As a field, facility management is seeing a lot of growth as new positions open, attracting the attention of up-and-coming workplace professionals. The problem is that the facility management career track isn’t always a straight line, and many find it hard to even know where to begin. Well, start here.
Until recently, facility management wasn’t a well-known career path. Large corporations and multinational conglomerates used facility managers, but it wasn’t like a lot of people grew up knowing they wanted to be a facility manager — or even that the job existed at all. But things are changing. Now, companies of all sizes understand the benefits that come from well-managed facilities, and as a result, facility management is projected to be a nearly $60 billion industry in 2023. And as the industry is growing, so does interest in it.
The most important part of those billions? To meet that estimate, the number of qualified facility managers needs to grow at an exponential rate. And it’s already starting to happen. Ready to get on the facility manager career path? Here’s some of the steps you can take to get started.
The path to facility management certification starts with a bachelor’s degree, not a high school diploma. A general degree in business will often do, however, more companies are looking for more specialized areas of study in the next generation of facility managers. Business administration is a smart choice, as is information systems management, and operations management.
Ideally, it’s best to pursue a business degree that emphasizes macro concepts and broad business ideals. Don’t worry if you leave school feeling like you don’t know too much about integrated facilities management. The goal of institutional education is to provide you with the ability to identify and address workplace operational needs.
Beyond that, a lot of the time, what you need are problem-solving skills over specific area knowledge. So, don’t worry if your degree doesn’t have a specific class on maintenance for buildings and grounds. Once you have a solid sense of business management and project management, those skills are transferable.
Continuing education and certifications
Continuing education for facility managers builds on the business concepts learned in school, with a specific focus on facilities. Industry organizations and accrediting bodies like the International Facilities Management Association (IFMA) and other organizations offer continuing education and accreditation specific to facilities management.
IFMA has more than 50 training modules for aspiring facility managers. Regardless of the certification you pursue, you’ll take many of them. Pass and you’re well on your way to walking away with a facility management certificate to go with your bachelor’s degree in business.
Facility management training comes down to your area of focus. There are several certifications that emphasize different aspects of facility management—from general issues, sustainability, and analytics. Almost all major FM certifications come from IFMA, including the five most popular:
Most industry professionals opt for CFM or FMP certification, since they’re the most applicable when pursuing a facility management career. Some industries demand SFP designation based on company goals. MRICS and AssocRICS are extensions of CFM and FMP certification.
Some universities are also opening new programs for both new and seasoned facility managers. The University of Toronto School of Continuing Education, for example, now offers a certificate in facilities management, where you master:
- Fundamental tools for planning, financial and project management, operations and maintenance, and accommodation planning
- Legal and regulatory issues that affect the built environment
- Skills for managing multi-disciplinary teams, including communication, negotiation and conflict resolution
- Approaches to risks and security to ensure business continuity
- Systems for data and information management
There’s also a certificate program at the University of California Riverside Extension Professional Studies, where you can learn the key skills for a facility manager, including operations, maintenance, staff management, budgeting, scheduling, and managing construction projects.
Industry trends and insights
Beyond institutional education and certification through an accredited body, it’s also good for professionals to develop a deep understanding of the industry they’re entering. This can be as simple as following relevant blogs and newsletters. It’s also smart to join industry groups to get a feel for the dialog used by future colleagues and peers. Attending one or two events on the conference circuit isn’t a bad idea either—namely major events like IFMA World Workplace or the annual CoreNet Global Summit.
Remember that facilities management is in a renaissance and will continue evolving as workplace technologies develop. Staying abreast of industry trends and insights is smart for any aspiring facility manager and best practices for any established professional.
For example, with the rise of the hybrid work model, more facilities are retrofitting their workspaces with visitor management systems and sensors. Because you can’t expect the same number of people to show up at the office on the same days every week, companies want to capture and leverage data to best support the employee experience.
By controlling who can come into the office and tracking facility usage, you can better manage spaces – from scheduling cleaning crews to controlling the heating and cooling according to usage trends.
Recognize opportunities to apply your skills
Outside of following the right education and career tracks, it’s important to develop the wide range of professional skills a facility manager needs. Problem solving and the ability to examine macro and micro trends top the list. Analytical skills and organization aren’t far behind.
It’s also important to have good collaboration skills—facility managers are often trailblazers for workplace change and improvement, which means communicating benefits to different groups, including the C-suite, managers, employees, contractors, and vendors.
Cultivating these skills alongside proper education and training sets the stage for innovative facility management. Facility managers able to affect positive change in their workplaces will enjoy long-tenured careers doing what they love: solving problems and ensuring all stakeholders, including owners, maintenance crews, and occupants, enjoy the best possible built environment.