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Originally published in Interiors & Sources

06/07/2004

Investing in the Future (2 of 2)

Position Yourself for Success

 

Whether you’ve been in the field for 30 years, or you’re just starting out in 2004, here’s a glimpse at some of the designations and certifications offered by industry organizations to help you keep up – and get ahead. Use this information to improve your professional abilities, increase your earning potential, demonstrate your initiative, and invest in your future.

International Facility Management Association (IFMA): Certified Facility Manager (CFM)

First offered in 1992, there are now over 3,500 practitioners that have achieved the CFM certification. Intended for those at mid-management level or higher, the CFM is competency-based and geared toward individuals with some experience in the industry.

To qualify for the CFM certification, you must meet certain education and work practice requirements (visit [www.ifma.org] for more information). Both IFMA members and non-members are eligible to apply.

If all prerequisites are met, candidates can take the required CFM certification exam within 90 days of application. The test consists of four components, each 90 minutes long, and includes multiple-choice questions related to IFMA’s areas of competency: planning and project management; operations and maintenance; real estate; quality assessment and innovation; leadership and management; human and environmental factors; finance; and communication. A ninth competency area was added – technology – in early 2004. “We don’t just pull the competencies out of the air. We did research and profiled the performances and competencies of facility managers – what they have to be able to do to succeed in the workplace and meet expectations for the business,” says Cylette Willis, IFMA’s vice president of professional development. The competencies are re-evaluated every five years to ensure that they accurately reflect the current practice of facility management. During this review, areas that have emerged since the last evaluation may be added, and existing competency areas may be purged due to lack of relevance. “[This evaluation process]  led to the identification of the technology competency. These performances and skills have emerged within the practice of FM, and they’re based around not only building automation technology, but CAD and CAFM technology, and IT technology as well,” Willis explains.

The CFM certification must be renewed every three years by demonstrating a commitment to growth and excellence through continuing education, professional involvement, development of the facility management profession, and by practicing facility management. Willis emphasizes that this maintenance program involves more than taking a few courses: “It’s really about being an active professional – you need to be professionally engaged,” she stresses.

In the organization’s Profiles 2003 report, IFMA research shows that practitioners with the CFM certification earn nearly $15,000 more each year than an individual in the same position without certification. “We even see promotions because people got their CFM; and a lot of people are surprised by [the] promotion. We get testimonials once, twice, or three times a week regarding that,” says Megan Schlaack, certification manager, IFMA.

IFMA offers online self-assessment tools and CFM Exam Review courses to prepare candidates for the certification exam. In addition to taking advantage of these preparation guides, Schlaack offers another recommendation to professionals thinking about pursuing the certification: “Individuals that take the CFM Exam Review and then go out and take the exam within two weeks to a month do better than those who wait. We’re really encouraging people, after their exam review, to go out and register for their exam. Once you’re ready, go do it. Don’t procrastinate.”

IFMA: Facility Management Professional (FMP)

Beginning in October 2004, IFMA will offer a first-of-its-kind, entry-level designation: the Facility Management Professional (FMP). This knowledge-based credential was designed with new facilities professionals in mind, and represents the organization’s dedication to each phase of a facility management career. “There’s a big influx of new practitioners – and not only from schools and universities. Because of the [program graduates] we see, and the experienced professionals who are moving into FM because of a career change, this is a credential for the 21st century. It reflects the way business is done in this new economy and reflects the changing nature of facility management,” says Willis.

Many new professionals are interested in distinguishing themselves from the competition, but most designations and certifications available today (including IFMA’s CFM) are competency-based and require a certain amount of industry experience; as a result, they are often out of reach for developing professionals. “So many practitioners are telling us that they want something to differentiate themselves from other people entering the profession. They want something to say to their prospective employers: ‘I’ve gone the extra mile. I’ve gone beyond just a university degree or work experience from another profession. I’ve mastered the foundational knowledge for facilities managers,’ ” says Willis. Maintenance and renewal processes have not yet been determined for the FMP, but the designation will require both to maintain activity.

Not only is this credential on target for someone just starting out in the industry; it’s also ideal for architects, interior designers, and engineers who interact with facilities professionals but don’t plan to enter the field. “They want to have that value-add for project teams, clients, or companies. Those [individuals] will want this new credential and won’t want to advance toward the CFM. But I think the majority of those who get this credential will view it as a stepping stone to help fast-track them to the CFM designation,” says Willis.

 

Building Owners and Managers Institute (BOMI): Real Property Administrator (RPA)

BOMI offers the RPA designation for industry professionals who manage commercial buildings for property management firms or developers. “This is the core of the office building world,” says Larry Vanderburgh, vice president of customized and workforce programs, Arnold, MD-based BOMI Institute. “The building is their business. The building generates rent. If the building were not there, the business wouldn’t exist. The RPA is aimed squarely at people who essentially perform all the functions of the landlord.” If you lease and market space, represent building owners in architectural and other professional transactions, and require familiarity with operational issues, then the RPA can help you reach greater levels of professional achievement.

To qualify, candidates must be able to demonstrate three years of property management experience with a portfolio or building size of at least 40,000 square feet. Practitioners must also be able to demonstrate work-related experience in 18 of 25 experience criteria categories (visit [www.bomi-edu.org] to obtain the full list of categories). If a property manager meets these standards, designation is obtained by completing six mandatory courses (covering every-thing from law/risk management to environmental health/safety issues), along with BOMI’s one-day Ethics Is Good Business® ShortCourse™. In addition, one other course must be completed and can be chosen from a list of three electives. Each of these courses is accompanied by a textbook: “You’ve got to master the content in those books and prove it by taking a test [at the end of the course] on the content in that book,” explains Vanderburgh.

BOMI estimates that it takes the average student about two-and-a-half years to successfully complete requirements (which equates to approximately three courses per year). “That’s not prescribed, though,” he says. “I’ve seen people do this in a matter of months, but you have to practically turn your study into a full-time job, at least with our designation. Some people take several years – some of them may take seven or eight years. But we suggest that two-and-a-half years is a reasonable average for someone to pursue a course of education and still keep their job and family life going at the same time.”

The RPA designation remains active for three years – Continuing Professional Development (CPD) credit must then be earned every three years to renew the credential. “There are lots of ways to fulfill this requirement,” says Vanderburgh. “The other thing people need to do to maintain the designation is abide by the professional code of ethics that we issue,” explains Vanderburgh. “This code outlines how we expect designation-holders to conduct themselves on the job.”

BOMI Institute: Facilities Management Administrator (FMA)

BOMI’s youngest designation, the FMA, was crafted in the late 1980s for individuals who manage facilities for companies or organizations that manufacture a product or provide non-real estate services as its primary business – whether it be a corporate, educational, hospitality, or healthcare setting. Strategic planning, project management, corporate finance, capital investment, and physical asset management are the emphases of the FMA designation. “While the property manager looks at the world from the outside in, for the facility manager, they look at the world from inside their company looking out. The classic facility manager mold is someone who is, first and foremost, an employee supporting his or her company’s core business. They do it by managing facilities,” describes Vanderburgh.

There are no eligibility prerequisites that must be met for the FMA; but to earn the designation, seven mandatory courses must be completed (covering topics like facilities planning and project management, technologies for facilities management, etc.), along with BOMI’s one-day Ethics Is Good Business ShortCourse. All courses are followed by an exam.

Maintenance requirements (earning a certain number of Continuing Professional Development credits every three years; adhering to BOMI’s code of ethics) and the estimated timeline for completion of the FMA (two-and-a-half years) are the same as BOMI’s RPA designation.

BOMI Institute: Systems Maintenance Technician (SMT)/Systems Maintenance Administrator (SMA)

The SMT and SMA designations were developed together and are meant to coincide: “They’re sort of joined at the hip,” explains Vanderburgh. Aimed at building maintenance staff and engineers, these designations meet the needs of hands-on practitioners. The two programs offer instruction in technologies and trends that lead to energy-efficient, environmentally sound, and cost-effective building systems.

Five courses (covering electrical systems and illumination; air-handling, water treatment, and plumbing systems; etc.) are the technical core of the SMT and detail specific operating systems. Three additional courses (dealing with administration; building design and maintenance; and environmental health/safety issues) are available to round out the program and lead to the SMA designation. As with the RPA and FMA, SMT/SMA designees must also complete an exam at the end of each course; achieve Continuing Professional Development credits to maintain the designation; and adhere to BOMI’s code of ethics.

“We’re trying to enhance the performance of individuals in their jobs,” emphasizes Vanderburgh. “And we’re trying to add value to the organizations these individuals work for. That’s what it all gets down to. Our mission is now aimed as much at organizations as it is at individuals.”

Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM®): Accredited Residential Manager® (ARM®)

The ARM certification is ideal for site managers working with residential portfolios (apartments, federally assisted housing, public housing, military housing, dormitories, etc.). Over 3,600 practitioners currently hold this certification.

Both IREM members and non-members may obtain the ARM certification, but after completing the exam, non-members do become members of IREM. Requirements for the ARM can be met in several different ways: by earning five points of IREM education (completion of certain IREM courses available either in the classroom, online, or via home study); completing an undergraduate degree in property management or a graduate degree in real estate management from a regionally accredited college or university; or holding a CAM, RAM, or CRM certification (granted by other associations). Once requirements are met, applicants take the ARM certification exam; it measures the knowledge required to perform the 24 functions IREM uses to define a professional residential property manager, and measures understanding of the ARM Code of Professional Ethics. Exam topics include items such as financial operations; marketing and leasing; and maintenance and operations. No maintenance or renewal requirements currently exist for the ARM certification, but Tony Smith, IREM’s president, indicates that after the ARM certification is obtained, practitioners can proceed to IREM’s CPM certification if they choose to do so.

“Through our research department, we interview people in the field and ask them, ‘What are the skills you need in order to do the job of a site manager, a property manager, and an asset manager?’ All of our education products are on a three-year rewrite cycle, so roughly one-third of our courses are being rewritten every year. And they’re rewritten to address the skills that the marketplace tells us people in these positions need to have,” explains Smith.

IREM: Certified Property Manager® (CPM®)

The CPM designation addresses all property types – retail, office, industrial, residential – and is available to interested property and asset managers. Prerequisites include a minimum portfolio size, a minimum of three years in the industry, and certain responsibilities that accompany job title.

Those interested in the CPM must establish an IREM Candidate Membership prior to earning the designation. Once that status is active, applicants must complete a comprehensive curriculum, earning 30 points of IREM education. IREM’s ethics course must also be completed, along with the creation and development of a comprehensive management plan. Candidates are interviewed and approved by their local IREM chapter, and then must pass the CPM exam to obtain certification status. “Right now, we’ve got a point system and it’s just too complicated. So, as of January 2005, we’ll be rolling out streamlined requirements for the CPM designation,” says Smith. For more information on these upcoming changes, visit (www.irem.org).

As Smith explains, there is no continuing education requirement to maintain this certification. “If you have to be licensed in order to hold the position, many of the licensing bodies require continuing education. So, there is an indirect requirement [with the CPM]. But you have to remain a member of [IREM] on an ongoing basis, so you’re constantly being bombarded with information about updating your skill set and keeping it current.”

Professional development seminars (such as IREM’s “Successful Strategies for Winning Negotiations” offering), Key Reports (“Risk Management in the Post 9/11 World,” “Mold: What Every Professional Real Estate Manager Needs to Know,” etc.), and IREMFirst (a resource containing real estate management forms, a glossary of real estate terms, a best practices forum, over 1,000 topical Web links, etc.) are illustrations of the information IREM offers to its certification-holding members. “We look at the job of a real estate manager [and realize] people don’t call to say, ‘The carpet’s really clean and trash cans were emptied and there’s no dust in this place. And, by the way, my mechanical system is incredible. It’s always the right temperature in here. And the roof never leaks.’ They call with problems. What we’re trying to do is provide real estate managers with the tools they need on a daily basis to solve those problems,” says Smith.

If you’re interested in any of the certifications or designations you just read about, reference “Call to Action” below for ways to contact BOMI, IFMA, or IREM. These three organizations also have some extra words of wisdom for you, the professionals in the midst of the ever-transforming facilities industry:

  • Larry Vanderburgh, BOMI Institute: “Be very mindful of what you’re positioning yourself to do by the time you get a designation. Don’t wait until you get a designation to start positioning yourself. Essentially everything you’re doing right now is what you’re positioning yourself to do.”
  • Cylette Willis, IFMA: “When senior management and people within [your] organization understand what FM is and how asset management can really save money and add value to strategic objectives, they’ll reward [the profession] better. And compensate it better. Facility managers are at a pivotal point in the evolution of their careers. They have incredible value to offer. By taking that first step and getting a credential, you gain confidence and you gain access to that table where you want to play.”
  • Tony Smith, IREM: “Acknowledge that these jobs are problem-solving positions. Go where you can get the best solutions to solve the problems. Know people in the business, because many of those solutions come from the people that you meet via being involved with an organization that provides networking and other opportunities to meet people.”

 

Leah B. Garris (leah.garris@buildingsmedia.com) is associate editor at Buildings magazine.

 

 
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