be tech-savvy. That’s because more and more inspectors are shifting from the traditional pen-and-paper mode to tablets for doing their job.
Take bridge inspection software like inspectX, for instance. It comes with an inspection scheduling tool, and it allows inspectors to customize bridge inventory and inspection forms.
What’s more, the app lets bridge inspectors collect offline field data in the new format detailed in the Specifications for the National Bridge Inventory (SNBI).
So, now you know how to become a bridge inspector, it’s time to brush up on the software you might need to use in the future. Book a demo of inspectX or get on a call with us today.