We call them by many names: maintenance man or woman, maintenance worker, maintenance technician, handyman or Jack-Of-All-Trades. Maintenance workers play a vital role in keeping our lights burning, our water flowing, our dwellings livable and our machinery operating. Becoming a maintenance man requires training in many areas of maintenance and repair. While job opportunities for maintenance technicians continue to increase, their salaries fall short of national medians.
Maintenance Worker Duties and Responsibilities
The duties and responsibilities of a maintenance worker often depends on the type of property they maintain or repair. Some maintenance jobs require workers to spend much of their time maintaining and repairing equipment such as heating and cooling systems, electrical infrastructure, elevators and plumbing systems.
Most maintenance jobs require expert knowledge of electrical outlets, circuits and switches. For example, workers in an office building might contact a maintenance technician to replace a faulty electrical outlet or repair a damaged light fixture. Typically, electrical tasks can range from changing fluorescent light tubes to replacing air conditioning compressors to installing heating systems.
Maintenance workers often deal with plumbing issues such as clogged or broken pipes, or backed-up sewage systems. Before winter, maintenance technicians often insulate pipes or install a plumbing heating system to prevent pipes from bursting during freezing temperatures.
Working with electrical and plumbing systems requires maintenance workers to understand diagrams and blueprints. For example, a maintenance worker tasked with installing a light fixture must understand how the light’s wiring connects in a circuit. Likewise, a maintenance worker installing a new sink must understand how and where to shut off water flowing to the installation site.
Many maintenance workers are in charge of ordering, installing and maintaining new equipment. For instance, a school administrator might task a maintenance professional with ordering and installing new ovens and refrigerators in the school’s cafeteria. Likewise, a maintenance worker for a hospital might assemble and install equipment such as hospital beds.
Typically, maintenance workers oversee a host of safety and compliance issues. For example, maintenance workers often are responsible for maintaining emergency exit signage, fire extinguishers, smoke detectors and emergency lighting. Maintenance technicians must ensure that building equipment and fixtures remain compliant with local building codes. For example, a maintenance worker might manage the inspection schedules of elevators and heating equipment, or ensure that refrigeration equipment meets health regulations.
Some maintenance technicians perform renovation work, as well as grounds keeping and janitorial duties. For example, maintenance workers employed by apartment complexes or office buildings often renovate vacant office spaces or apartments, repainting walls, installing carpeting or ceramic tile, repairing drywall and restoring woodwork. They might also perform janitorial duties in community spaces and maintain outdoor spaces such as gardens, swimming pools and lawns.
Some employers task maintenance workers with installing and maintaining environmental features such as photovoltaic electric systems, solar hot water heaters, rainwater harvesting systems and efficient waste disposal systems such as recycling and composting bins. Others my install and maintain water filtration systems and energy-efficient lighting.
Maintenance men and women must keep regular maintenance schedules to prevent equipment and structures from falling into disrepair. When problems arise in structures, systems or equipment, they must diagnose the root cause and find a solution for repair or replacement. They must keep detailed records of maintenance and repairs. To handle repairs that require a specialist or licensed professional, maintenance technicians must maintain a call list of building contractors, plumbers, electricians and equipment specialists such as heating and cooling technicians.
Many maintenance professionals work for real estate companies that own and operate office buildings or apartment complexes. Others work for government agencies, schools, hospitals, recreation centers or corporations. Some maintenance workers are self-employed, offering services to homeowners and businesses. Many maintenance technicians work regular office hours, while others must work nights, weekends and holidays.
Typically, maintenance professionals work closely with the people they serve, which can include homeowners, office managers or apartment renters. Maintenance managers for large operations often oversee a staff of maintenance workers, which may include general maintenance technicians, renovation crews, janitors and grounds keepers.
Maintenance Technician Education Requirements
Most employers seek maintenance technicians who have at least a high school education. Typically, maintenance workers develop their skills through on-the-job training or in high school, vocational school, or community college technical programs. Essential coursework includes blueprint reading, plumbing, electricity, mathematics and woodworking.
Maintenance Certifications and Licenses
Some state and local governments require maintenance workers to hold a license, while many require no licensing. Many maintenance technicians obtain certifications to advance their careers. Typically, certifications require education and testing.
Some community colleges and technical schools offer degree or certificate programs in maintenance and repair which include certification. For example, Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) in Grand Rapids, Michigan, offers an Industrial Maintenance Associate Degree program that leads to industrial maintenance certification. The GRCC program includes general education coursework such as English composition, public speaking, interpersonal communication, social sciences and mathematics, along with maintenance-related classes in industrial electricity, electronics, welding, hydraulics and pneumatics.
Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo, Iowa, offers an industrial maintenance program that teaches students how to troubleshoot and repair production equipment, which includes coursework in programmable logic controllers, three-phase motor controls, mechanical systems and hydraulic and pneumatic fluid power.
Professional organizations offer certifications designed for maintenance workers, which typically involve testing based on experience. For instance, the Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals administers the Certified Maintenance and Reliability Technician program, which tests applicants in areas such as corrective maintenance, troubleshooting problems, preventative maintenance and general maintenance practices.
Maintenance Technician Essential Qualities
Besides education and training, maintenance technicians need certain professional and physical qualities to succeed. The physical demands of their job require dexterity, strength, balance and flexibility to climb ladders, move and carry heavy equipment, operate power and hand tools and work in tight spaces.
Maintenance and repair professionals must have good customer service skills when dealing with co-workers, homeowners or office or apartment tenants who need their help. They must have good time-management skills to juggle multiple repair projects and good organizational skills to prioritize repair and maintenance requests.
Maintenance technicians must have good analytical skills to troubleshoot problems and the ability to quickly learn and understand issues related to new technologies.
Maintenance Worker Pay
In 2017, maintenance and repair workers earned a median income of around $38,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). A median wage represents the center of a profession’s pay scale. Top earners took home nearly $62,000, while workers at the bottom of the pay scale made around $23,000. According to the United States Census Bureau, in 2017 male workers in all industries earned a median wage of around $44,000, while females made a median wage of about $32,000.
Manufacturing companies pay maintenance and repair workers the highest salaries, followed by government agencies, educational institutions and real estate leasing and rental companies.
Maintenance Worker Job Outlook
According to a BLS survey, U.S. businesses employed about 1.4 million maintenance and repair workers in 2016. About 21 percent worked for real estate leasing and rental companies, while manufacturing companies and government agencies employed about 25 percent.
Job opportunities for maintenance workers should increase by around 8 percent, from now until 2026. The job growth is rooted an increased demand for maintenance and repair by aging homeowners, a trend toward home renovations and the projected growth of first-time home buyers.
However, economic factors can impact job opportunities for maintenance and repair workers. During economic downturns, companies and individuals tend to spend less money on unnecessary building and home repairs and renovations.