Property Maintenance Degrees: Associate, Bachelor's & Online Class Info

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Associate and bachelor's degrees covering property maintenance can lead to careers managing commercial, industrial or residential properties. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and program options, and find out what you can do with your degree.
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Studying Property Maintenance: Degrees at a Glance

Property maintenance studies are found at the certificate and associate levels. Individuals with a certificate in property maintenance may find work as general maintenance workers or maintenance supervisors, while associate degree holders might become facility maintenance managers or maintenance planners. Property maintenance studies at the associate level are typically found as facility maintenance degree programs.

At the bachelor's level, you can find studies in property management, which could qualify you for mid-level positions in property or facility management. Property managers usually handle one large property or several smaller properties, supervising staff or individual site managers and implementing financial and tenant management plans to maximize investment returns. States may require you to obtain a license for some property management positions.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), property management positions were expected to grow by 6% from 2010-2020. Prospects could vary between geographical locations. Harvard's State of the Nation's Housing 2012 report indicated that one million new rental households were added in 2011.

Certificate Associate Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? People interested in learning how to make basic building repairs Individuals who want an entry-level position in property maintenance Individuals interested in mid-level opportunities in property management
Common Career Paths (with approximate median salary) - General maintenance and repair worker ($35,000)*
- Maintenance supervisor ($61,000 - with 4 years of experience)**
- Facilities maintenance manager ($91,000 - with 7-10 years of experience)**
- Maintenance planner ($79,000 - with up to 6 years of experience)**
- Compliance specialist ($69,000)**
- Property manager ($80,000)**
- Facilities manager ($80,000)**
- Property acquisitions manager ($98,000 - with 8 years of experience)**
Time to Completion About 1 year, full-time 2 years, full-time 4-5 years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - About 10-15 courses covering repair and maintenance concepts - General education coursework
- Roughly 10-15 maintenance courses
- Approximately 20-25 courses covering property management principles
- Core business courses
- Internship or capstone project
Prerequisites High school diploma or GED High school diploma or GED High school diploma or GED
Online Availability No Hybrid programs may be available A few schools offer this program online

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures), **Salary.com (August 2012 figures).

Certificate in Property Maintenance

Certificate programs in property maintenance consist of roughly 30-40 credit hours and focus strictly on maintenance-related concepts. These programs can prepare you to work on commercial buildings, residential houses and apartments. This certificate can lead to a position as a maintenance worker or maintenance supervisor in a variety of industries.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Training is specific and doesn't include unrelated general education courses
  • May give you an advantage over other candidates who only have a high school diploma
  • Schools may allow you to apply your credits towards an associate degree if you decide to continue your education

Cons

  • Jobs that you qualify for with this training usually don't require any education beyond high school
  • You'd be paying money to take courses that teach skills which can be learned from on-the-job training
  • Apprenticeships and internships are not usually included in the program, so all of your work experience must come from outside of the program

Common Courses and Requirements

The coursework is focused on skills that are used in property maintenance, so you don't have to worry about spending time in general education courses before focusing on maintenance studies. Some of your course options may include plumbing, heating and cooling, electrical wiring, blueprint reading and masonry repair. Most property maintenance certificate programs don't include any internship or work experience requirements.

Online Course Options

Certificate programs in property maintenance are not currently available online. Even if you were to find an online program, the hands-on nature of maintenance studies would not be ideal for a distance learning environment.

Standing Out with This Certificate

After you complete the certificate program, you may be able to jump into an apprenticeship. Some schools may be partnered with the Construction Apprenticeship Tech Prep Consortium, which is an organization designed to help students find an apprenticeship after completing an approved education program. Each state may also have a list of apprenticeship programs available within that state, so you may want to see what programs exist in the region you plan on working in.

Associate Degree in Facility Maintenance

Associate degree programs in facility maintenance offer similar learning experiences as certificate programs but also include general education courses. This type of program is meant to teach you how to work on commercial and large residential buildings and covers a variety of topics, including plumbing, electricity and carpentry.

Although many of the jobs you'll qualify for are entry-level maintenance positions, an associate degree could lead to a facility maintenance management career. This program can give you a variety of skills that are useful in industries and trades outside of property maintenance, which could lead to career opportunities that aren't available to those with less than an associate degree.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Opens up management and supervisory maintenance career opportunities
  • May give you an advantage over other applicants who don't have a postsecondary degree
  • Many courses include lab components, allowing you to apply what you learn in class to hands-on projects

Cons

  • Some of the jobs you qualify for with this degree only require a high school diploma
  • Number of courses focused on maintenance is similar to certificate programs; additional courses are often general education electives that don't help prepare you for maintenance careers
  • Not all programs include an internship, so you may have to spend additional time outside of school to gain work experience

Courses and Requirements

Associate degree programs in facility maintenance usually begin with general education courses like English, oral communication and basic math. Maintenance and repair courses that you might take include:

  • Brazing and Welding
  • Blueprint Reading
  • Refrigeration
  • Electrical wiring
  • Carpentry
  • Boiler maintenance
  • Maintenance safety

Some programs may include a work experience or internship towards the end of the program, but this varies between schools.

Online Course Options

Some colleges offer a hybrid version of the facilities management associate program, but you won't find this program completely online. The hybrid program gives you the opportunity to take your general courses or a few of the basic maintenance courses online, but you'll still need to head to campus for the majority of your courses. Even if you do find a school that claims to offer this program completely online, you're probably better off in a hybrid or traditional program since maintenance training includes a lot of hands-on experience.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Work experience can be very important for facilities maintenance workers, so you may want to get started before you even enroll in an associate degree program. You could do home improvement side-work to learn how to make basic property repairs, or you might want to look at various non-profit organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity, that need volunteers to help with building maintenance and other related projects.

Obtaining a certification could help you stand out from other maintenance workers who have similar experience and education. If you're interested in becoming a facilities maintenance manager, you may want to look into the Certified Plant Maintenance Manager designation offered by the Association for Facilities Engineering. To be eligible for the certification exam, you'll need at least 2 years of maintenance management experience. The right certification for you depends on your job title and industry you work in, so you may want to find out which credentials would fit best with your career goals.

Bachelor's Degree in Property Management

Interdisciplinary study in property management can teach you about tenant relations, accounting, investment analysis, marketing and leasing as well as real estate law. You could be prepared to manage multifamily, office, retail, hospitality, community association or industrial properties. Schools usually offer property management studies through a business or real estate program.

Property management programs may give you a variety of concentration options, such as residential property, affordable housing, commercial property or housing for the elderly. Programs frequently encourage part-time work or internships with industry partners.

Pros and Cons of a Bachelor's Degree in Property Management

Pros

  • Can lead to mid-level property management jobs
  • Can learn skills that can be used in a number of industries, including real estate, finance, healthcare, government and industrial or residential property
  • Most schools offer multiple specialization options

Cons

  • Programs focus more on management concepts and usually have limited maintenance learning opportunities
  • A bachelor's degree may not be required to become a property manager
  • You'll spend at least 4 years in school, limiting the amount of time you can spend gaining valuable experience

Courses and Requirements

You'll generally begin the bachelor's program by taking foundational business courses like statistics, accounting and finance. Some of your property management courses may include:

  • Building codes
  • Rental property and fair housing law
  • Building systems for property management
  • Property financing and valuation
  • Social responsibility for property managers
  • Human resources for property managers
  • Property management technology

During your senior year you might be required to complete a comprehensive project or participate in an internship. Unlike the maintenance programs discussed above, the bachelor's program in property management does not focus on repairing property; the main purpose is to prepare students for managing the business aspects of different properties.

Online Options

Although online property management programs are less common than online real estate or business programs, you can still complete a business program with an emphasis in property management through distance learning. Coursework in an online program is typically the same as an on-campus program, but you may not have an internship opportunity with an online program. Keep in mind that online property management programs are often found at for-profit schools, so you may not be able to find this program completely online at a public school. It may be a good idea to ensure that any schools you're interested in are accredited by an agency approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the U.S. Department of Education.

Standing Out with This Degree

Students may be able to join organizations or connect with industry partners through guest lectures, internships and networking events. Some schools may have an opportunity for students to shadow previous graduates of the program. Other schools may have a student-run association that gives you a chance to take field trips to actual property management businesses.

Your coursework might help prepare you for an industry certification such as the National Apartment Leasing Professional designation offered by the National Apartment Association. Students can become student members of the Institute for Real Estate Management or other professional associations to access career news and learning opportunities. You may also receive other benefits, such as discounted industry products or free magazines.

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