How to Become a Building Maintenance Contractor

Learn how to become a building maintenance contractor. Research the education, licensure information and experience required for starting a career in building maintenance.

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Do I Want to Be 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. Some risk of injury is present in this career, although instances are typically limited to small burns, cuts, scrapes, and bruises. 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.

Job Requirements

Generally, no formal education is required to begin an entry-level position. The following table contains the main qualifications and requirements needed to become a building maintenance contractor according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Common Requirements
Licensure (Certification)Licensure requirements are different in every state; voluntary certification is available
ExperienceSome may work under accomplished contractors to learn their trade
Key SkillsCustomer-service, troubleshooting
Computer SkillsMust know how to work with centralized computer systems and automated controls

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.

Success Tips:

  • 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.

Success Tips:

  • 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.
  • 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. 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.
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