How Can Professional Education Advance Your Career?

08/01/2017 | By Justin Feit

With a talent gap emerging, continuing education could help you take the next step in FM

Whether you are looking to advance within your current organization or want to take the next step in your career somewhere else, seeking professional education might get you there. With programs across the country providing short certification curricula and others providing master’s degrees for working professionals, building on your current job experience is getting easier.

FMs that receive credentials (e.g., CFM, FMP, SFP) after taking coursework find tangible results. According to an IFMA study, FMs who have earned credentials see a $6,000 average increase in annual salary. Moreover, 83% of respondents in the study have found a significant value relative to investment.

With a vast array of programs held at universities across the country, opportunities are available to FMs hoping to advance their careers. Consider these five topics that will help you decide if a facility management education program is right for you.

1) Financing Professional Education
First, consider the finances of prospective programs and whether you can receive any funding. For a professional with experience looking to improve career prospects, certificate and master’s programs are the best choices, but they provide vastly different experiences.

A certificate program will take less time than a master’s degree and will cost less. By preparing you for certain credentials, a certificate will typically help with improving the core competencies of facility management. The duration of a master’s program, on the other hand, will give you more coursework and more opportunities to address specific areas of interest, as well as further research and training opportunities. How you plan to fund your professional education may have a major impact on this decision.

For some, it might require self-financing an education program with the intention that it will either bump you up a pay grade or make you a more appealing job applicant in the future. Depending on the status of your current position, you might be able to receive some funding from the organization where you currently work.

“Some take an approach where their companies don’t pay for their education or additional training, so they are doing it at night or on the weekends and at the end of the day show their companies what they’ve done to take their career to the next level,” says Kristen Hurtado, Director of Built Environment Continuing Education at the Simplar Institute at Arizona State University.

While you are more likely to receive funding from larger organizations, providing broad justifications for how professional education will yield an ROI can help curry favor for financial assistance.

“One of the challenges we hear from professionals is finding the money to do this. That’s where it becomes discouraging for professionals if the education is too expensive or if their companies don’t see the value or benefit,” explains Hurtado.

In response to this apprehension, Hurtado is part of a research team trying to address what companies are looking for in terms of skill development from educational institutions. The hope is that this research will help programs become more in tune with what private companies seek when hiring facility managers. Hurtado notes, “One of the efforts we are working on right now is to map out the continuing education environment across various FM organizations because a lot of FMs want to transition in their role, but there aren’t a whole lot of formal programs out there.”

2) Bridging the FM Talent Gap
One factor that might change the way FMs are funded for continuing education is the talent gap that is emerging in the industry. According to IFMA, 45.3% of credentialed respondents to its survey are Baby Boomers and 40.4% are in Generation X. While it makes sense for more seasoned FMs to have more credentials, it nevertheless suggests a talent gap that might appear as Baby Boomers retire.

Because there are fewer FMs from Generations Y and Z, the facility management industry might face a talent gap in the coming years with fewer highly qualified candidates ready to fill in vacant positions.

While not every company is willing to shell out the money for FM training, that might need to change.

“I wish it was a lot easier because it would make the transition to the field a lot easier and you’d have more FMs,” says Hurtado. “There’s going to be such a gap and a need for FMs. How do we get more folks to go there when the education is too expensive and companies are asking, ‘Why should I pay for your education?’”

Whether or not companies become more willing to finance FMs seeking education and credentials sooner or later remains to be seen. Nevertheless, it seems as though the industry will need to adapt to ensure a smooth generational change.

“At the end of the day, when there’s no one there to fill the positions, what can you do? You can find someone who is smart, but they are going to have to be trained in facilities,” Hurtado explains. “Being proactive is always a nice side of the fence to be on, but reactive is fine too. Unfortunately, facilities may suffer until we can get people trained and ready to roll.”

3) Formalizing Experience and Education
Especially for those who lack prior education focused on facilities, FM education programs provide an opportunity to learn, develop and formalize skills that executives find valuable.

“Continuing education plays a huge role in getting professionals ready to transition into the field with a career change or bump up to the next level, take on new roles and responsibilities, and formalize knowledge they may already have based on experience,” says Hurtado.

Joseph Geierman, Director of Real Estate and Facilities at the law firm Troutman Sanders in Atlanta, had worked in facilities before attaining his master’s degree in Building Construction and Facility Management at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Prior to entering the program, he was concerned about future job prospects because his undergraduate degree was in the humanities – he only ended up in facilities because his previous employer assigned him there.

“I determined that I really liked the career itself and the challenges facilities offer. I had only worked at one company after graduating, so I wasn’t sure my resume would match up to other people if I was in the market for a job,” says Geierman. “I was looking around to see what I could do to beef up my resume and skills because I thought that they would downsize and I would need another job.”

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