How to Become a Service Manager: Career Roadmap

Aug 13, 2018

Research the requirements to become a service manager. Learn about the job description and read the step-by-step process to start a career in service management.

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  • 0:05 Becoming a Service Manager
  • 0:53 Career Requirements
  • 1:22 Career Steps

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Should I Become a Service Manager?

The term service manager incorporates a wide variety of occupations. Because the term is so broad, a career in this field first requires narrowing down the options and choosing a specialization. Then, one may take the steps toward fulfilling the chosen occupation's requirements regarding education, training, and certification.

The majority of service managers, regardless of industry, work full-time, although the amount of overtime varies, as does the need to work evening, night, or weekend shifts. Work environments depend on the field: food service managers may work in a restaurant, social and community service managers work in an office setting, while medical and health service managers will be employed in the medical care setting such as hospitals and doctors' offices.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree or other training program
Degree Field Depends on area of specialization
Certification Voluntary certification may be available
Experience Hands-on experience is required before moving to a managerial position
Key Skills Communication, leadership; knowledge of specialization-specific technologies

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Now let's check out the career steps for service managers.

Career Steps

Step 1: Choose a Specialization

Service managers are needed in many industries to lead and coordinate teams of service members. Examples of different types of service managers include food service managers, who supervise the operation of bars, restaurants, diners, and other establishments that serve food or beverages to paying customers. Food service managers are responsible for coordination efforts between hosting, waiting, kitchen, and cleaning staff, as well as overall customer satisfaction.

Medical and health service managers ensure the efficient operation of health care businesses in either a specific clinical capacity or a more general oversight capacity involving the supervision of medical and nonmedical staff in a health care setting.

Social and community service managers coordinate the efforts of social workers, outreach programs, volunteer groups and other community organizations. Many managers work closely with all the players involved in various social projects to facilitate the activities of participants and direct the administrative process. Also, administrative services managers work for a wide variety of companies and organizations in whatever capacities are necessary to ensure smooth and efficient operation of services provided.

Step 2: Complete Education

Prospective food service managers have a variety of options depending on the amount of time they wish to spend building their qualifications. Many schools offer certificate programs of 16-18 credit hours in food service or hospitality management. Some colleges offer an Associate of Applied Sciences or even a Bachelor of Applied Sciences in food service management, although these programs are rare.

Positions in health service management require significantly more education. For this field, a bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement for an entry-level position at smaller facilities. Usually, a master's degree in a field such as health service administration is a prerequisite for this career. Bachelor's and master's degree programs in health administration as well as other relevant programs, such as health sciences or business administration, are offered by many universities. Managers working in a specific clinical specialty need education in their individual medical field.

Social and community service managers can come from a variety of backgrounds, depending on the organization for which they work. Many hold bachelor's degrees, while others have master's degrees. Some have only high school diplomas.

Administrative service managers are even more diverse in their educational backgrounds. High school graduates may receive positions in this field; however, applicants holding associate degrees have an increasing edge in obtaining employment. Those who have earned bachelor's degrees in subjects such as business administration or human resources have better chances of getting jobs as administrative services managers.

You might want to consider work at an internship. Many colleges and universities offer students internship opportunities to get their foot in the door of their industry while still in college. For example, a Bachelor of Health Services Administration program may allow students to begin an administrative internship while completing their final year of undergraduate study.

Step 3: Complete Hands-On Training

Depending on the chosen specialty, most service management positions require some kind of hands-on training in order to make the most of the career. Food service managers, for example, must have 2-3 years of supervisory experience in the field before they are eligible for the Foodservice Management Professional (FMP) certification by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF).

Health services administrators almost always go through a year of supervised experience in the field; this usually takes place within graduate programs in health services administration. Administrative services managers move up the employment hierarchy almost strictly through experience as they make upward transitions to larger organizations and positions with more responsibilities.

Step 4: Complete Certification

While few service management positions require professional certification, many see voluntary certification as an opportunity for advancement and recognition. Food service managers can first be certified by ServSafe, an organization dedicated to food safety that awards the Food Protection Manager Certification. This certification is also a requirement for food service managers who wish to attain the Foodservice Management Professional credential awarded by the NRAEF. While these certifications are not required for employment as a food service manager, they are seen as recognition of professionalism and experience in the field. The credentials can increase a food service manager's credibility, qualifications, and advancement prospects.

A health information manager can be certified as a Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). Job opportunities for RHIAs exist not only in health care settings but also in government agencies, consulting services and pharmaceutical vendors, according to the AHIMA.

Offered by the International Facility Management Association, the Certified Facility Manager (CFM) exam can be taken by administrative service managers who want to earn a widely recognized management credential. While this certification is not a requirement for employment in administrative services, it lends credibility to the professionals who have earned it.

To figure out what you need for your certification, do your research. Different certifying bodies required certain prerequisites to be met before applying for certification. Applicants should be sure they meet all qualifications, including age, education, and experience requirements.

Step 5: Advance as a Service Professional

Service managers are often ground-level supervisors working to develop a team of direct-report employees. With experience and a track record of success, these managers may be promoted to an upper-tier management position where they will have expanded responsibility and provide oversight for a team of managers or a geographic region.

To recap, with some postsecondary education and experience, as well as voluntary certification, a service manager can work in a variety of fields like food, medical, and social services as well as administration.

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