General maintenance and repair workers fix and maintain machines, mechanical equipment, and buildings. They work on plumbing, electrical, and air-conditioning and heating systems.

Duties

General maintenance and repair workers typically do the following:

  • Maintain and repair machines, mechanical equipment, and buildings
  • Troubleshoot and fix faulty electrical switches
  • Inspect and diagnose problems and figure out the best way to correct them
  • Do routine preventive maintenance to ensure that machines continue to run smoothly
  • Assemble and set up machinery or equipment
  • Plan repair work using blueprints or diagrams
  • Do general cleaning and upkeep of buildings and properties
  • Order supplies from catalogs and storerooms
  • Meet with clients to estimate repairs and costs
  • Keep detailed records of their work

General maintenance and repair workers are hired for maintenance and repair tasks that are not complex enough to need the specialized training of a licensed tradesperson, such as a plumber or electrician.

They are also responsible for recognizing when a job is above their skill level and requires the expertise of electricians; carpenters; heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers; and plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters.

Workers may fix plaster or drywall. They may fix or paint roofs, windows, doors, floors, woodwork, and other parts of buildings.

They also maintain and repair specialized equipment and machinery in cafeterias, laundries, hospitals, stores, offices, and factories.

They get supplies and repair parts from distributors or storerooms to fix problems. They use common hand and power tools such as screwdrivers, saws, drills, wrenches, and hammers to fix, replace, or repair equipment and parts of buildings.

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Work Environment

General maintenance and repair workers held about 1.3 million jobs in 2012. The industries that employed the most general maintenance and repair workers in 2012 were as follows:

Real estate and rental and leasing 19%
Manufacturing 15
State and local government, excluding education and hospitals 10
Health care and social assistance 8
Educational services; state, local, and private 8

General maintenance and repair workers often carry out many different tasks in a single day, at any number of locations. They may work inside a single building, such as a hotel or hospital, or be responsible for the maintenance of many buildings, such as those in an apartment complex or college campus.

General maintenance and repair workers may have to stand for long periods or lift heavy objects. These workers may work in uncomfortably hot or cold environments, work in uncomfortable or cramped positions, or on ladders. The work involves a lot of walking, climbing, and reaching.

Injuries and Illnesses

Workers risk electrical shocks, falls, cuts, and bruises. As a result, general maintenance workers had a rate of injuries and illnesses that is much higher than the national average. 

Work Schedules

Most general maintenance workers work full time, including evenings or weekends. Some are on call for emergency repairs.

Education and Training

Jobs in this field typically do not require any formal education beyond high school. General maintenance and repair workers often learn their skills on the job. They start by doing simple tasks and watching and learning from skilled maintenance workers.

Education

Many maintenance and repair workers may learn some basic skills in high school shop or technical education classes, postsecondary trade or vocational schools, or community colleges.

Courses in mechanical drawing, electricity, woodworking, blueprint reading, mathematics, and computers are useful. Maintenance and repair workers often do work that involves electrical, plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning systems or painting and roofing tasks. Workers need a good working knowledge of many repair and maintenance tasks.

Practical training, available at many adult education centers and community colleges, is another option for workers to learn tasks such as drywall repair and basic plumbing.

Training

General maintenance and repair workers usually start by watching and learning from skilled maintenance workers. They begin by doing simple tasks, such as fixing leaky faucets and replacing light bulbs. After gaining experience, general maintenance and repair workers move on to more difficult tasks, such as overhauling machinery or building walls.

Some learn their skills by working as helpers to other types of repair or construction workers, including machinery repairers, carpenters, or electricians.

Because a growing number of new buildings rely on computers to control their systems, general maintenance and repair workers may need to know basic computer skills, such as how to log onto a central computer system and navigate through a series of menus. Companies that install computer-controlled equipment usually give onsite training for general maintenance and repair workers.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Licensing requirements vary by state and locality. For more complex tasks, workers may need to be licensed in a particular specialty, such as electrical or plumbing work.

Advancement

Some maintenance and repair workers decide to train in one specific craft and become craft workers, such as electricians, heating and air-conditioning mechanics, or plumbers.

Other maintenance workers open their own repair or contracting business. However, those that want to become a project manager or own their own business may need some postsecondary education or a degree in construction management. For more information, see the profile on construction managers.

Within small organizations, promotion opportunities may be limited.

Personality and Interests

General maintenance and repair workers typically have an interest in the Building, Thinking and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.

If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Thinking or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a general maintenance and repair worker, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

General maintenance and repair workers should also possess the following specific qualities:

Customer-service skills. These workers interact with customers on a regular basis. They need to be friendly and able to address customers’ questions.

Dexterity. Many technician tasks, such as repairing small devices, connecting or attaching components, and using hand tools, require a steady hand and good hand–eye coordination.

Troubleshooting skills. Workers find, diagnose, and repair problems. They do tests to figure out the cause of problems before fixing equipment.

Pay

The median annual wage for general maintenance and repair workers was $35,210 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $20,920, and the top 10 percent earned more than $57,260.

Most general maintenance workers work full time, including evenings and weekends. Some are on call for emergency repairs.

Job Outlook

Employment of general maintenance and repair workers is projected to grow 9 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Employment will increase as the real estate market continues to improve. Increasing home sales may drive demand for remodeling and maintenance work. In addition, maintenance and repair workers will be needed to upgrade and renovate the large inventory of foreclosed and distressed properties caused by the recession.  

Demographic changes may also affect the demand for general maintenance and repair workers. Because homeowners typically prefer to remain in their homes as they age, demand may increase for workers as the large baby-boom population nears retirement. These older homeowners will invest in projects and renovations to accommodate their future living needs and allow them to remain in their homes following retirement.

Because many general maintenance and repair workers are employed in industries related to real estate, employment opportunities may be sensitive to fluctuations in the economy. Some workers may experience periods of unemployment when the overall level of construction and real estate development falls. However, maintenance and repairs continue during economic downturns as people opt to repair rather than replace equipment.

Job Prospects

Employment growth and the need to replace workers who leave the occupation each year will likely result in good job prospects. Many job openings are expected as experienced workers retire. Those with experience in repair- or maintenance-related fields should continue to have the best job prospects.

For More Information

FAQ

Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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I think I have found an error or innacurate information on this page. Who should I contact?

This information is taken directly from the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Truity does not editorialize the information, including changing information that our readers believe is inaccurate, because we consider the BLS to be the authority on occupational information. However, if you would like to correct a typo or other technical error, you can reach us at help@truity.com.

I am not sure if this career is right for me. How can I decide?

There are many excellent tools available that will allow you to measure your interests, profile your personality, and match these traits with appropriate careers. We recommend the Career Personality Profiler assessment ($29), the Holland Code assessment ($19), or the Photo Career Quiz (free).