Career Credentials: Distinctions in the Dynamic FM Field

11/01/2013 | By Christopher Curtland

Distinguish yourself with the right balance of education and experience

Whether you pursued a formal education in facilities management or picked up the practice at the school of hard knocks, there is always room for growth in this ever-evolving industry. Adapt with it and prove that you’re the fittest of the lot.

Across the FM arena, accreditations and designations have become par for the course. Fresh young graduates are chasing certificates to prove expertise and experience. Higher-ups with goals of upper management are getting graduate degrees. Environmental champions are earning their sustainability stripes.

Entry level professionals should pursue different degrees and certifications than senior level FMs. Your career path up to this point will dictate where it’s going and how to put your best foot forward.

Stay abreast of the industry’s depth by knowing the different dynamics and directions that facility management entails. With the following information, your career will careen into the fast lane.

Entry Points Influence the Path
The roads into facilities management are vast and varying. Many people with degrees in business or architecture go the way of office managers or administrative services and wind up in FM almost by default.

Others with engineering backgrounds work their way up as operators and technicians, but they typically hit a ceiling.

“People who start in the boiler room and climb the ranks probably only reach a supervisory capacity,” says Joseph Samson, CFM (see table) and professor of architecture and facility management at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, MI. “An electrician probably won’t become the director of a comprehensive FM department, overseeing capital projects and making executive decisions.”

Construction and project management have also been common entry points, but those skill sets don’t always translate to successful facility management.

“Companies are very used to going to the construction industry to get candidates,” explains James Bechard, IFMA member and professor of facility management at Conestoga College in Kitchener, ON. “The rub is that organizations think those candidates have more experience, but the trouble is that it’s not the right experience.”

A big trend sees third-party property managers and service providers like Aramark, Sodexo, and Jones Lang LaSalle providing professionals with their first taste of facilities management.

“I’ve seen a lot of people take their first step with service providers and get a broader view of what facilities management can be,” says Kathy Roper, associate professor and chair of integrated facility management at Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Buildings Construction. “They can bounce from one contract to another and pick up a lot of skills.”

Samson has recognized a similar drift in the industry. “There are fewer jobs where you’re doing comprehensive FM work like space planning, master planning, and big picture stuff,” he says. “The entry points are changing, and there are more jobs with property management aspects.”

Paths into facility management have veered all over the place, but a more formal route is forming.

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