Facilities management has been one of the UK's fastest-growing professions in recent years - here's how postgraduate study in the subject can help your career prospects
What is facilities management?
Facilities managers ensure that an organisation has the most suitable working environment possible for its employees and their activities. They use best business practice to improve the organisation's efficiency by reducing operating costs and increasing productivity.
They are usually responsible for areas including building and grounds maintenance, cleaning, catering and vending, health and safety, procurement and contract management, security, space management, and utilities and communications infrastructure.
Roy Whitaker, course director of MSc Facilities Management at Leeds Beckett University, says that the value this role brings to an organisation is only now receiving the recognition that it deserves. 'Every business and not-for-profit organisation has a requirement to manage its assets and service provision,' he explains. 'This fast-growing sector has an ever-increasing need for qualified managers all around the world.'
What do courses involve?
The more widespread recognition of the role has led to an increase in the number of relevant postgraduate qualifications that are available.
Masters degrees in facilities management are similar in style to those in other subjects. Qualifications usually consist of six to eight taught modules, plus a dissertation. Programmes introduce students to management literature and research in specialist fields, ranging from sustainability and economics to finance and operations. Asset management is often incorporated too.
Peter McLennan, course director of MSc Facility and Environment Management at the Bartlett School of Graduate Studies, University College London (UCL), adds that budding directors of facilities management usually require a Masters degree. Whatever position you're aiming for, obtaining a postgraduate qualification will increase your promotion prospects.
'Masters study assists in students' understanding of how to make decisions, manage people and create better processes,' Peter says. 'Most of the graduates from UCL achieved promotions either during the programme or shortly after leaving.'
Leeds Beckett University's MSc Facilities Management course is attended by students around the globe, as it's delivered through distance learning. This allows students to study wherever they are at times to suit their work and other commitments.
Meanwhile, Sheffield Hallam University offers an MBA in Facilities Management aimed at experienced professionals who want to reach the top. Delivered part time over three years via block study and distance learning, the programme covers topics such as strategic project management, strategic property asset management, and leadership, partnership and change.
A reflective portfolio completed over the second year incorporates a work-based consultancy project - further developing and enhancing students' leadership qualities. 'The course focuses on facilities management as a management discipline, hence our course being an MBA rather than an MSc,' explains Dr Mel Bull, MBA programme leader.
What do graduates do?
Postgraduate study in facilities management is a safe bet, with a greater number of jobs available than ever before. Opportunities can be found both in-house with large companies or with specialist contractors, such as Mitie, OCS and Sodexo.
The world's top ten facilities management companies are multi-billion-pound operations with international contracts, and senior posts can pay salaries upwards of £100,000.
Graduates of Sheffield Hallam University's MBA go on to become directors of estates and facilities in the public and private sectors, venture into regional management, or become international account managers for outsourced facilities management delivery companies. 'The MBA leads graduates to taking a more strategic lead within their organisation or in new roles,' says Dr Bull.