General Education

How to Become a Facility Manager (The Unsung Hero of Every Business)

How to Become a Facility Manager (The Unsung Hero of Every Business)
Great facility managers have a passion for operations, maintenance, and management of each physical system in an organization's building. They have to know that everything's running smoothly, and they *really* need to know when something isn't. Image from Unsplash
Kristen Mills profile
Kristen Mills October 24, 2019

CEOs and star employees may get all the credit, but who really keeps the show running? It’s not HR or marketing execs. Facility managers are leaders who literally keep the lights on and everything in check.

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Facility managers oversee the maintenance, repair and upkeep of corporate or office environments in just about every industry—from commercial to residential. They’re the backbone that keeps businesses and other operations running smoothly and ensures that the physical location is in tip-top shape. If you are looking to put your business administrative and leadership qualifications to good use, becoming a facility manager will allow you to exercise your full skillset.

In this article, you will learn:

  • Pros and cons of becoming a facility manager
  • Facility manager responsibilities
  • Educational commitment for becoming a facility manager
  • Licensure and accreditation for becoming a facility manager
  • Resources for becoming a facility manager
  • Typical advancement path for facility managers
  • Further accreditation or education for facility managers

Pros and cons of becoming a facility manager

The facility manager role requires keen insight into the day-to-day operations of an organization. Great facility managers have a passion for operations, maintenance, and management of each physical system in an organization’s building. They have to know that everything’s running smoothly, and they really need to know when something isn’t.

Pros of becoming a facility manager

  • Experience-based compensation: This career path doesn’t require higher education, although a degree in facilities management, business, or engineering can be very helpful. PayScale’s data notes that the average salary for a facilities manager with five to nine years of experience is $64,000. Entry-level positions start out around $53,000.
  • Responsibility: Thrive on making decisions? Facilities managers make many every day, on matters ranging from thermostat settings to building code compliance to emergency planning. On many matters relating to the day-to-day operations of the physical plant, the buck stops on the facility manager’s desk.
  • Project management: If you are skilled at delegating work, overseeing teams, and seeing the bigger picture, a career in facility management is a great way to put your practical skills to good use. Maintaining relationships within each department of the organization is key, since all departments will have facilities requests needing to be resolved. The responsibility of keeping projects on time and on budget also falls to you.

Cons of becoming a facility manager

There are very few disadvantages in becoming a facility manager. Most are a natural consequence of the responsibilities for an organization’s entire physical facilities (don’t worry, you got this).

  • Wacky hours: The fact that emergency maintenance issues can arise 24/7 almost guarantees that there will be times that you need to be available on short notice.
  • Heavy workload: Keeping a complex network of systems running can be a daunting task. Keep in mind that the bigger the organization, the grander the oversight and list of responsibilities.

Facility manager responsibilities

Most businesses and other organizations have physical facilities that need to be maintained, so most businesses and other organizations need facility managers. Hotel chains, restaurants, hospitals, and universities are among their most prominent employers. A facilities manager is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of all a facility’s physical systems, including:

  • HVAC
  • Plumbing
  • Electrical and mechanical
  • Exterior and interior architecture
  • Overall physical appearance
  • Landscaping

As a facility manager, you will delegate repair and maintenance projects, overseeing employees in the completion of routine and emergency projects. You will create cross-functional teams within the organization to help identify and prioritize maintenance projects, and to assign them. You’ll be like an orchestra conductor, with your crew as the musicians—when you get them all playing in sync, the result is beautiful music. At least metaphorically, unless the facility you manage is a conservatory.

Here are some of the essential characteristics of a successful building manager, according to the Pratt Institute, where you can earn a master’s degree in facilities management:

  • Organizational and planning skills
  • Fiscal responsibility
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Leadership skills

Educational commitment for becoming a facility manager

A bachelor’s degree is not essential for this career path, but it can give you an edge in your job search. Completing a certificate program like this one from Indiana University – Purdue University – Indianapolis can also help, as will joining professional and networking groups such as the International Facility Management Association (IFMA).

A recent review of job postings on indicated that entry-level facilities management positions typically require several years of maintenance and management experience.

Many facility managers majored in business in college. Other popular majors include:

  • Architecture
  • Construction Management
  • Engineering
  • Facilities management
  • Interior Design
  • Property Management

Certificate and master’s degree programs may not be necessary for most jobs but could come in handy if you hope someday to advance to higher management positions. Pursuing a master’s degree to advance your career is a multi-faceted decision. You’ll need to determine whether it’s worth the time and financial resources to you.

An advanced degree can help you:

  • Expand your knowledge base
  • Develop project management skills
  • Train in current management resources and styles
  • Stay up-to-date on maintenance strategies and safety requirements

Options include:

__Certificate: University of California – Berkeley Extension

  • Length: Self-paced
  • Tuition: $4,500 to $5,400
  • IFMA compliant

__Bachelor’s degree: Wentworth Institute of Technology

  • Length: 3 years, 128 credits
  • Tuition: $60,800
  • Hybrid: online and classroom
  • Taught by IFMA-certified staff

__Master’s degree: Arizona State University

  • Length: 12 months, 30 credits
  • Tuition: $13,500
  • Taught by IFMA certified staff
  • Available online and traditional courses include: Operations & Maintenance; Building Energy Management; Facilities Project Management; Sustainable Facilities; Leadership Principles

Licensure and accreditation for becoming a facility manager

The IFMA is the largest professional resource for facility management, with members across the industrialized world. The IFMA offers the Facility Management Professional credential, earned by completing a multi-course training. Courses cover project management, operations and maintenance, leadership and strategy, and finance and business. The organization also offers a certification (called the CFM, for Certified Facility Manager) through examination.

A combination of certification and education in facility management is the professional development you’ll need to stay up on current facility trends, legal requirements, and facility management techniques. It will also signal potential employers that you are committed to your career.

Resources for becoming a facility manager

The International Facility Management Association is the best resource for becoming a facility manager. By becoming a member of the IFMA, you’ll gain access to a numerous facility operations and management resources including continuing education, professional development, and networking opportunities.

The IFMA Foundation is a great resource to search for bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in the field. You can acquire the facility operations and space management skills you need through their online, on-campus, and hybrid offerings.

Typical advancement path for facility managers

Many facilities managers start their career as a repair people or carpenter sand eventually find their way into management positions. If you discover a passion for management, problem solving, and maintenance, you can carve out your individualized education or certification path through customizable training programs, often available online. Training will only take you so far: hands-on experience is at least as important in acquiring the skills you’ll need.

Successful facility managers may advance to larger and more complex operations. Some pursue an advanced degree, such as an MBA, in order to upgrade to a higher management position with their current employer. Some employers will even pay for your MBA if you commit to remaining with them for a specified number of years post-graduation.

Do you love schedules and spreadsheets? Does a well-planned, well-executed project give you a sense of deep satisfaction? Can you remain calm even when you’re ankle-deep in water from a broken pipe? If you answered yes to all of these questions, facility manager may be the career for you.

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