What is a lift engineer? (Plus responsibilities and skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 4 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Lift engineers are specialists in the design, construction, installation and maintenance of lifts, escalators and other similar transport systems. They work with developers and business owners to build and service lifts in commercial and residential properties and ensure they're safe for use. If you're interested in becoming a lift engineer, it's useful to know the answer to 'What is a lift engineer?' and what this career path is like. In this article, we explore what a lift engineer is, what responsibilities and skills lift engineers have and the main career prospects of lift engineers.

What is a lift engineer?

To understand the answer to 'What is a lift engineer?', it's beneficial to understand the purpose of this role. A lift engineer is a person who designs, operates and maintains lifts. Lift engineers may work on a range of both horizontal and vertical transport systems, including passenger lifts, service and goods lifts, travelators and escalators. Alongside designing, installing and repairing lifts, lift engineers may also instal and upgrade lift safety features such as emergency call systems to ensure a lift complies with relevant regulations. This role incorporates elements from multi-disciplinary engineering, such as electrical, mechanical and hydraulic engineering.

Lift engineers typically work as employees, associates or owners of companies that specialise in the installation, maintenance and repair of lifts. They may also work as self-employed contractors with enough experience. Lift engineers often come from a background in mechanical engineering or electrical engineering, though many have specific skills in lift engineering too. Lift engineers are capable of working independently, and usually travel to various sites each day to inspect, repair and maintain lifts in different commercial and residential premises.

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Lift engineer responsibilities

Depending on the industry they work in, a lift engineer's responsibilities may vary but their main job is to ensure all lifts are safe for use. Below is a list of the typical responsibilities of a lift engineer and what each duty entails:

Designing and installing lifts

Lift engineers design and instal lifts, escalators, travelators and other horizontal and vertical transportation systems. They also work closely with contractors to ensure they build the lift from the correct components according to lift engineering standards. Lift design requires lift engineers to meet with stakeholders to understand the specific requirements of a project and use their engineering skills to design a vertical or horizontal transportation system that fits the client's requirements and space.

Repairing lifts

Lift engineers spend a significant portion of their time inspecting and repairing lifts in commercial buildings and apartments. Many high-traffic lifts in apartment buildings, office blocks and public buildings suffer wear and tear meaning they require repairs semi-regularly. Fixing a lift as soon as possible ensures multi-floor buildings are accessible to everyone. In some cases, lift engineers may attend emergency call-outs to repair essential lifts and travel systems at very short notice.

Servicing lifts

Lift engineers are responsible for servicing and maintaining lifts to keep them safe and functional. Servicing lifts on a regular basis reduces the risk of unexpected breakdowns and disruptions and ensures lifts are always operating safely. Depending on the number of floors a lift services, guidelines recommend that lift engineers inspect a lift six to 12 times a year. Lift engineers check lifts and other travel systems for visible signs of damage and wear and perform basic tests to ensure the electronic and mechanical components of the lift are working properly.

Related: FAQ: What does a mechanical maintenance technician do?

Upgrading lifts

Lift engineers also upgrade and refurbish old lift systems to bring them up to date and ensure they meet modern safety standards. This might mean replacing older lift buttons and electronics with more modern ones or resurfacing the interior of the lift for aesthetics and comfort. Many lifts last for decades with proper maintenance and regular upgrades to keep them in line with modern lifts.

Lift engineer skills

Lift engineers possess a range of skills that enable them to work on lifts, travelators and escalators reliably and expertly. Key skills for lift engineers include technical skills and knowledge, such as engineering skills, alongside soft skills like problem-solving and organisation skills. Below is a list of some of the core skills for lift engineers:

Engineering

Lift engineers have strong knowledge of engineering concepts and know how to think like an engineer. They understand how lifts work, how to design them and how to repair them. They have a good understanding of materials and machinery, building structures, building regulations, health and safety and the lift industry and its history. Lift engineers usually come from a mechanical or electrical engineering background and have accredited qualifications in one or both of these specialisms.

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Electronics

Lift engineers have advanced electronics skills which they often develop by undertaking electronics courses or gaining qualifications in electrical engineering. Lift engineers use electronics skills to understand how the electronic components in a lift work, including sensors and control systems. They use these electronic skills to design and instal lifts, repair them and carry out scheduled lift maintenance. They're also able to understand electrical diagrams, plans and drawings.

Manual dexterity

Lift engineers have excellent manual dexterity because this role often involves working with small parts, tools and equipment. Repairing and inspecting lifts means handling very small electrical components and cables with calm and steady hands. Besides manual dexterity, lift engineers are usually physically fit enough to carry heavy objects and willing to work at heights. The role also requires general flexibility because engineers often work in confined spaces.

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Problem-solving

Lift engineers have good problem-solving skills. The ability to solve problems quickly and accurately is key when working as a lift engineer because when a lift stops working or displays a fault, it's not always clear what the fault is and how to repair it. By investigating how the lift works and what's going wrong, lift engineers are able to eliminate potential faults and identify the cause of any problems that do arise. Lift engineers are able to think laterally to come up with alternative solutions to unique problems.

What is it like to work as a lift engineer?

It's possible to enter a career as a lift engineer working in both the private and public sectors across most areas. Lift engineers spend a lot of time travelling between sites, which means they usually require a valid driver's licence to carry out their work efficiently. Some lift engineers may travel further from home to carry out lift repairs and installations, which could mean overnight stays. Most of the work of a lift engineer takes place on-site in office blocks, apartments, shopping malls and other commercial and residential spaces.

Related: The average engineering salary in the UK

Lift engineer career path

Lift engineers sometimes come from a background in mechanical or electrical engineering, or they may start out with an apprenticeship as a lift engineer. Lift engineering apprenticeships teach beginners to the field everything they require to become expert lift engineers, including the engineering principles and electronics knowledge that enables them to carry out repairs and installations. Apprentices learn on the job under the guidance of senior lift engineers and their colleagues.

As you gain experience as a lift engineer, you may progress into higher-level roles including senior lift engineer and lift engineer supervisor roles. Senior lift engineers coordinate lift installations alongside maintenance and repair work. They're responsible for making important decisions relating to lift design and construction, which means they're responsible for ensuring the safety of lift users for each project they work on. Some experienced lift engineers may start their own lift installation and maintenance business, which enables them to work flexibly, set their own hours and choose which jobs to take on.

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