Most workers belong to a union and enter the occupation through
a 4-year apprenticeship program.
High pay and good benefits, together with expected slow job
growth and few separations, should result in keen competition
for the few job opportunities that arise in this small occupation;
prospects should be best for those with postsecondary education
Elevator installers and repairers are less affected by downturns
in the economy and inclement weather than other construction
Nature of the Work
Elevator installers and repairers—also called elevator
constructors or elevatormechanics—assemble,
install, and replace elevators, escalators, dumbwaiters, moving
walkways, and similar equipment in new and old buildings.
Once the equipment is in service, they maintain and repair
it as well. They also are responsible for modernizing older
To install, repair, and maintain modern elevators, which
are almost all electronically controlled, elevator installers
and repairers must have a thorough knowledge of electronics,
electricity, and hydraulics. Many elevators are controlled
with microprocessors, which are programmed to analyze traffic
conditions in order to dispatch elevators in the most efficient
manner. With these computer controls, it is possible to get
the greatest amount of service with the least number of cars.
When installing a new elevator, installers and repairers
begin by studying blueprints to determine the equipment needed
to install rails, machinery, car enclosures, motors, pumps,
cylinders, and plunger foundations. Once this has been done,
they begin equipment installation. Working on scaffolding
or platforms, installers bolt or weld steel rails to the walls
of the shaft to guide the elevator.
Elevator installers put in electrical wires and controls
by running tubing, called conduit, along a shaft’s walls from
floor to floor. Once the conduit is in place, mechanics pull
plastic-covered electrical wires through it. They then install
electrical components and related devices required at each
floor and at the main control panel in the machine room.
Installers bolt or weld together the steel frame of an elevator
car at the bottom of the shaft; install the car’s platform,
walls, and doors; and attach guide shoes and rollers to minimize
the lateral motion of the car as it travels through the shaft.
They also install the outer doors and door frames at the elevator
entrances on each floor.
For cabled elevators, these workers install geared or gearless
machines with a traction drive wheel that guides and moves
heavy steel cables connected to the elevator car and counterweight.
(The counterweight moves in the opposite direction from the
car and balances most of the weight of the car to reduce the
weight that the elevator’s motor must lift.) Elevator installers
also install elevators in which a car sits on a hydraulic
plunger that is driven by a pump. The plunger pushes the elevator
car up from underneath, similar to a lift in an auto service
Installers and repairers also install escalators. They put
in place the steel framework, the electrically powered stairs
and the tracks, and install associated motors and electrical
wiring. In addition to elevators and escalators, installers
and repairers also may install devices such as dumbwaiters
and material lifts—which are similar to elevators in design—as
well as moving walkways, stair lifts, and wheelchair lifts.
The most highly skilled elevator installers and repairers,
called “adjusters,” specialize in fine-tuning all the equipment
after installation. Adjusters make sure that an elevator is
working according to specifications and is stopping correctly
at each floor within a specified time. Once an elevator is
operating properly, it must be maintained and serviced regularly
to keep it in safe working condition. Elevator installers
and repairers generally do preventive maintenance—such as
oiling and greasing moving parts, replacing worn parts, testing
equipment with meters and gauges, and adjusting equipment
for optimal performance. They also troubleshoot and may be
called to do emergency repairs.
A service crew usually handles major repairs—for example,
replacing cables, elevator doors, or machine bearings. This
may require the use of cutting torches or rigging equipment—tools
that an elevator repairer normally would not carry. Service
crews also do major modernization and alteration work, such
as moving and replacing electrical motors, hydraulic pumps,
and control panels.
Elevator installers and repairers usually specialize in installation,
maintenance, or repair work. Maintenance and repair workers
generally need greater knowledge of electricity and electronics
than do installers, because a large part of maintenance and
repair work is troubleshooting. Similarly, adjusters need
a thorough knowledge of electricity, electronics, and computers
to ensure that newly installed elevators operate properly.
Most elevator installers and repairers work a 40-hour week.
However, overtime is required when essential elevator equipment
must be repaired, and some workers are on 24-hour call. Unlike
most elevator installers, workers who specialize in elevator
maintenance are on their own most of the day and typically
service the same elevators periodically.
Elevator installers lift and carry heavy equipment and parts,
and may work in cramped spaces or awkward positions. Potential
hazards include falls, electrical shock, muscle strains, and
other injuries related to handling heavy equipment. Because
most of their work is performed indoors in buildings under
construction or in existing buildings, elevator installers
and repairers lose less work time due to inclement weather
than do other construction trades workers.
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
Most elevator installers and repairers apply for their jobs
through a local of the International Union of Elevator Constructors.
Applicants for apprenticeship positions must be at least 18
years old, have a high school diploma or equivalent, and pass
an aptitude test. Good physical condition and mechanical aptitude
also are important.
Elevator installers and repairers learn their trade in a
program administered by local joint educational committees
representing the employers and the union. These programs,
through which the apprentice learns everything from installation
to repair, combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction
in blueprint reading, electrical and electronic theory, mathematics,
applications of physics, and safety. In nonunion shops, workers
may complete training programs sponsored by independent contractors.
Apprentices generally must complete a 6-month probationary
period. After successful completion, they work toward becoming
fully qualified within 4 years. To be classified as a fully
qualified elevator installer or repairer, union trainees must
pass a standard examination administered by the National Elevator
Industry Educational Program. Most States and cities also
require elevator installers and repairers to pass a licensing
examination. Both union and nonunion technicians may take
the Certified Elevator Technician (CET) or the Certified Accessibility
and Private Residence Lift Technician (CAT) program courses
offered by the National Association of Elevator Contractors.
Most apprentices assist experienced elevator installers and
repairers. Beginners carry materials and tools, bolt rails
to walls, and assemble elevator cars. Eventually, apprentices
learn more difficult tasks such as wiring, which requires
knowledge of local and national electrical codes.
High school courses in electricity, mathematics, and physics
provide a useful background. As elevators become increasingly
sophisticated, workers may find it necessary to acquire more
advanced formal education—for example, in a postsecondary
technical school or junior college—with an emphasis on electronics.
Workers with more formal education, such as an associate degree,
usually advance more quickly than do their counterparts without
Many elevator installers and repairers also receive training
from their employers or through manufacturers to become familiar
with a particular company’s equipment. Retraining is very
important if a worker is to keep abreast of technological
developments in elevator repair. In fact, union elevator installers
and repairers typically receive continual training throughout
their careers, through correspondence courses, seminars, or
formal classes. Although voluntary, this training greatly
improves one’s chances for promotion and retention.
Some installers may receive further training in specialized
areas and advance to the position of mechanic-in-charge, adjuster,
supervisor, or elevator inspector. Adjusters, for example,
may be picked for their position because they possess particular
skills or are electronically inclined. Other workers may move
into management, sales, or product design jobs.
Elevator installers and repairers held about 22,000 jobs
in 2004. Most were employed by specialty trades contractors,
particularly elevator maintenance and repair contractors.
Others were employed by field offices of elevator manufacturers,
machinery wholesalers, government agencies, or businesses
that do their own elevator maintenance and repair.
Workers should expect keen competition when seeking to enter
this occupation. Elevator installer and repairer jobs have
relatively high earnings and good benefits, involve a significant
investment in training, and a large proportion are unionized.
As a result, workers tend to stay in this occupation for a
long time and few leave and need to be replaced, thus reducing
job opportunities. Job prospects should be best for those
with postsecondary education in electronics.
Employment of elevator installers and repairers is expected
to increase as fast as average for all occupations through
the year 2014. Most of the demand for workers will be due
to replacements. Demand for additional elevator installers
depends greatly on growth in nonresidential construction,
such as commercial office buildings and stores that have elevators
and escalators. This sector of the construction industry is
expected to grow during the decade in response to expansion
of the economy. In addition, the need to continually update
and repair old equipment, expand access to the disabled, and
install increasingly sophisticated equipment and computerized
controls also should add to the demand for elevator installers
and repairers. Adding to the demand for elevator installers
and repairers is a growing residential market where an increasing
number of the elderly require easier access to their homes
through stair lifts and residential elevators.
Elevators, escalators, lifts, moving walkways, and related
equipment need to be kept in good working condition year round,
so employment of elevator repairers is less affected by economic
downturns and seasonality than other construction trades.
Earnings of elevator installers and repairers are among the
highest of all construction trades. Median hourly earnings
of elevator installers and repairers were $28.23 in May 2004.
The middle 50 percent earned between $22.96 and $33.68. The
lowest 10 percent earned less than $17.36, and the top 10
percent earned more than $39.65. In May 2004, median hourly
earnings in the miscellaneous special trade contractors industry
Three out of four elevator installers and repairers were
members of unions or covered by a union contract, one of the
highest proportions of all occupations. The largest numbers
were members of the International Union of Elevator Constructors.
In addition to free continuing education, elevator installers
and repairers receive basic benefits enjoyed by most other
Elevator installers and repairers combine electrical and
mechanical skills with construction skills, such as welding,
rigging, measuring, and blueprint reading. Other occupations
that require many of these skills are boilermakers; electricians;
electrical and electronics installers and repairers; industrial
machinery installation, repair, and maintenance workers; sheet
metal workers; and structural and reinforcing iron and metal
Sources of Additional Information
For further information on opportunities as an elevator installer
and repairer, contact:
International Union of Elevator Constructors, 7154 Columbia
Gateway Dr., Columbia, MD 21046. Internet: http://www.iuec.org/
For additional information about the Certified Elevator Technician
(CET) program, contact:
National Association of Elevator Contractors, 1298 Wellbrook
Circle, Suite A, Conyers, GA 30012. Internet: http://www.naec.org/
Source: Bureau of
Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational
Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition