Janitors and Building Cleaners

Summary

janitors and building cleaners image
Janitors and building cleaners use many types of tools and equipment, including snowblowers.
Quick Facts: Janitors and Building Cleaners
2012 Median Pay $22,320 per year
$10.73 per hour
Entry-Level Education Less than high school
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Short-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2012 2,324,000
Job Outlook, 2012-22 12% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 280,000

What Janitors and Building Cleaners Do

Janitors and building cleaners keep many types of buildings clean, orderly, and in good condition.

Work Environment

Most janitors and building cleaners work indoors. However, some work outdoors part of the time, sweeping walkways, mowing lawns, and shoveling snow. Since office buildings are often cleaned while they are empty, many cleaners work evening hours. The work can be physically demanding and sometimes dirty and unpleasant.

How to Become a Janitor or Building Cleaner

Most janitors and building cleaners learn on the job. Formal education is not required.

Pay

The median hourly wage for janitors and building cleaners was $10.73 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of janitors and building cleaners is projected to grow 12 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Many new jobs are expected in facilities related to health care, as this industry is expected to grow rapidly.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of janitors and building cleaners with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about janitors and building cleaners by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Janitors and Building Cleaners Do

Janitors and building cleaners
Janitors and building cleaners wash windows and glass.

Janitors and building cleaners keep many types of buildings clean, orderly, and in good condition.

Duties

Janitors and building cleaners typically do the following:

  • Gather and empty trash and trash bins
  • Clean building floors by sweeping, mopping, or vacuuming them
  • Clean restrooms and stock them with supplies
  • Keep buildings secure by locking doors
  • Clean spills and other hazards with appropriate equipment
  • Wash windows, walls, and glass
  • Order cleaning supplies
  • Make minor repairs in buildings, such as changing light bulbs
  • Notify managers when a building needs major repairs

Janitors and building cleaners keep office buildings, schools, hospitals, retail stores, hotels, and other places clean, sanitary, and in good condition. Some only clean, while others have a wide range of duties.

In addition to keeping the inside of buildings clean and orderly, some janitors and building cleaners work outdoors, mowing lawns, sweeping walkways, and shoveling snow. Some workers also monitor the heating and cooling system, ensuring that it functions properly.

Janitors and building cleaners use many tools and equipment. Simple cleaning tools may include mops, brooms, rakes, and shovels. Other tools may include snow blowers, floor buffers, and carpet extraction equipment.

Some janitors may be responsible for repairing minor electric or plumbing problems, such as leaky faucets.

The following are examples of types of janitors and building cleaners:

Building superintendents are responsible for maintaining residential buildings, such as apartments and condominiums. Although their duties are similar to those of other janitors, some building superintendents also help collect rent and show vacancies to potential tenants.

Custodians are janitors or cleaning workers that typically maintain institutional facilities, such as public schools and hospitals.

Work Environment

Janitors and building cleaners
Most janitors and building cleaners work indoors, but some may work outdoors.

Janitors and building cleaners held about 2.3 million jobs in 2012. About 34 percent were employed in the services to buildings and dwellings industry, and another 14 percent were employed in elementary and secondary schools. The remainder was employed throughout all other industries.

Most janitors and building cleaners work indoors, but some work outdoors part of the time, sweeping walkways, mowing lawns, and shoveling snow. They spend most of the day walking, standing, or bending while cleaning; and sometimes they must move or lift heavy supplies and equipment. As a result, the work may be strenuous on the back, arms, and legs. Some tasks, such as cleaning restrooms and trash areas, can be dirty and unpleasant.

Injuries and Illnesses

Janitors and building cleaners have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. Workers suffer minor cuts, bruises, and burns from machines, tools, and chemicals. As a result, workers are increasingly required to take safety training and ergonomics instruction.

Work Schedules

Most janitors and building cleaners work full time, but a significant number work part time. Because office buildings are often cleaned while they are empty, many cleaners work evening hours. Janitors in schools, however, usually work during the day.

When there is a need for 24-hour maintenance, janitors work in shifts. This is particularly true of hospitals and hotels.

How to Become a Janitor or Building Cleaner

Janitors and building cleaners
Janitors need stamina because they spend much of their time on their feet.

Most janitors and building cleaners learn on the job. Formal education is not required.

Education

Janitors and building cleaners do not need formal education. However, high school courses in shop can be helpful for jobs involving repair work. Workers should also know basic math.

Training

Most janitors and building cleaners learn on the job. Beginners typically work with a more experienced janitor, learning how to use and maintain equipment such as wet-and-dry vacuums and floor buffers and polishers. On the job they also learn how to repair minor electrical and plumbing problems.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although not required, certification is available through the Building Service Contractors Association International, the IEHA, and the ISSA-The Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association. Certification can demonstrate competence and may make applicants more appealing to employers.

Important Qualities

Interpersonal skills. Janitors and building cleaners should get along well with other cleaners, the people who live or work in the buildings they clean, and their supervisors.

Mechanical skills. Janitors and building cleaners should understand general building operations. They should be able to make routine repairs, such as repairing leaky faucets. 

Physical stamina. Janitors and building cleaners spend most of the work day on their feet—operating cleaning equipment and lifting and moving supplies or tools. As a result, they should have good physical stamina.

Physical strength. Janitors and building cleaners often must lift and move cleaning materials and heavy equipment. Cases of liquid cleaner and trash receptacles, for example, can be very heavy, so workers should be strong enough to lift them without injuring their back.

Time-management skills. Janitors and building cleaners should be able to plan and complete tasks in a timely manner.

Pay

Janitors and Building Cleaners

Median hourly wages, May 2012

Total, all occupations

$16.71

Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations

$10.91

Janitors and cleaners, except maids and housekeeping cleaners

$10.73

 

The median hourly wage for janitors and building cleaners was $10.73 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than the amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $8.08 per hour, and the top 10 percent earned more than $18.17 per hour.

In May 2012, the median hourly wages for janitors and building cleaners in the top five industries in which these cleaners worked were as follows:

Government$14.20
Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private13.05
Health care and social assistance11.06
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar
organizations
10.35
Services to buildings and dwellings9.49

 

Most janitors and building cleaners work full time. Because office buildings are often cleaned while they are empty, many cleaners work evening hours. When there is a need for 24-hour maintenance, cleaners work in shifts. This is particularly true of hospitals and hotels.

Job Outlook

Janitors and Building Cleaners

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations

13%

Janitors and cleaners, except maids and housekeeping cleaners

12%

Total, all occupations

11%

 

Employment of janitors and building cleaners is projected to grow 12 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Many new jobs are expected in facilities related to health care, as this industry is expected to grow rapidly.

In addition, as more companies outsource their cleaning services, cleaning or janitorial contractors are likely to benefit and experience employment growth.

Job Prospects

Overall job prospects are expected to be favorable. Those with related work experience and training should have the best job opportunities. Most job openings will come from the need to replace the many workers who leave or retire from this very large occupation.

Employment projections data for Janitors and Building Cleaners, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Janitors and cleaners, except maids and housekeeping cleaners

37-2011 2,324,000 2,604,000 12 280,000 [XLS]

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of janitors and building cleaners.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2012 MEDIAN PAY
Grounds maintenance workers

Grounds Maintenance Workers

Grounds maintenance workers provide a pleasant outdoor environment by ensuring that the grounds of houses, businesses, and parks are attractive, orderly, and healthy.

See How to Become One $23,970
Maids and housekeeping cleaners

Maids and Housekeeping Cleaners

Maids and housekeeping cleaners perform general cleaning tasks, including making beds and vacuuming halls, in private homes and commercial establishments.

Less than high school $19,570
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Janitors and Building Cleaners,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/building-and-grounds-cleaning/janitors-and-building-cleaners.htm (visited November 24, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014