Elevator installers and repairers—also called elevator constructors or elevator mechanics—assemble, install, and replace elevators, escalators, chairlifts, 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 equipment.
To install, repair, and maintain modern elevators, which are almost all electronically controlled, elevator installers and repairers must have a thorough knowledge of electronics, hydraulics, and electricity. Many elevators are controlled with microprocessors, which are programmed to dispatch elevators in the most efficient manner. With these controls, it is possible to get the greatest amount of service with the smallest number of cars.
Elevator installers and repairers usually specialize in installation, maintenance, or repair work. Maintenance and repair workers generally need greater knowledge of electronics and electricity than do installers because a large part of maintenance and repair work is troubleshooting.
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. Then, 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, 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 hydraulic lift in an auto service station.
Installers and repairers also install escalators. They 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.
Once an elevator is operating correctly, 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 ensure that the equipment and rooms are clean. They also troubleshoot and may be called to do emergency repairs. Unlike most elevator installers, people who specialize in elevator maintenance work independently most of the day and typically service many of the same elevators on multiple occasions over time.
A service crew usually handles major repairs—for example, replacing cables, elevator doors, or machine bearings. These tasks may require the use of cutting torches or rigging equipment—tools that an elevator repairer would not normally carry. Service crews also do major modernization and alteration work, such as moving and replacing electrical motors, hydraulic pumps, and control panels.
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 works according to specifications and stops correctly at each floor within a specified time. Adjusters need a thorough knowledge of electronics, electricity, and computers to ensure that newly installed elevators operate properly.
Elevator and escalator installers and repairers held about 24,800 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of elevator and escalator installers and repairers were as follows:
- Building equipment contractors - 85%
- Government - 2%
- Educational services; state, local, and private - 1%
Elevator and escalator installation and repair work is usually physically demanding. These workers may sit or stand for extensive periods, lift items that weigh up to 200 pounds, and work in cramped areas inside crawl spaces and machine rooms. They also may work at heights in elevator shafts, in dusty and dirty places with oily and greasy equipment, and in hot or cold environments.
Injuries and Illnesses
Elevator and escalator installers and repairers may suffer injuries from falls, burns from electrical shocks, and muscle strains from lifting and carrying heavy equipment. To reduce their risks and prevent injury, workers must wear protective equipment such as hardhats, harnesses, and safety glasses.
Most elevator and escalator installers and repairers work full time. They may work overtime to make emergency repairs or to meet construction deadlines. They may be on call 24 hours a day.
Education & Training Required
Most elevators installers and repairers learn their trade in an apprenticeship program administered by local joint educational committees representing the employers and the union—the International Union of Elevator Constructors. In nonunion shops, workers may complete training programs sponsored by independent contractors.
Apprenticeship programs teach a range of skills and usually last 4 years. Programs combine paid on-the-job training with classroom instruction in blueprint reading, electrical and electronic theory, mathematics, applications of physics, and safety.
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.
Applicants for apprenticeship positions must have a high school diploma or the equivalent. High school courses in electricity, mathematics, and physics provide a useful background. As elevators become increasingly sophisticated, workers may need to get more advanced education—for example, a certificate or associate degree in electronics. Workers with education beyond high school usually advance more quickly than their counterparts without a degree.
Many elevator installers and repairers receive additional training on their particular company's equipment.
Many cities and States require elevator installers and repairers to pass a licensing examination. However, other requirements for licensure may vary.
Other Skills Required
Workers who also complete an apprenticeship registered by the U.S. Department of Labor or their State board earn a journeyworker certificate recognized nationwide. Applicants for apprenticeship positions must be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma or equivalent, and pass an aptitude test and a drug test. Good physical condition and mechanical skills also are important.
Jobs with many employers require membership in the union. To be considered fully qualified by the union, workers must complete an apprenticeship and pass a standard exam administered by the National Elevator Industry Educational Program.
The National Association of Elevator Contractors also offers certification as a Certified Elevator Technician (CET) or Certified Accessibility and Private Residence Lift Technician (CAT).
How to Advance
Ongoing training is very important for a worker to keep up with technological developments in elevator repair. In fact, union elevator installers and repairers typically receive training throughout their careers, through correspondence courses, seminars, or formal classes. This training greatly improves one's chances for promotion and retention.
Some installers may receive additional 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.
Employment of elevator and escalator installers and repairers is projected to grow 6 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
About 2,500 openings for elevator and escalator installers and repairers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Much of the projected employment growth in this occupation is due to recovery from the COVID-19 recession that began in 2020.
Demand for these workers is closely tied to the construction of office buildings and stores that have elevators and escalators, and this type of construction is expected to increase over the decade.
In addition, the need to regularly maintain, update, and repair old equipment; provide access for people with disabilities; and install increasingly sophisticated equipment and controls will maintain demand for elevator and escalator installers and repairers.
The median annual wage for elevator and escalator installers and repairers was $97,860 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $47,370, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $130,940.
In May 2021, the median annual wages for elevator and escalator installers and repairers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
- Government - $100,120
- Building equipment contractors - $98,610
- Educational services; state, local, and private - $80,490
The starting pay for apprentices is usually about 50 percent of what fully trained elevator and escalator installers and repairers make. They earn pay increases as they progress in their apprenticeship. Apprentices who are also certified welders usually receive higher wages while welding.
Most elevator and escalator installers and repairers work full time. They may work overtime to make emergency repairs or to meet construction deadlines. Workers may be on call 24 hours a day.