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Building Custodian Job Description, Career as a Building Custodian, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training On-the-job training

Salary Median—$23,414 per year

Employment Outlook Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Building custodians, or janitors, wash and wax floors, vacuum carpets, and clean bathrooms. They make minor repairs, such as replacing lightbulbs and fixing leaky faucets; kill insects and rodents; and collect and discard trash. Some custodians clear snow from sidewalks and mow lawns. A few collect rent and enforce building management rules. Generally, their work does not require special skills.

Many custodians work during the day, when buildings are occupied, making repairs that cannot wait, such as unclogging drains in public bathrooms. Others work only at night so they do not disturb a building's occupants. Many work for janitorial service firms and clean a number of different buildings.

Custodians' tools include floor-waxing machines, carpet sweepers, pliers, and screwdrivers. They often use chemicals to wash floors and clean carpets and bathrooms.

Building custodians, or janitors, clean and maintain buildings such as schools, theaters, hospitals, office buildings, and factories. (© Darren Modricker/Corbis.)

Education and Training Requirements

While there are no educational requirements for the job, high school shop courses that teach how to make simple repairs are useful. Custodians must be able to do simple arithmetic. Many employers require good character references.

Building custodians generally learn under the supervision of an experienced worker. They start by cleaning and, after gaining experience, take on repairs and more complex duties.

Getting the Job

Job seekers can apply directly to schools, manufacturing plants, and companies that manage apartment and office buildings. Janitorial service firms are usually listed in the Yellow Pages. State employment offices, federal civil service offices, newspaper classified ads, and job banks on the Internet are other sources of job information.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Advancement for custodians often means moving to a larger building or company that offers a higher rate of pay. In large buildings that employ several custodians they can advance to the position of supervisor. Those with administrative ability sometimes start their own cleaning and maintenance services.

The employment outlook for building custodians is good through 2014. Most of the job growth is expected to be in janitorial service firms. New buildings are being constructed every day, and more custodians will be needed to maintain them. However, improvements in cleaning equipment and chemical compounds can make cleaning easier and faster, reducing the total number of workers required.

Working Conditions

Building custodians generally work between forty and forty-eight hours a week, mostly indoors, although snow removal and grounds maintenance require outdoor work. Janitors may be scheduled for day or night shifts, depending on the individual job.

Most building custodians have a variety of duties with relatively little pressure. They may have to move furniture and other heavy objects and work with dirty, greasy machinery. They may get minor cuts, bruises, and burns from handling chemicals.

Custodians must be able to get along well with others, be courteous to other employees and occupants of the building, and be honest and trustworthy.

Where to Go for More Information

National Education Association
1201 Sixteenth St. NW
Washington, DC 20036-3290
(202) 833-4000

Service Employees International Union
1313 L St. NW
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 898-3200

Earnings and Benefits

In 2004 the median salary for building custodians was $23,414 per year. For a senior custodian, or building custodian supervisor, the median salary was $26,918 per year. Benefits usually included paid sick leave and vacations, life and health insurance, and pension plans. Custodians who work for apartment buildings are often provided housing at no charge. Many custodians are members of labor unions.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesLaw and Public Service