CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become a property manager.
Is becoming a property manager right for me?
The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:
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Take challenging math classes - Property managers need to prepare financial statements and negotiate contracts.
Enrol in an accounting course - This will give you a head start on a subject which is a universal requirement for any business major.
Develop computer skills - Spreadsheet and bookkeeping software will prove to be particularly relevant and useful.
Build strong reading and research skills - Property managers interact with individuals from all walks of life; the ability to read about and understand at least the basics of anything from plumbing to real estate law is invaluable.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most employers seek applicants who have earned a bachelor’s degree. This is especially true for managers of commercial properties.
The following are among the most common degree programs pursued by aspiring property managers:
- Real estate / property management
- Business administration
- Public Administration
- Urban Planning
These degree programs may also comprise internship opportunities to acquire experience in the field.
As most degree programs do not address all components of apartment management, students wishing to enter this sector may wish to complete a certificate program in apartment management in conjunction with a bachelor’s degree. Certificate program courses may cover topics like fair housing and lending regulations; multi-tenant apartment management; and general maintenance.
Licensing requirements for property managers are enforced by both states and local jurisdictions.
Most states require property management companies to have a real estate broker license. Property managers listed as working under a managing broker may only need a salesperson’s license. Managers who are involved in renting and selling on behalf of clients typically need a real estate license.
While not all property management positions require applicants to have previous experience, many do.
Many new graduates in the field, therefore, choose to gain knowledge by working as assistant property managers. This allows them to shadow experienced managers and learn the practical skills needed for the job.
While certifications in the property management field are not mandatory, obtaining voluntary credentials broadens expertise, demonstrates professional competence and commitment, and potentially increases marketability and earning potential.
The Certified Property Management (CPM) credential is a professional certification awarded by the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM). It is one of the more difficult certifications to earn.
The seven IREM courses cover topics including real estate terminology, valuation, and investment; financial reporting; marketing and human resources; and property maintenance.
The IREM has implemented a three-step process for property managers to become certified:
- Establish candidacy by submitting a complete CPM application and pledging to maintain the IREM code of ethics
- Complete education requirements of provide proof of other accepted certification
- Pass management, ethics, and certification examinations
In addition to the CPM designation, the property management industry offers other voluntary certifications:
Residential Management Professional
This certification, created by the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM) is one of the more highly recognized industry certifications. To earn the RMP credential, candidates must hold a valid real estate license, have a minimum of two years’ experience, and must have managed at least twenty-five units.
Certified Manager of Community Associations
This certification was created by the Community Associations Institute and is currently awarded by the National Board of Certification for Community Association Managers. Certified members receive updates on local laws and are required to undergo continuing education to maintain their membership.
Certified Apartment Manager
This certification, awarded by the National Apartment Association, is best suited for individuals who work in larger apartment buildings or for larger companies with a portfolio of buildings. To be eligible to write the CAM exam, applicants must complete designated training modules, complete a related project, and have at least a year of apartment management experience.
Joining local, regional, and national realtors’ and property managers’ associations typically leads to very worthwhile professional connections and opportunities to participate in ongoing training seminars and workshops.
Master’s Degree (optional)
A master’s degree may further brighten career prospects, particularly in roles that involve the development and management of income-generating and investment properties.