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How to Become a Janitor

By Lace Brunsden

Published:

Janitors play a vital yet often overlooked role in maintaining cleanliness, hygiene, and functionality in various settings. From office buildings to healthcare facilities, their diligent work ensures safe and pleasant environments for employees, customers, patients, and visitors. Let’s explore the importance of janitors, their diverse responsibilities, and the impact they have on our daily lives.

Career Summary

Janitor Salary

Janitor Salary

A janitor’s salary can vary greatly. A lot of the variance can be attributed to the size of the institution where they work, as well as the number of responsibilities that they have on top of general cleaning.

According to Glassdoor, in June 2023, the most likely salary of a janitor is as follows:

  • Entry Salary (US$30k)
  • Median Salary (US$36k)
  • Executive Salary (US$45k)

The average salary across more than 800 occupations is approximately US$61,000 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Compared to this, a janitor’s salary is relatively low.

What does a Janitor do?

A janitor, also known as a custodian or cleaner, is responsible for maintaining cleanliness and orderliness in various facilities such as schools, offices, hospitals, hotels, and other public or private buildings. The janitor’s job description is primarily to ensure that the premises are kept clean, sanitary, and safe for occupants and visitors.

Some common tasks and responsibilities of a janitor include cleaning, waste disposal, maintenance, floor care, stocking, security, and other specialized cleaning jobs.

Janitor Career Progression

Your career progression as a janitor can vary depending on your organization and your circumstances. Here is a general list of job titles and career progression in the janitorial field, starting from entry-level positions and moving toward more senior roles:

  • Janitor/Custodian: You will perform basic cleaning and maintenance tasks under the supervision of more experienced staff.
  • Lead Janitor/Supervisor: In this role, you will manage a team of janitors, coordinate work schedules and ensure tasks are completed efficiently. You will also provide guidance and training to your team members.
  • Facilities Coordinator: You’ll be responsible for managing all aspects of facility maintenance.  This includes scheduling repairs, coordinating with external vendors and budgeting.
  • Facilities Manager: You’ll oversee the maintenance and operations of multiple facilities or properties. This includes janitorial services, maintenance, security, and building systems. You’ll also be responsible for ensuring compliance with regulations and safety standards.
  • Facilities Director: This role involves strategic planning, decision-making, and overall responsibility for the management of all facilities within an organization. You will work closely with executive leadership to align facility operations with organizational goals.
Janitor Career Progression

Pros:

  • Flexibility in work hours
  • Independence and autonomy
  • Visible impact and immediate results
  • No formal education requirements
  • Low-stress job

Cons:

  • Physical demands and strain
  • Exposure to dirt, chemicals, and unpleasant odors
  • Irregular work hours and shifts
  • Lack of recognition and low social status
  • Repetitive tasks and limited career growth

Useful Skills to Have as a Janitor

  • Attention to detail.
  • Time management and organization.
  • Knowledge of cleaning techniques and products.
  • Problem-solving and troubleshooting.
  • Good communication and teamwork.

Popular Janitor Specialties

  • Floor Care Specialist
  • Window Cleaning Specialist
  • Healthcare Janitorial Specialist
  • Green Cleaning Specialist
  • Event or Venue Cleaning Specialist

How to become a Janitor

Janitor 5 Steps to Career

Education

Do I Need a High School Diploma to Become a Janitor?

In most cases, a high school diploma or equivalent is not a strict requirement to become a janitor. Janitorial positions typically do not have formal education prerequisites, and entry-level roles may be accessible even if you don’t have a high school diploma.

However, it’s important to note that specific job requirements can vary depending on your employer, location, and nature of the facility. Also, possessing basic literacy and numeracy skills is generally expected. This allows you to understand safety instructions, read cleaning labels, follow written procedures, and communicate effectively with supervisors or colleagues.

Specific Requirements for Certain Types of Janitors

Requirements for Janitors in Educational Institutions

The specific requirements for janitors in educational institutions can vary depending on the institution, state, and the level of education being served (e.g., elementary school, high school, college, etc.). However, here are some common requirements and qualifications often sought for janitorial positions in educational institutions:

  • Background Checks: Educational institutions often require you to undergo background checks, including criminal background checks and child abuse clearances. This is to ensure the safety and security of students and staff.
  • Knowledge of Cleaning and Sanitation Protocols: Janitors in educational institutions should have knowledge of proper cleaning and sanitation protocols, including the ability to follow specific cleaning procedures for classrooms, restrooms, cafeterias, and other areas. You should be familiar with maintaining a hygienic environment and preventing the spread of germs.
  • Good Communication Skills: Effective communication skills are valuable in educational institutions as you may need to interact with teachers, staff, and occasionally students. Clear communication is essential for understanding instructions, reporting issues, and collaborating with others.

Requirements for Janitors in Healthcare

Janitors working in healthcare settings, such as hospitals, clinics, or long-term care facilities, often have specific requirements due to the unique nature of these environments. Here are some common requirements and qualifications for janitors in healthcare:

  • Background Checks and Screenings: Healthcare facilities typically require janitors to undergo thorough background checks, including criminal background checks and drug screenings. These measures ensure the safety and security of patients, staff, and sensitive healthcare information.
  • Knowledge of Healthcare Cleaning Protocols: As a janitor in healthcare settings you must have a strong understanding of healthcare cleaning protocols, including infection control measures, proper handling of biohazardous waste, and adherence to specific cleaning procedures for patient rooms, operating rooms, laboratories, and other critical areas.
  • Familiarity with Healthcare Regulations and Standards: If you work in healthcare you need to be familiar with applicable healthcare regulations and standards, such as those set by organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This includes knowledge of safety procedures, proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and handling hazardous materials.
  • Training and Certifications: Some healthcare facilities may require you to complete specific training or obtain certifications related to healthcare cleaning. For example, training in bloodborne pathogens, hazardous materials handling, or specialized cleaning techniques may be necessary.
  • Attention to Detail and Infection Control: Attention to detail is crucial for janitors in healthcare. You must follow meticulous cleaning practices to minimize the risk of infections, cross-contamination, and the spread of pathogens. Understanding proper disinfection methods, using appropriate cleaning agents, and maintaining high cleanliness standards are essential.
  • Ability to Handle Sensitive Information: Healthcare janitors may come across patient information or encounter situations where privacy and confidentiality are paramount. You must understand the importance of patient confidentiality and adhere to the facility’s policies regarding the handling and protection of sensitive information.
  • Flexibility in Work Hours: Healthcare facilities operate around the clock, requiring janitors to work various shifts, including nights, weekends, and holidays. Flexible work hours and the ability to respond to urgent cleaning needs or emergencies are often necessary.

Steps Involved in Background Checks for Janitors

The steps required to undergo a background check as a janitor can vary depending on your employer, jurisdiction, and the extent of the background check being conducted. Here are some common steps involved in the background check process:

  • Consent and Disclosure: As an applicant for a janitorial position, you will typically be required to provide written consent to undergo a background check. This consent allows the employer to conduct the necessary checks and obtain information about your background.
  • Completion of Application Forms: You may need to fill out specific application forms or provide personal information, such as your full name, date of birth, social security number, and previous addresses. This information is used to initiate the background check process.
  • Verification of Identity: To ensure the accuracy of the background check, you may be required to provide identification documents, such as a valid driver’s license, passport, or social security card. This step helps confirm your identity and prevent identity theft.
  • Background Check Process: Your employer will engage a third-party background check provider or conduct the check in-house. The specific components of the background check can vary but commonly include criminal history checks, employment verification, education verification, and reference checks. Depending on the industry and position, additional checks such as credit history, drug screening, or professional license verification may be conducted.
  • Waiting Period: The duration of the background check process can vary. It depends on the thoroughness of the check, the responsiveness of the entities being contacted (such as previous employers or educational institutions), and the efficiency of the background check provider. It’s important to note that the background check process may take several days to a few weeks to complete.

What Skills Will I Learn as a Janitor?

Working as a janitor provides an opportunity to develop various skills that can be valuable in both personal and professional contexts. Here are some skills you can learn and develop as a janitor:

  • Cleaning and Maintenance Skills: As a janitor, you will gain expertise in a wide range of cleaning techniques, tools, and products. You will learn how to effectively clean different surfaces, handle cleaning agents, operate cleaning equipment, and maintain a clean and organized environment.
  • Time Management and Organization: Janitors often have multiple tasks to complete within a specific timeframe. Through experience, you will learn to prioritize tasks, allocate time efficiently, and maintain productivity. Developing strong time management and organizational skills can benefit you in various aspects of life.
  • Attention to Detail: Janitors need to pay attention to detail to ensure thorough and precise cleaning. You will learn to notice even the smallest issues, such as spills, stains, or areas that require special attention. Attention to detail is a valuable skill in many professions and can enhance overall quality and accuracy in your work.
  • Problem-Solving and Troubleshooting: Janitors encounter various challenges during their work, such as addressing cleaning emergencies, finding solutions for stubborn stains, or troubleshooting equipment issues. As a janitor, you will develop problem-solving skills, learn to think critically, and find effective solutions to maintain a clean and functional environment.
  • Communication and Teamwork: Janitors often work independently, but they may also need to communicate and collaborate with colleagues, supervisors, or occupants of the facility. You will learn to effectively communicate with others, understand instructions or requests, and provide assistance when needed. Strong communication and teamwork skills are valuable in many professional settings.
  • Health and Safety Awareness: Janitors play a crucial role in maintaining a safe and healthy environment. You will learn about the proper handling and disposal of cleaning agents, understand safety protocols, and identify potential hazards. Developing health and safety awareness is beneficial not only in your janitorial role but also in daily life.
  • Adaptability and Flexibility: Janitors often need to adapt to changing priorities, schedules, or unexpected situations. You will learn to be flexible in your approach, quickly adjusting to new tasks or challenges that arise. Developing adaptability can help you navigate uncertainties and changes in other areas of life.

What is the Work-Life Balance of a Janitor?

Your work-life balance as a janitor can vary depending on several factors, including your specific job requirements, the employer’s policies, the size of the facility, and your personal circumstances. Here are some aspects to consider when evaluating the work-life balance of a janitor:

  • Working Hours: Janitors often work shifts that can vary depending on the needs of the facility. Some janitorial positions require evening, overnight, or weekend work to accommodate cleaning schedules when the facility is less occupied. However, there are also daytime positions available, especially in settings like schools or office buildings. It’s important to clarify the expected working hours and any potential variations with the employer before accepting a position.
  • Part-Time vs. Full-Time: Janitorial positions can be available in both part-time and full-time capacities. Part-time roles may offer more flexibility in terms of scheduling and can be suitable for individuals seeking a balance between work and personal commitments. Full-time positions may provide stability in terms of income but require a larger time commitment.
  • Shift Flexibility: Some janitorial positions allow for flexibility in scheduling or offer options for shift swaps with colleagues. This flexibility can provide opportunities to manage personal obligations and create a better work-life balance. It’s worth discussing potential shift flexibility or any arrangements that can be made with your employer.
  • Physical Demands and Fatigue: Janitorial work can involve physically demanding tasks that may contribute to fatigue. Proper self-care, including maintaining a healthy lifestyle, getting sufficient rest, and managing stress, can help maintain a better work-life balance and overall well-being.

Work-life balance is highly subjective and can vary for each individual based on their personal circumstances and priorities. It’s important to consider factors such as family commitments, personal interests, and overall well-being when assessing work-life balance.

What’s the Career Outlook for Janitor?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of janitors and building cleaners in the United States was projected to grow 4% from 2021 to 2031, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. This growth rate suggests that there will continue to be job opportunities for janitors in the foreseeable future.

Janitor Popular Career Specialties

What Are the Job Opportunities of a Janitor?

As a janitor, you can find various types of work across different industries and settings. Here are some types of work you can explore as a janitor:

  • General Cleaning and Maintenance: This involves performing routine cleaning tasks such as sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, dusting, and disinfecting surfaces. It may also include emptying trash bins, restocking supplies, and maintaining cleanliness in common areas.
  • Floor Care and Maintenance: Specializing in floor care involves tasks such as stripping, waxing, and buffing floors, as well as carpet cleaning, stain removal, and tile and grout maintenance. This type of work requires that you have knowledge of specific floor-cleaning equipment and techniques.
  • Window Cleaning: Window cleaning involves you cleaning and maintaining windows, glass surfaces, and related fixtures. It may require that you work at heights using ladders or other equipment and make use of specialized cleaning solutions and tools.
  • Specialized Cleaning: You can specialize in specific areas or settings that require specialized cleaning knowledge and skills. For example, you could focus on healthcare facility cleaning, which involves following strict infection control protocols and understanding the specific needs of medical environments.
  • Event Cleanup: Event venues often require janitors for post-event cleanup. This type of work involves efficiently cleaning and restoring the venue after concerts, sporting events, conferences, or other large gatherings.
  • Outdoor Maintenance: You may be responsible for outdoor cleaning and maintenance tasks, such as keeping parking lots clean, removing debris from outdoor areas, and ensuring proper waste disposal. This work may involve operating equipment like leaf blowers or pressure washers.
  • Hazardous Waste Management: Certain industries, such as laboratories or manufacturing facilities, may require janitors with knowledge of hazardous waste management. This involves handling and disposing of hazardous materials safely and following specific regulations.
  • Green Cleaning: With a growing emphasis on environmental sustainability, there is an increasing demand for janitors skilled in using eco-friendly cleaning products and practices. Green cleaning involves using environmentally friendly solutions, minimizing waste, and promoting sustainability in cleaning processes.

What Type of Companies Hire a Janitor?

Various types of companies and organizations hire janitors to ensure the cleanliness and maintenance of their facilities. Here are some examples:

  • Commercial Office Buildings: Janitors are commonly employed by property management companies or directly by office building owners to maintain cleanliness in office spaces, common areas, restrooms, and other facilities.
  • Retail Stores: Many retail establishments, such as supermarkets, department stores, malls, and small boutiques, hire janitors to clean the sales floor, restock supplies, and maintain a tidy environment for customers.
  • Educational Institutions: Schools, colleges, universities, and other educational facilities may employ you to clean classrooms, hallways, cafeterias, libraries, gymnasiums, and other areas frequented by students, faculty, and staff.
  • Healthcare Facilities: Hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other healthcare settings will hire you to maintain cleanliness and infection control measures in patient rooms, waiting areas, operating rooms, and other spaces.
  • Hospitality Industry: Hotels, resorts, and hospitality establishments often have janitorial staff responsible for cleaning guest rooms, common areas, restaurants, lobbies, and other facilities to provide a pleasant and hygienic environment for guests.
  • Manufacturing and Industrial Facilities: Companies in manufacturing, warehousing, and industrial sectors employ janitors to clean production areas, employee spaces, restrooms, break rooms, and other areas necessary for maintaining a clean and safe working environment.
  • Government and Public Buildings: Government offices, courthouses, libraries, museums, and other public buildings often have janitorial staff responsible for cleaning and maintaining these facilities for employees and visitors.
  • Sports and Entertainment Venues: Stadiums, arenas, theaters, concert halls, and other event venues hire janitors to clean and prepare the facilities before, during, and after events.
  • Residential Complexes: Property management companies or housing associations may employ you in residential complexes such as apartment buildings, condominiums, or gated communities to maintain cleanliness in common areas, hallways, and outdoor spaces.
  • Janitorial Service Companies: Janitorial service companies provide cleaning services to various clients, including businesses, institutions, and organizations. They employ janitors and assign them to different client locations based on their specific cleaning needs.

Should I become a Janitor?

Janitors play a crucial role in maintaining clean and functional spaces, making a significant impact on our daily lives. Their dedication and hard work contribute to the well-being of individuals in various settings.

Whether or not you should become a janitor depends on your interests, career goals, and personal preferences. While it may not be the ideal choice for everyone, a career as a janitor can offer opportunities for skill development, job stability, and the satisfaction of creating a clean environment for others. Ultimately, the decision to become a janitor rests on considering your own aspirations and the fulfillment you would derive from such a role.

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Lace Brunsden

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