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How to become a Certified Building Official

Anyone can become a certified building official and there is no prerequisite other than certification exams required from the ICC. However, there is a significant amount of work and knowledge that must be obtained in order to pass the certification exams in order to achieve the Certified Building Official certification from the International Code Council (ICC). This guide will provide the comprehensive steps to obtaining the CBO and reaching this great career milestone.


The three required exams of the Certified Building Official Certification


To achieve the CBO, there are three module exams that must be passed. Upon passing all of these examinations, the Certified Building Official Certification is automatically awarded by the ICC. Each module is outlined below including specific requirements and how to study for them. There is no requirement that you take the exams in this order and can take them in whichever order you like. However, it is very common that this order is followed by successful candidates.


Steps to become a certified building official

1. Management Module


The ICC management module for the Certified Building Official (CBO) certification is often considered the most approachable of the three exams. Designed to assess candidates' expertise in areas like personnel management, budgeting, and communication, this module evaluates practical skills crucial for building officials. With a focus on real-world applications and managerial competencies, many candidates find the management module to be the most straightforward, making it a feasible step towards achieving their CBO certification.


Texts Required:


See the ICC Exam Catalog for the most up to date requirements based on the code year edition that you plan to take your exam under:




Exam Outline:


Customer Service and Communication (30%):

  • Soft Skills (7%): Demonstrating skills like decision making, problem solving, professionalism, integrity, honesty, and time management.

  • Communication (5%): Conveying building and fire safety messages to the public through appropriate media channels.

  • Interagency Cooperation and Reporting (6%): Establishing policies for communication and cooperation with other governmental agencies and providing performance reports to local governing authorities.

  • Public Service and Information (5%): Implementing policies to enhance services, education, and information for the public, construction industry, and media.

  • Feedback Strategy (7%): Creating a strategy to acquire and evaluate feedback from the community to improve public service.

Financial Management (22%):

  • Budgets and Financing (11%): Developing and administering departmental budgets and financing responsibilities in line with governing authorities' directives.

  • Cost and Revenue Control (11%): Implementing financial audits to ensure compliance with budgetary restrictions and verifying revenue generation and expenditures align with budget projections and policies.

Personnel Management (30%):

  • Job Descriptions and Personnel Recruitment (7%): Establishing written job descriptions, minimum qualifications, and standard recruiting procedures for department employees.

  • Personnel Supervision (8%): Administering responsibilities for direct and indirect supervision, including work scheduling and job performance evaluations. Implementing personnel incentives for exceptional individual and group performance and achieving departmental goals.

  • Time-management Efficiency (7%): Implementing policies and goals for department personnel related to time management and work flow efficiency.

  • Employee Professional Development (8%): Administering criteria for assessing employee professional development and training programs, focusing on technical skills, department policies, goals, objectives, and performance requirements.

Records Management (18%):

  • Employment Records (9%): Managing procedures for generating and maintaining all necessary employment records for department employees. Implementing policies for employee and public access to departmental personnel records, specifying public and non-public information.

  • Code Enforcement Records (9%): Managing procedures for generating and maintaining inspection, plan review, and fire investigation reports and records.

How to study for the Management Module:


Building Code Masters stands out as an excellent resource for studying ICC exams due to its comprehensive and structured approach to exam preparation. Building Code Masters offers a wealth of study materials, including detailed practice exams, and reference to the code sections for all practice exam, all designed to cover the breadth and depth of ICC exam content. What makes Building Code Masters particularly effective is its focus on real-world applications of building codes and standards, providing practical basic insights that go beyond mere theoretical knowledge. Moreover, Building Code Masters frequently updates its materials to align with the latest code revisions and industry best practices, ensuring that candidates are well-prepared for the most current exam content. The convenience of online access, coupled with expert and continuous editing for code changes, makes Building Code Masters an invaluable tool for professionals aspiring to excel in ICC exams and advance their careers in the fields of building safety and construction.


All study material from Building Code Masters can be viewed here:






2. Legal Module


The ICC legal module for the Certified Building Official (CBO) certification is often considered the second easiest of the three exams due to its focused nature. This module primarily assesses candidates on their understanding of legal procedures, including tort liability, due process, court prosecution, and warrants. While challenging, candidates often find this module more manageable in comparison to the highly technical aspects of the building codes and standards exam.


Texts Required:


See the ICC Exam Catalog for the most up to date requirements based on the code year edition that you plan to take your exam under:




Exam Outline:


Legislative (11%)

  • Code Adoptions and Amendments (6%): Prepare recommendations for code adoptions and amendments for consideration by local, state, or national governing authorities.

  • Alternative Methods (5%): Establish a Board of Appeals to assess the suitability of alternative materials, construction methods, and code interpretations.

Code Enforcement (50%)

  • Permits, Notices, and Orders (8%): Establish and administer procedures for processing permit applications, issuance of permits, notices, and orders.

  • Right of Entry (8%): Administer a policy for compulsory legal procedures required for property entry for authorized purposes.

  • Hazard Abatement (6%): Establish and administer policies for condemnation and abatement of hazardous structures and conditions.

  • Tort Liability (7%): Administer a policy defining tort liability related to malfeasance, misfeasance, nonfeasance, and the use of threats, intimidation, and coercion.

  • Legal Due Process (6%): Administer a policy for procedural and substantive due process of law for appeals and administrative orders compliance.

  • Court Prosecution (7%): Establish and administer criteria and procedures for civil and criminal prosecution for noncompliance with construction standards, including statute of limitation, evidence preparation, and witness standards.

  • Warrants (8%): Acquire and document necessary permission or get a warrant to perform code official duties.

Human Resources (28%)

  • Anti-discrimination Policy (10%): Administer a policy ensuring compliance with civil rights, disability accommodation, and anti-discrimination laws in employee treatment.

  • Employee Working Conditions (9%): Ensure that employee working conditions comply with labor, health, and safety laws.

  • Employee Discipline and Grievances (9%): Administer policies and procedures for handling employee discipline and grievances' administrative due process.

Public Records (11%)

  • Reports and Records (6%): Establish and administer procedures for generating and maintaining inspection, plan review, fire investigation reports, and records.

  • Code Enforcement Records (5%): Establish and administer policies for public access to departmental code enforcement records.

How to study for the Legal Module:


Building Code Masters stands out as an excellent resource for studying ICC exams due to its comprehensive and structured approach to exam preparation. Building Code Masters offers a wealth of study materials, including detailed practice exams, and reference to the code sections for all practice exam, all designed to cover the breadth and depth of ICC exam content. What makes Building Code Masters particularly effective is its focus on real-world applications of building codes and standards, providing practical basic insights that go beyond mere theoretical knowledge. Moreover, Building Code Masters frequently updates its materials to align with the latest code revisions and industry best practices, ensuring that candidates are well-prepared for the most current exam content. The convenience of online access, coupled with expert and continuous editing for code changes, makes Building Code Masters an invaluable tool for professionals aspiring to excel in ICC exams and advance their careers in the fields of building safety and construction.


All study material from Building Code Masters can be viewed here:







3. Building Codes and Standards Module


The ICC building codes and standards module for the Certified Building Official (CBO) certification is widely regarded as the most challenging of the three exams. This module delves deeply into the intricate details of construction codes, covering a vast array of topics such as structural systems, fire safety, accessibility, and environmental considerations. Candidates are required to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the International Building Code (IBC) and other relevant standards. The complexity and breadth of knowledge required in this module often make it a formidable hurdle, testing the expertise of aspiring Certified Building Officials to the fullest extent. Make no mistake, this is by far one of the hardest building code examinations you will ever take


Texts Required:


See the ICC Exam Catalog for the most up to date requirements based on the code year edition that you plan to take your exam under:




Exam Outline:


Architectural Plan Review (31%)

  • Use and Occupancy Classification: Determine use and occupancy classification of structures for building code compliance (4%).

  • Construction Classification: Determine required construction classification for code compliance (4%).

  • Means of Egress Provisions: Determine compliance of the means of egress provisions of the structure with the building code (6%).

  • Light, Ventilation, and Sanitation Provisions: Determine compliance with light, ventilation, and sanitation provisions of the structure with the building code (3%).

  • Fire Resistance and Fire Protection Provisions: Determine compliance with fire resistance provisions of the structure with the building code. Determine compliance with fire protection provisions for the structure with the building code (5%).

  • Accessibility Provisions: Determine compliance with provisions for accessibility for the structure with the building code (5%).

  • Environmental and Natural Hazard Provisions: Determine location for risk of, floodplain, seismic, wind, and snow of the structure with the building code (2%).

  • Special Use/Occupancy Provisions: Determine compliance with special use occupancy provisions of the structure with the building code (2%).

Structural Plan Review (13%)

  • Structural Provisions: Evaluate building elements for compliance with required structural loads including wind, seismic, soil bearing capacity, and snow loads (8%).

  • Material Standards and Construction Methods: Determine compliance for building materials and required methods of construction (5%).

Building Systems Plan Review (19%)

  • Mechanical Provisions: Determine compliance with the mechanical and fuel gas code (4%).

  • Plumbing Provisions: Determine compliance with the plumbing code (4%).

  • Electrical Provisions: Determine compliance with the electrical code (4%).

  • Fuel Gas Provisions: Determine compliance with the fuel gas code (4%).

  • Energy Provisions: Determine compliance with the energy code (3%).

Field Inspection (37%)

  • Site Inspection: Evaluate site for soil conditions, excavation, and public protection with the code and approved plans (2%).

  • Foundation Inspection: Evaluate footings and foundations with the code and approved plans (4%).

  • Structural Frame Inspection: Evaluate structural frame with the code and approved plans (4%).

  • Building Envelope Inspection: Evaluate building envelope, insulation, and finishes with the code and approved plans (2%).

  • Electrical Inspection: Evaluate electrical installation with the code and approved plans (5%).

  • Plumbing Inspection: Evaluate plumbing installation with the code and approved plans (5%).

  • Mechanical Inspection: Evaluate mechanical installation with the code and approved plans (4%).

  • Fire Protection Inspection: Evaluate fire protection, smoke control, suppression, and alarm systems with the code and approved plans (4%).

  • Final Building Inspection: Evaluate the completed structure and systems with the code and approved plans (4%).

  • Special Inspection: Evaluate the project for compliance with special inspection requirements (3%).

How to study for the Building Codes and Standards Module:


Building Code Masters stands out as an excellent resource for studying ICC exams due to its comprehensive and structured approach to exam preparation. Building Code Masters offers a wealth of study materials, including detailed practice exams, and reference to the code sections for all practice exam, all designed to cover the breadth and depth of ICC exam content. What makes Building Code Masters particularly effective is its focus on real-world applications of building codes and standards, providing practical basic insights that go beyond mere theoretical knowledge. Moreover, Building Code Masters frequently updates its materials to align with the latest code revisions and industry best practices, ensuring that candidates are well-prepared for the most current exam content. The convenience of online access, coupled with expert and continuous editing for code changes, makes Building Code Masters an invaluable tool for professionals aspiring to excel in ICC exams and advance their careers in the fields of building safety and construction.


All study material from Building Code Masters can be viewed here:






Achievement of the CBO


Once all of the module examinations have been passed, the Certified Building Official Certification is automatically granted. The Certification should be visible from any myICC account page. All of the module exams do no count as individual certifications themselves and only the CBO will remain.


At Building Code Masters, we deeply appreciate your commitment to pursuing the Certified Building Official certification. Your dedication to mastering the complexities of building codes and regulations is not only admirable but also vital to the safety and integrity of our communities. We understand the challenges you might face on this journey, but please know that you are not alone. Our company stands firmly beside you, offering support, resources, and expert guidance to help you navigate the intricate terrain of this certification.


Each day you invest in learning, in overcoming hurdles, and in striving for excellence, you are making a significant impact. Your expertise will not only elevate your own career but also contribute substantially to the high standards of building safety. Embrace the knowledge you gain and the skills you develop, as they will empower you to create safer environments for everyone.


Remember, this journey is not just about passing an exam; it's about enhancing your skills, building your expertise, and ultimately, making a difference. We believe in your potential, and we are here to provide any assistance you might need. Keep pushing forward, stay inspired, and trust in your ability to succeed. Together, we are shaping a future where buildings are not just structures, but safe havens for all.

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