A janitor is responsible for keeping a building clean and in working condition. The job description of a janitor differs from that of a housekeeper or maid because a building’s janitor will typically manage the more involved labor-intensive cleaning projects, especially those requiring special equipment. For example, janitors are responsible for shampooing rugs, washing inside and outside windows, applying wax to floors, stripping floor wax, etc. Janitors also maintain a building’s heating and cooling system and arrange for extermination of pests or insects.
Typical janitorial duties, common to anyone employed in this field include the regular cleaning of all public areas, including rest rooms and cafeterias, as well as ordering and maintaining rest room supplies. Janitors also perform minor repairs in plumbing and electrical systems, as well as some carpentry when necessary.
In some buildings the janitor manages the removal of trash, arranges for moving heavy furniture or fixtures, and handles basic snow removal and landscaping, including cutting the grass or watering plants.
Formal education is seldom required for this position. However, a wide variety of skills, including some knowledge of plumbing and electric systems are necessary to perform the job effectively. In addition, janitors use specialized equipment for cleaning, and those familiar with industrial cleaning equipment are generally more attractive to employers.
Those new to the profession may find entry-level opportunities during which they will learn basic trade skills and machine operation from more experienced janitors.
Day to Day Tasks
The janitor job description usually includes working hours that extend before and after regular business hours. A janitor will begin his or her day by checking heating and cooling systems, confirming that entrances are unlocked and safe, which may involve removing snow or ice, and unlocking some internal doors.
The janitor usually attends to pre-determined tasks during the course of a work day, in a way to least disrupt the activities of the workers or residents in the facility. These tasks include regular maintenance activities, ordering and reordering equipment and supplies, as well as major cleaning tasks. Throughout the day, he or she will also be “on call” to deal with small repairs or contact outside vendors for larger repairs.
After business hours, the janitor is responsible for trash removing and cleaning public areas including restrooms, lobbies, offices and meeting areas.
Janitorial positions often offer varied job responsibilities, which appeal to workers who do not like to complete repetitive tasks. In addition, the hours are often flexible, especially for those whose hours are mainly before an after business hours for a building. In some facilities janitors belong to unions that guarantee pensions, health insurance, ample time off, and safe working conditions.
Some of the job responsibilities may be dangerous, including cleaning high-rise windows and working with cleaning chemicals. Career advancement is somewhat limited and pay never extends out of what is considered a middle-class salary range.
Tools of the Trade
It is not uncommon to find in a janitor job description a list of specific industrial cleaning tools an applicant is expected to be familiar with. This equipment can include:
- Window washing equipment, including descenders and platforms used to clean windows on high rise buildings.
- Industrial carpet cleaning and steam cleaning machines.
- Push sweepers
- Back-pack vacuum cleaners
- Riding floor scrubbers
- Wax stripping machines
Career Advancement Opportunities
The janitor job description usually indicates a level of experience, from entry-level to experienced head-janitors. A janitor can progress in his her career in two ways. First, he or she can work in a large building and through seniority and gaining experience, move to higher pay levels, eventually leading to becoming the head janitor who is responsible for managing the work of other lower-level janitors.
The second way for a janitor to achieve career advancement is through movement from smaller to larger buildings, which comes with added responsibilities and pay rates.
Entry level pay for janitors is often at minimum wage, up to about $10 per hour. A mid-career janitor with 10-15 years of experience can earn up to $30,000 per year, and is often paid via salary, rather than an hourly wage. A head janitor may earn up to $60,000 a year in a large building with a extensive staff, however, the average salary for a senior janitor is about $22,000. These rates can vary by location.
Like many other fields the janitorial profession was negative impacted by the recession. However, as the economy recovers new businesses will be established and existing businesses will resume growth, often leading to expansion of the physical plant and requirements for additional janitorial staff. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the growth for janitorial positions from 2010 to 2020 to be about 10%, which is average growth.
For those who are skilled in multiple trades, enjoy working with people, and enjoy a varied and dynamic working environment, a career as a janitor is a great fit. These positions offer relative job security, and will continue to become available in the future.