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.
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.
Most janitors and building cleaners learn on the job. Formal education is not required.
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.
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.
Janitors and building cleaners typically have an interest in the Building 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 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 Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a janitor and building cleaner, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Janitors and building cleaners should also possess the following specific 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.
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:
|Elementary and secondary schools; state, local, and private||13.05|
|Health care and social assistance||11.06|
|Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar
|Services to buildings and dwellings||9.49|
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.
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.
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.
For more information about janitors and building cleaners, visit
IEHA (formerly International Executive Housekeepers Association)
Information about janitorial and building cleaning jobs is available from state employment service offices.