Healthcare facilities managers ensure that medical buildings meet basic regulatory standards of health and safety. In that way, they’re like all other facilities managers. But because the facilities they oversee must meet many additional (and more stringent) state health department codes, federal requirements, and other regulatory standards specific to healthcare settings, they also do much more.
Consider a blackout in a typical office building. It’s a minor inconvenience at best; at worst, it causes a temporary drop in revenue or productivity. A blackout in a hospital, on the other hand, can be deadly unless emergency generators start automatically and run perfectly for as long as they’re needed.
Given that, you might assume that healthcare facilities managers study for years to earn setting-specific master’s degrees to qualify for their jobs. In fact, however, programs in medical facilities management are scarce. Most healthcare facilities managers hold degrees in general facilities management. That’s if they have degrees at all: it’s still possible to land a job in healthcare facilities management via an apprenticeship or by starting out as a mechanic or janitor and rising through the ranks.
That may be changing, however. “Facilities managers’ roles are becoming more complex,” Cheryl Harper, former director of building operations of Providence St. Joseph’s Hospital, told Health Facilities Management magazine. Some hospitals now mandate higher education and continuing education for all employees in supervisory roles, which means you may need to get a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in facilities management if you want to become a healthcare facilities manager.
In this article about healthcare facilities management degrees, we’ll cover:
Hospitals aren’t the only setting where healthcare facilities managers work. Healthcare facility managers (sometimes called medical facilities managers or healthcare FMs) also work in doctors’ offices, outpatient surgical centers, specialty clinics, long-term care facilities, and anywhere else providers treat patients.
A facility manager’s work involves many operational areas of a facility. In this role, you’ll be responsible for:
All of these tasks are critical because failure to comply with safety and operations rules and regulations can result in the loss of a facility’s Joint Accreditation and the closure of that facility.
More importantly, medical facilities managers play a role in patient outcomes. Effective facilities management in healthcare settings can slow or even prevent the spread of aggressive pathogens, help patients get the treatments and medications they need to heal more quickly, and prevent deadly medical mistakes.
Health administration undergraduates sometimes start out in admissions, marketing, risk management, managed-care analysis, or other non-clinical staff positions and work their way into higher-level administrative roles. While it’s possible to work in healthcare administration without an MHA, it can take a lot longer to climb the managerial ladder without a master’s degree. (
According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2018, the median wage for health service managers was $99,730 per year, with the highest 10 percent in the field earning over $182,600 in base pay. Employment opportunities for health services managers is expected to grow by 20 percent by 2026. This growth is much faster than growth for other occupations. ( )
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In some cases, healthcare facilities managers have no formal degrees at all. However, according to one study examining hiring trends in healthcare facilities management, a “large majority of FM professionals possess degrees before entering the field.” While older healthcare facilities managers were more likely to enter the profession via the building trades, younger professionals in this discipline are much more likely to hold a bachelor’s degree—but not facilities management degrees. Surprisingly, very few healthcare facilities managers graduate from academic programs specifically designed for facilities managers.
It isn’t that facilities management degree programs don’t exist. The International Facility Management Association (IFMA) maintains a small searchable database of accredited programs at the associates, bachelor’s, and master’s degree levels (it currently lists 36 institutions).
Owensboro Community and Technical College is one of the few schools that offers a degree in medical facilities management. The college’s 65-credit Healthcare Facilities Leadership associate’s degree program includes classes like:
Most people in healthcare facilities management, however, don’t have a degree in their chosen discipline. Instead, healthcare facilities managers graduate from engineering, business administration, technology, construction, architecture, and even healthcare administration degree programs. There just aren’t that many associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree programs focused entirely on facilities management, and no healthcare facilities management programs exist at the bachelor’s degree level at all.
You can find IFMA Foundation-accredited facilities management bachelor’s degree programs at:
In these programs, students learn how to manage staff, oversee the upkeep of buildings, and keep building occupants safe. The coursework in these programs touches on:
Some courses are very technical and hands-on. When you earn a healthcare facilities management degree or general facilities management degree at the undergraduate level, you’ll handle electrical equipment and learn to maintain mechanical systems.
There are only a handful accredited facilities management master’s degree programs in all of North America, and again, these are facilities management programs that may or may not touch on the unique requirements of healthcare facilities. Students study more advanced concepts related to:
You can find accredited master’s degree programs in facilities management at:
If you want to study healthcare facilities management online, your options are even more limited. Again, there are no healthcare-specific online degree programs for facilities managers, but a few schools do offer online facilities management degrees. SUNY – System Office offers an Associate of Applied Science in Facilities Management that can be earned entirely online. Wentworth Institute of Technology offers an online Bachelor of Science in Facility Management. Arizona State University has a Facility Management master’s program that students can complete online. Finally, Indiana University has an MS in Technology with a Facilities Management Emphasis program that can be completed entirely online.
Few colleges and universities offer healthcare-specific facilities management certificates—again, Owensboro Community and Technical College is a leader here—but many have general facilities management certificate programs. These can be good resume boosters for professionals with bachelor’s degrees or master’s degrees in unrelated disciplines who are already working in medical facilities. Programs typically cover topics like preventive maintenance, operations management, project administration and supervision, mechanical and electrical systems maintenance, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations and safety standards.
You can find these programs (which can usually be completed in one year) at:
Distance learning options exist to help prepare you to apply for jobs or to earn the Certified Healthcare Facility Manager (CHFM) credential offered by the American Hospital Association. The American Society for Health Care Engineering, for instance, has a lineup of courses and workshops for healthcare facility managers.
Certificate programs and online continuing education courses can’t replicate the value of a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree. Still, they might just give you an advantage when you’re searching for an entry-level healthcare facility management job.
Education isn’t all it takes to become a healthcare facility manager—and in some cases, degrees are a lot less critical than certification. Earning the Certified Healthcare Facility Manager credential is a must if you want to work in medical facilities management. There are plenty of general certifications for facility managers, including a Facility Management Professional credential and a Certified Facility Manager credential, but many employers—in particular large healthcare networks and hospitals—require facilities managers to hold the specialty CHFM certification.
The certification process involves passing a comprehensive exam focused on the five most important areas of facilities management:
This certification is not open to just anyone. Candidates for the CHFM exam must have documented facility management, construction, or facility maintenance experience in a healthcare setting and be willing to complete at least 45 hours of continuing education before recertifying after three years.
When it comes to pay, health facilities management is a great job. According to PayScale, the average certified healthcare facility manager salary is about $98,000 and the top 10 percent of healthcare facility managers make $130,000 (much more than facilities managers in other industries typically earn). Your degrees and health facilities management certifications will play a role in whether you make it into that 10 percent.
According to the 2019 Health Facilities Management salary survey, having the CHFM credential can increase your paycheck by 21 percent, while the AHE Certified Health Care Environmental Services Professional (CHESP) designation can provide a 28 percent bump. With certification and an associate’s degree, you can already expect to earn close to $90,000. Healthcare facilities managers with bachelor’s degrees already earn nearly $110,000, and with a master’s degree, you might earn top dollar in the field.
In other words, a degree related to healthcare facilities management represents an excellent investment.
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