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Janitor Career Guide

What is a janitor?

A janitor is a professional in charge of maintaining cleanliness and basic upkeep in various settings. These individuals play an important role in businesses and public buildings, ensuring a healthy and safe environment for all occupants. Janitors contribute significantly to the operational efficiency of a place by carrying out cleaning, minor repairs, and maintenance tasks. They guarantee the hygienic upkeep of public and private regions, leading to a productive and comfortable environment for everyone involved. They are the unsung heroes in any premises; their jobs often go unnoticed, but their role is vital in ensuring satisfaction and efficiency within all organizations.

Duties and responsibilities

The usual role of a janitor involves a range of duties and responsibilities, primarily revolving around the maintenance of a building. Primarily, they are responsible for the cleanliness of the premises – this includes sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, and dusting various areas. Additionally, they handle waste management, such as emptying trash bins and managing recycling processes. These individuals also carry out minor repairs like changing light bulbs, fixing leaks or broken furniture, and undertaking occasional painting tasks. Regular property inspection for safety hazards or damage is another key task. In some cases, they might be required to handle the upkeep of outdoor areas such as parking lots or sidewalks.

Work environment

The work environment for a janitor can vary greatly depending on the type of establishment they work in. Some work in large buildings like schools, office complexes, hospitals, or apartment buildings, while others work in smaller settings like retail shops or restaurant premises. These individuals often work independently, although in larger facilities, they might be part of a team. Their work is mostly physical, including lifting, bending, and standing for long periods. They might also be exposed to cleaning chemicals, requiring the proper usage of protective gear. Janitors may also be required to work outdoors, cleaning and maintaining the exterior spaces of buildings.

Typical work hours

Most janitors work full-time, although part-time opportunities are common. As many businesses and organizations need cleaning services outside regular working hours, they often work early mornings, late evenings, or overnight shifts. Sometimes, they might also be on call for emergencies or urgent maintenance needs. The work hours for school janitors often align with school hours, whereas those at commercial buildings might be required to work when the facility is unoccupied. Weekend work can be common, especially in establishments that operate seven days a week, like hospitals and malls.

How to become a janitor

This career guide section outlines how to become a janitor. The process generally includes completing secondary education, acquiring relevant practical skills, receiving on-the-job training, and potentially earning certain certifications or licenses depending on the work environment and the employer’s requirements.

Step 1: Complete secondary education

Typically, you need at least a high school diploma or equivalent. You must complete high school or earn a GED certificate. This provides a foundational level of writing, reading, and other basic knowledge necessary for carrying out job duties and potential training programs later on.

Step 2: Acquire relevant practical skills

Practical skills include undertaking minor repairs, knowledge of appropriate cleaning methods and safety procedures, and some basic mechanical know-how. You might learn these as part of daily life, in a school environment, or you may have gained them from previous employment. Demonstrating these skills can be an advantage in getting hired.

Step 3: Receive on-the-job training

Most janitorial positions will provide on-the-job training, where you’ll learn specifics about the building you will be cleaning, the specific tasks and responsibilities of your role, and the equipment you will be using. This phase also encompasses learning about and adhering to safety protocols and regulations.

Step 4: Earn necessary certifications and licenses

Though not always required, some employers may prefer or require certification. This could be from organizations such as the International Janitorial Cleaning Services Association (IJCSA), which offers the Certified Janitorial Services Professional (CJSP) designation. This certification serves as a testament to your knowledge, experience, and commitment to the profession. Similarly, you might need a specific license if you’re required to operate certain machinery, like a floor buffer. Check job posts or inquire directly with potential employers about these requirements.

Step 5: Apply for jobs

After you have met the education requirements, acquired necessary skills, received training, and earned potential certifications or licenses, it’s time to apply for janitorial jobs. You can find job listings on job boards, company websites, or through employment agencies. Tailor your resume and cover letter to highlight the skills and experiences that make you a strong candidate for the position.

Step 6: Nail the interview

Securing a job also often requires interview success. This can involve multiple rounds of face-to-face or phone interviews. During these discussions, be prepared to showcase your skills, discuss your experience, and demonstrate your commitment to the job.

How much do janitors make?

Janitor salaries will vary by experience, industry, education, location, and organization size. Notably, special skills in cleaning and maintenance, as well as the prestige of the place of work, can significantly affect their compensation.

Highest paying industries

  • Natural Gas Distribution – $43,820
  • Electric Power Generation – $42,150
  • Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools – $36,120
  • Other Residential Care Facilities – $35,810
  • Scientific Research and Development Services – $35,400

Highest paying states

  • Massachusetts – $35,420
  • Washington – $35,200
  • New York – $34,720
  • Connecticut – $34,590
  • Hawaii – $34,520

Browse janitor salary data by market

Types of janitors

Below, we explore common career types and areas of specialization for janitors. This section provides a breakdown of the various roles within this profession, offering insights into duties, work environments, and skills required.

Commercial janitor

Engaging primarily in the cleaning and maintenance of commercial buildings such as offices, shopping centers, and theaters, commercial janitors fulfill a vital role. From vacuuming carpets to maintaining bathroom cleanliness, these professionals keep spaces enjoyable and functional for employees and visitors alike. Understanding cleaning chemicals and safety protocols is typically important in this role.

School janitor

In the educational setting, these professionals contribute to creating conducive learning environments. Apart from general cleaning tasks, a school janitor often has additional duties, such as minor repairs, maintenance of outdoor spaces, and ensuring the safety of school grounds. These professionals must have excellent interaction skills, given their frequent contact with students and faculty members.

Industrial janitor

Industrial janitors work in facilities like factories and warehouses, ensuring clean and safe workspaces for employees. Their duties include removing production waste, cleaning industrial machinery, and managing waste disposal systems. The role often calls for a basic understanding of industrial equipment, compliance with safety regulations, and a tolerable level of physical demands.

Residential janitor

Working primarily in multi-unit buildings, condominiums, and apartment complexes, residential janitors focus on keeping residential areas clean, safe, and inviting. Tasks include general cleaning of common areas, basic maintenance tasks, and some outdoor upkeep. Often, the ability to interact courteously with residents forms an important part of the skill set for this specialization.

Top skills for janitors

This career guide section outlines the skills and abilities that will help you find success as a janitor.

Attention to detail

Strong visual acuity is vital in this job as it involves spotting and addressing dirt, stains, and minor maintenance issues. Whether it’s spotting a patch of grime on a wall or identifying a potential slip-and-fall hazard, sharp observation abilities can help maintain an appealing and safe environment.

Physical stamina and strength

In the janitorial field, you’ll often be on your feet for extended periods, performing tasks that could be physically demanding. This could involve lifting heavy equipment or supplies, standing, bending, and walking for long stretches. Hence, having good physical endurance can lead to better job performance.

General repair skills

Besides cleaning tasks, individuals in this role are often expected to perform minor repair jobs. These may involve fixing leaking faucets, changing light bulbs, or repairing broken furniture. As such, possessing basic knowledge of various repair techniques is greatly beneficial.

Problem-solving skills

From managing supply inventory to addressing sudden cleaning emergencies, these individuals must think quickly and handle unexpected situations effectively. These would require good problem-solving skills and the ability to make informed decisions under pressure.

Communication skills

Despite often working independently, they must communicate effectively with their supervisors, team members, and other staff. Whether it’s reporting on the tasks completed, conveying the need for more supplies, or discussing maintenance issues, clear and concise communication is essential.

Janitor career path options

As a janitor, one typically starts with basic maintenance duties in cleaning and sanitation, doing work essential to the facility’s overall functioning. However, this role provides an opportunity for an individual to gain a comprehensive understanding of how a building operates at a foundational level. This exposure paves the way for career advancement opportunities in building management and maintenance supervisory roles.

With experience in the field and potentially some additional training or certification, they can progress to the building or facility supervisor position. In this role, the individual will oversee an entire team of cleaning and maintenance personnel, managing all janitorial operations for a building.

Beyond the supervisory role, they could further advance to take up a role as a facility manager. The manager oversees not only the cleaning maintenance but also security, space allocation and changes, buildings’ physical conditions, and sometimes even contract negotiations. This role often requires additional training or a degree in facilities management or a similar field.

Alternatively, these individuals may choose to specialize in a specific maintenance area. By gaining certification or going through a vocational training program in a specific maintenance field, such as plumbing, electrical work, HVAC, etc., they can become a specialized maintenance technician or engineer.

Finally, entrepreneurship is another career path option. After gaining significant experience, one might decide to start their own cleaning service company, providing services to homes, offices, or commercial buildings.

There’s been a significant shift toward eco-friendly practices in the janitorial field. As global consciousness increases around environmental issues, businesses in all sectors seek solutions that consider both their operational needs and their environmental impact. Companies are adopting green cleaning products and procedures that are healthier for workers and occupants and promote sustainability.

The advent of advanced technology is also shaping the scope of work in this accommodation and building service. Robots and automated equipment are now part of the cleaning regimen in significant facilities, commercial buildings, and residential homes. Despite the seemingly detrimental effect of such technology on manual jobs, it has introduced a new aspect of work to custodial care – equipment management and maintenance.

Employment projections

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of janitors and building cleaners is projected to grow 4 percent through 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Most janitorial jobs are in the building and dwelling services industry. Many new jobs are expected in healthcare facilities, an industry growing rapidly.

Janitor career tips

Understand the scope of duties

Understanding the full scope of tasks is a fundamental success factor, including maintaining building interior and exterior cleanliness, facility sanitation, proper waste disposal, environmental safety, and equipment maintenance. Regularly review and update your knowledge of your duties to ensure you meet and exceed expectations.

Stay updated with cleaning technologies

Cleaning technologies evolve frequently. It’s important to keep yourself updated with cutting-edge disinfectants, cleaning equipment, and methodology. This knowledge can streamline your work, enhancing efficiency and effectiveness.

Continuous learning

In any profession, including janitorial roles, continuous learning is key. There are several ways through which you can enhance your knowledge and skills:

  • Advanced custodial training sessions
  • Workshops on safe chemical handling
  • Green cleaning certification courses
  • Vocational school programs focusing on maintenance and cleaning

Master time management

Time management is an essential skill. Balancing multiple tasks, prioritizing, and scheduling can lead to productivity and less work-related stress. Practice strategic planning and keep set schedules to manage your work effectively.

Comply with health and safety regulations

In this field, compliance with health and safety protocols is not only an expectation but a necessity. Understanding and adhering to these guidelines protects not just your health but the well-being of everyone in the facility. Make sure to stay informed about updates or changes to these regulations.

Build a professional network

Networking isn’t just for corporate professionals. Building a robust network can open doors even in janitorial careers. Here are some related associations you could join:

  • International Janitorial Cleaning Services Association (IJCSA)
  • Building Service Contractors Association International (BSCAI)
  • ISSA – The Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association
  • American Maintenance & Cleaning Services

Where the janitor jobs are

Top employers

  • CleanNet
  • ISS Worldwide Movers
  • ABM Industries
  • Jan-Pro Cleaning Systems
  • Coverall

Top states

  • California
  • Texas
  • Florida
  • New York
  • Illinois

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • ZipRecruiter
  • CareerBuilder
  • SimplyHired


What important skills or qualities are necessary for janitors?

Important attributes include physical stamina and strength as they often engage in heavy lifting, standing for long hours, and doing physically demanding activities. Additionally, they should possess dependability, good time management, and problem-solving skills. Some cleaning tasks may require using hazardous chemicals – understanding how to handle such substances safely is a vital skill.

Do janitors need special training or education?

Typically, special training or advanced education is not required. This line of work often only requires a high school diploma. Many facilities provide on-the-job training for new hires; however, courses in sanitation and maintenance techniques could be beneficial and enhance employability in this field.

What are common duties and responsibilities for janitors?

Common duties usually involve cleaning and sanitary tasks such as sweeping, mopping, dusting, and waste disposal. They are also responsible for maintaining the safety of buildings by checking for and reporting hazards, servicing HVAC systems, and doing minor repairs. The specific tasks can vary based on the needs of the establishment they work for.

What are the physical demands of being a custodian?

Physical tasks commonly include standing and walking for long periods, lifting heavy objects, climbing ladders, engaging in repetitive movements, or handling cleaning chemicals. The role can be physically demanding, requiring stamina and physical strength. Proper use of safety equipment can help mitigate risks associated with the job’s physical demands.

What are some challenges and rewards for janitors?

The work can be physically demanding and may come with some challenges, such as handling hazardous materials or working late hours. However, there are also rewards. Seeing a clean, safe, functioning environment that you’ve directly played a significant part in maintaining can give a deep sense of achievement.

Are there any additional benefits of being a janitor?

Beyond the basic advantage of consistent employment, many janitorial positions offer benefits like health insurance, paid time off, and retirement options. The precise benefits can vary depending on the employer. For instance, those working in schools may even have access to tuition reduction or reimbursement programs.

Are there advancement opportunities for janitors?

Yes, with experience, they can advance to supervisory roles, such as facility manager or head custodian. These positions often come with increased responsibility and better pay. Some move on to start their custodial businesses and contract with companies or organizations needing their services.

What type of work schedule is typical for janitors?

Their work schedules generally depend on the needs of the establishment where they work. Many work full-time, although part-time positions are also common. Weekend, holiday, and evening work may sometimes be required, especially for those working in facilities that operate 24 hours a day, such as hospitals or police stations.

What types of industries employ custodians?

All kinds of businesses and organizations need them. You can find employment opportunities in schools, hospitals, office buildings, shopping malls, airports, residential buildings, and even governmental agencies. Any facility that needs regular cleaning and maintenance will likely employ custodial staff.

What is the difference between a janitor and a custodian?

While the terms janitor and custodian are often used interchangeably, there can be differences. A janitor’s main focus is typically on cleaning tasks. A custodian, on the other hand, may do the cleaning but is also responsible for the overall maintenance and security of the building. However, duties can overlap and vary depending on the employer’s specifications.