Facilities Management Jobs and Career Paths: The Explorer’s Guide
In the world of facility management, maintaining buildings isn’t just a duty; it’s a talent that requires hard work, dedication and innovation. While caring for a building may not seem like much to some people, being a skilled facility manager requires an immense amount of passion for people, their safety and their productivity. Without facility managers, many of today’s buildings would quickly fall into disrepair. Our environment — both inside and out — would be unsafe, unsanitary and uncomfortable.
It’s clear that facility managers make a big impact on the integrity of buildings we use each and every day. But what, exactly, does a facility manager do? Is a facility management position right for you? We’re exploring how facility managers keep our collective spaces safe, healthy and productive. You may find that this is a potential career path that you’d like to pursue! Keep reading to find out.
Topics Covered in this Guide
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What is facilities management?
First things first, let’s lay the foundation of what “facility management” truly means. The International Facility Management Association (IFMA) says that facility management is “a profession that encompasses multiple disciplines to ensure functionality, comfort, safety and efficiency of the built environment by integrating people, place, process and technology.”
In other words, a facility management department ensures that an organization’s buildings, grounds, assets and equipment are safe to use and consistently work as expected. Facility management also utilizes maintenance best practices to ensure that occupants of a building are satisfied with their surroundings and can easily accomplish their day-to-day goals.
What is a facility manager?
Facility management jobs are multi-disciplinary and vary widely from person to person (and even from state to state). The core responsibility of a facility manager is maintaining the integrity of an organization’s machinery, equipment and physical infrastructure. However, many facility managers would agree that a top priority is keeping people within a building safe, secure and comfortable.
A facility manager takes a proactive approach towards safety by providing functional equipment, up-to-date space plans, a means of egress, employee training and avenues for communication and trust. They also implement security protocols to help prevent violence and crime from occurring within and around their buildings.
Everyday, facility managers make things happen. They ensure that buildings, assets and machinery remain in suitable condition to meet the needs of people who rely on them. Thanks to facility managers, the lights stay on, bathrooms are clean, furniture is comfortable, indoor temperatures are maintained, and water is clean and safe to use. When systems in a facility work as expected, occupants are put at ease.
Facility Managers Go By Many Names and Job Titles
If you are reading this article, chances are you are interested in the facility management field and the challenging opportunities it has to offer. As you continue conducting research, it’s important to note that facility managers go by many different job titles. This is because people who manage facilities arrive in their professions through a variety of career paths.
We’ve gone ahead and listed examples of potential job titles you may stumble upon when searching for more information on facility management-related positions. Here are 20 examples of facilities management job titles we found in our research:
What equipment and assets do facility managers oversee?
Facility managers are jacks- and jills-of-all-trades. They oversee countless pieces of equipment and physical assets within an organization. The list of things they oversee is quite lengthy, so we went ahead and boiled it down to seven major equipment categories:
- Examples: Boilers, chillers, air handling units, heat pumps and geothermal heat pumps
- Examples: Breaker panels, generators, transformers and motor control centers
- Examples: Backflow preventers, drinking fountains, water softeners and sump pumps
Fire and Life Safety Equipment
- Examples: Exit signs, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and eyewash stations
- Examples: Dishwashers, walk-in refrigerators, beverage coolers and ranges
- Examples: Security cameras, door locks, key card readers and emergency notification systems
If you’re looking for a more exhaustive list of common assets and equipment names, download a free copy of the Facility Manager’s Pocket Field Guide, a glossary with 200+ common acronyms, terms and equipment in a facility.
Did you know? Managing hundreds (or even thousands) of assets can be a massive challenge, but tools do exist to help facility managers stay on track. Facility management software is just one example of cutting-edge technology that building managers can use to triage incoming service requests, manage work orders, conduct inspections and organize documentation electronically. Software can even organize space, asset and employee performance data and deliver it to facility managers via a statistics dashboard. Click here to see facility management software in action!
What skills does a facility manager need to have?
A common misconception is that facility managers are just repair people. This is partly true; facility managers are skilled at “thinking on the fly” and fixing things on a dime. But a true facility manager goes above and beyond just repairs.
Facility managers may work “behind the scenes,” but their hard work is seen and noticed every single day. In general, facility managers contribute to an organization’s success by protecting property, buildings, equipment and occupants. More specifically, facility managers may oversee some or all of the following subject matters for a business:
- Asset maintenance and repair
- Capital project management and budgeting
- Code compliance
- Contract management with outside vendors
- Custodial and housekeeping services
- Energy management and improvement
- Grounds maintenance and upkeep
- Fleet management
- Occupancy and human factors
- Preventive maintenance planning
- Risk management and mitigation
- Safety and security protocols
- Space and inventory management
Facilities managers essentially look after all of the services that help a business or organization do its work. The most successful facility manager is a people-oriented person who enjoys managing a team, solving unexpected issues and helping a business meet its goals.
Do facility managers need to take courses to become certified?
In most cases, facility manager positions are not entry-level jobs. These positions take time to learn and require a wealth of industry experience. Many facility managers begin as engineers, building managers and assistants, then work up to senior-level positions. They may also have worked their way up via facilities internships and apprenticeships, coaching, promotions and years of experience.
But in recent years, facility management programs have begun to gain traction in higher education. Today’s businesses realize the value of an educated facility management professional. The majority of professional facility management certification programs require applicants to have at least two years’ worth of college credits and some experience working in the field. Certificate and degree programs are available at some 2- and 4-year institutions. Taking courses in facility management is a great way to gain solid knowledge and understanding of the building management industry. (Keep reading to learn how to choose a program!)
How do I choose a strong facilities management program?
So, you’re interested in pursuing education in the building management field. Great! But before you begin, there are several factors you should consider when choosing a program. Ask yourself the following questions to ensure you’re making the strongest choice possible:
- Is the program recognized by the International Facility Management Association? IFMA is the professional organization that is responsible for administering the Certified Facility Manager (CFM) examination. You may also want to use the IFMA website to explore a list of IFMA Foundation Accredited Programs nearest you.
- Does the program allow you to receive hands-on experience? A great place to start is by helping manage the facility of a local business.
- Does the program permit you to concentrate your studies in a specific area of facilities management? For example, you may choose to focus on construction management or facility design.
- Is the program an undergraduate certification or graduate level degree? Education can be public or private. You may receive a certificate, Associate’s degree, Bachelor’s degree or even a Master’s degree.
Review the program’s courses and make sure you select a program that is suited to your long-term career goals. Also, don’t forget to check out our blog about facilities management certification programs to find out which ones we recommend!
Institutes that Offer Facilities Management Programs
There are many institutes, colleges and universities in the United States that offer facilities management programs. Here are ten facilities management degree programs you may want to explore:
2-Year Facilities Management Programs
- Butler Community College: Kansas, 2-year, Public, Associates
- Community College of Philadelphia: Pennsylvania, 2-year, Associates
- Madison Area Technical College: Wisconsin, 2-year, Public, Certificate
4-Year Facilities Management Programs
- Brigham Young University-Provo: Utah, 4-year, Private, Bachelors
- CUNY New York City College of Technology: New York, 4-year, Public, Bachelors
- Ferris State University: Michigan, 4-year, Certificate and Bachelors
- Missouri State University-Springfield: Missouri, 4-year, Public, Bachelors
- Rochester Institute of Technology: New York, 4-year, Private, Masters
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. You may find it useful to use this website to explore a list of IFMA Foundation Accredited Programs nearest you. The website allows users to filter by degree type (associates, bachelors, masters and doctorate), as well as enrollment type (online, on-campus or combination). You’re sure to find a program that suits your needs here.
Is facilities management a good career choice?
Industry growth, statistics and salaries point to the answer.
As a whole, the facility management field is thriving. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that facility management careers will see a 10% growth rate from 2016 to 2026. The same source indicates that the median salary for facilities maintenance directors is $96,180.
The outlook for construction managers is just as bright. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the median pay for construction managers in 2018 was $93,370. This position will also see a 10% growth rate from 2018 to 2028.
Check out the facilities management salary roundup to find out the median salary across multiple positions within the industry.
A career in facility management is much more than a steady job with excellent growth potential. A strong facility manager needs to have specific personality traits and abilities to be successful at his or her job. Ask yourself the following questions to see if a career in facilities might be in your future:
- Am I looking for a career that’s different every day?
- Am I seeking a career that involves movement and physical labor?
- Am I passionate about helping people achieve their goals?
- Do I have the ability to go-with-the-flow when things go wrong?
- Am I able to crunch numbers and manage a departmental budget?
- Can I demonstrate sufficient project management skills?
- Am I an efficient communicator and people-oriented person?
- Do I enjoy problem solving and brainstorming creative solutions?
If you answered “yes” to a majority of these questions, you’re set! No matter which path in facilities management you choose, you’re sure to find a career that caters to your own specificities and talents, and ensures you can succeed as a newly-hired facility manager.
“One of the greatest perks of being a facility manager is having the master keys to everywhere in a building. We get VIP access to some pretty fabulous locations — like the custodial supply closet and the steam tunnels! All jokes aside, being a facility manager is a great way to work with highly dedicated individuals and have the opportunity to see them grow. I would recommend a facility management career to anyone who enjoys problem solving and leading teams. It is definitely not your “9 to 5” career choice, but you can make a lasting impression on the people you lead and the physical infrastructure in your building portfolio.”
Ken Jordan, Former Business Development Executive for AkitaBox
Resources for Aspiring Facility Managers
If you’re new to the facilities management scene or are considering a career in the industry, it’s a good idea to explore various resources and get familiar with the latest developments in the industry. If you’re not sure where to start, set yourself up for success by perusing the following free resources!
- Read the Facility Management Conference Round-up. Attending a conference or expo is a great way to familiarize yourself with the industry and pick up some Continuing Education Units (CEUs) along the way!
- Download the Maintenance Technician Job Posting Template. If you’re looking to hire a facility management professional or simply interested in learning more about the role, this template is a great place to start.
- Get reading with 25 books on buildings, leadership and design. We’ve rounded up a bunch of great reads for every type of facilities person: the learner, the doer, the creator, the think and even the tinkerer.
- Take advantage of free, downloadable facility management industry resources. Stay competitive and up-to-date in the field by reading industry insights, free tools and innovative ways to transform your facilities.
- Learn how to craft your facility manager resume in 5 steps. Read the blog to download a resume template and find out how you can stand out from the competition.
Let Us Know: Are you a facility manager or director? What do you enjoy most about your position? What advice would you give to aspiring facility managers? Let us know by leaving a comment below!