Should I Become a Building Maintenance Contractor?
Buildings, whether residential or businesses, are always in need of periodic or even emergency maintenance. Issues can be as small as an overgrown lawn or a clogged sink, or as large as structural damage or an electrical outage. For many of these problems, property owners rely on independent building maintenance contractors for solutions.
Building maintenance contractors work full-time, with on-call hours often leading to working in the evenings, nights, or on the weekends. General maintenance workers, such as building contractors, must be comfortable with heights and small spaces. The job requires that workers have a wide base of knowledge, as they will work on many parts of the buildings and its corresponding systems.
|Degree Level||None required, though postsecondary education can be helpful|
|Licensure and Certification||Licensure requirements are different in every state; voluntary certification is available|
|Experience||Some may work under accomplished contractors to learn their trade|
|Key Skills||Customer-service, troubleshooting; must know how to work with centralized computer systems and automated controls|
|Salary (2014)||$36,170 per year (Median salary for maintenance and repair workers)|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Step 1: Learn the Industry
Building maintenance can encompass many professions, including grounds, electrical, plumbing, construction and general maintenance. While many of these applications can be learned over time from a licensed contractor, another option is to enter one of the many building maintenance diploma or associate degree programs at technical schools. In these programs, students are taught a wide range of maintenance skills such as painting, carpentry, plumbing and basic electrical knowledge.
A contractor must know how to operate not only machinery and tools, but also a business, interacting with landlords, business owners and residents, and a good building maintenance program introduces customer-service skills. A good deal of emphasis is also put on safe practices. Students also learn how to present themselves professionally, demonstrate quality work and interact with the public.
- Take the right high school courses. Admission to a diploma or degree program may require specific high school courses, such as computer-aided drafting (CAD), blueprint reading and mechanical drawing classes.
- Study computer science. Newer buildings may have centralized computer systems. Maintenance workers must have basic computer skills and know how manage these systems.
Step 2: Get an Entry-Level Job in the Field
Before operating one's own business, it is advantageous to work either for an established contractor, or for a building as a salaried maintenance worker. Entry-level workers begin by doing small tasks, such as replacing light bulbs, while shadowing a more experienced professional. According to the BLS, job opportunities for maintenance workers include the manufacturing industry, government, retail businesses, offices and apartment buildings.
Step 3: Consider Earning a Certificate
Many community colleges and technical schools offer certificate programs in small business or entrepreneurship, designed for individuals who want to start their own companies. A certificate from a program such as this provides graduates with the basic skills needed to open a small business of their own or take over the operation of an established business. Courses include business management, accounting, business law, human resource management, sales and marketing and office software.
Step 4: Become a Licensed Contractor
Prerequisites to becoming a licensed contractor vary widely by state and by locality. For instance, the state of Washington requires all contractors to apply for licensing with the Department of Labor and Industry, with electricians and plumbers requiring extra licensing. Ohio expects professionals to be licensed by the state in heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), refrigeration, hydronics, electrical and plumbing installation and repair. Pennsylvania has no licensing requirements, but building contractors must be qualified to remove asbestos. Requirements should be checked carefully prior to doing business in any state.
- Do your research. Individual states and municipalities also have different regulations regarding business licenses. Potential business owners should contact the department of labor and industry for each state, as well as the business or revenue department of each township or municipality, to identify the regulations for business operation.
Step 5: Consider Voluntary Certification
Trade organizations for general maintenance workers, such as the Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals (SMRP), offer voluntary credentials that may help a building maintenance contractor demonstrate professionalism and increase job opportunities. To qualify for the SMRP's Certified Maintenance and Reliability Professional designation, one must have no felony convictions, pass an exam and pay a fee.