Certifications You Absolutely Need To Be a Better Property Manager

by Lesly Gregory | Updated: May 22, 2023

The job of a landlord seems like a simple role. You own a property, you rent it out, the end. On paper, it really isn't too complicated until you look closely at what property managers do and know.

Between real estate law, best practices for managing a rental property and ways to deal with troublesome tenants, property owners have a lot to learn if they want to succeed at their job. So, it's time for some continuing education, geared specifically at making rental owners into stellar landlords.

What does a property manager do?

There's really not that much difference between a hands-on property owner and a property management professional when you look at their regular responsibilities. Both handle real estate management, but a landlord owns the real estate and property managers do not.

Residential property managers handle the day-to-day operations of a property. Just like a landlord, they may coordinate maintenance and repair work, track rent payments and enforce the rules within the lease agreement. They'll handle complaints and answer questions, as well.

Property managers may look like they have it easy, but the job is actually quite complex and requires a wide range of skills. To really understand the property management industry, and feel certain you know what you need to know, it's best to engage in regular professional development. The master property manager will complete certification courses regularly, to keep their knowledge sharp.

Can landlords also be property managers?

If a landlord handles the operational responsibilities of their rental property, then they're also serving as the property manager. However, many landlords don't want to take on the added work so they hire experienced property managers to deal with the day-to-day tasks, in person, of a rental.

In this case, a landlord may look to hire a property manager with more real estate management experience than they have. They may look at an accredited management organization to find the right fit or ask that all candidates hold property management certifications in specific areas. Having these qualifications will compensate for the landlord not being a property management professional.

Property manager with tenants

How do I become a property manager?

If you're already a landlord and want to get a deeper understanding of the property management business, you most certainly can put in the work. Though there's no one-size-fits-all strategy, the best way to have a property manager career is to gain experience.

Many property managers start out working in customer service, or take on administrative roles in property management companies, and then work their way up the ladder. Some will look for other jobs within the real estate industry, possibly even getting a real estate broker's license. The licensing requirements to become a realtor give you a lot of insight into the industry as a whole, and there are a lot of required courses for a licensed realtor.

Setting property management career experience aside, the other way to become a property manager is through certification. Property management certifications let you target your learning directly to the areas where you know the least so you can come out as a strong residential management professional.

Man taking an online course.

How to choose the best property management certification courses

There are a few things you should look for when choosing specific property management courses. First, make sure the course is accredited by a reputable organization. Also, check to see if the course offers hands-on training, or internships, as these are extremely valuable in gaining real-world experience. Finally, take a look at the curriculum to see if it covers the topics you're most interested in learning.

These accredited property management courses offer a variety of learning opportunities, specifically designed to help you become a successful property manager.

Once you narrow down a few options, check to see if they offer online courses. Since you're already a landlord, and probably pretty busy, you'll most likely want the added flexibility that learning online affords you.

Certified Property Manager (CPM) Program

The Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) offers the Certified Property Manager program. It's a globally-recognized property management certification that requires completion of an intensive training program and a passing score on a rigorous exam.

This certification requires you to have at least three years of property management experience. Other professionals, who don't have the required experience, can still enroll in the program and take the exam but will need to complete additional coursework before receiving certification.

Accredited Residential Manager (ARM) Program

The Accredited Residential Manager program is also offered by the Institute of Real Estate Management. It's a comprehensive property management training program that covers everything from marketing and leasing to risk management and financial reporting.

To be eligible for the ARM program, you must have at least two years of property management experience. However, like other certifications from the IREM, you can still enroll and take the exam without having the professional experience necessary. Instead, you'll have to complete additional coursework in order to complete the program.

Certified Apartment Manager (CAM) Program

The National Apartment Association (NAA) offers the Certified Apartment Manager program. It's a property management certification that covers all aspects of running an apartment community, from marketing and leasing to maintenance and financial tracking.

To be eligible for the CAM program, you must have at least one year of property management experience. However, additional education will enable you to complete the program even if you're a new property manager.

The length of the course will depend on the course.

How long does it take to complete a property management course?

The length of time it takes to complete a property management course will vary depending on the program you choose. Some programs, like the CPM and ARM, can take up to two years to complete. You can complete other programs, like the CAM, in as little as one year.

The number of hours within the program will definitely impact time, but so will the class format. In-person classes tend to take much longer to complete because you're meeting on a set schedule and have a pre-planned timeline. When you take classes online, you may have the ability to work at your own pace for at least some of the time. This can enable you to meet all the requirements, but just a little faster, shaving some time off the entire certification program itself.

How much do property management courses cost?

The cost of property management courses will also vary depending on the program you choose. Lengthier, more robust programs, like CPM and ARM, can cost several thousand dollars to complete. This can make your education toward becoming a master property manager quite expensive.

Other programs, like the CAM, are much more budget-friendly. Property managers can complete it for just a few hundred dollars.

Cost may impact which program you ultimately pick, but make sure whichever you select gives you the foundation you need for a property management career.


What are the benefits of completing a property management course as a landlord?

Landlords who are also residential property managers have the best of both worlds. They own their own rental property and understand all the minutiae necessary to manage it effectively.

There are several benefits to becoming a certified property manager, when you're a landlord, including:

  • Gaining specific property management knowledge and skills to effectively manage property
  • Saving money by teaching you how to avoid common mistakes that those who aren't property managers can make
  • Building your reputation as a responsible and professional property manager

Essentially, having property management certifications can make you a better, more qualified landlord. It also gives you the additional real estate industry knowledge necessary to make the best decisions for your own property.

Time to go back to school to get your property manager certifications

Once you see landlords as real estate professionals, it's easy to understand why certification and continuing education are so important. So, give in to the property management side of your role and sign up for some extra learning.

The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. Readers are encouraged to seek professional legal or financial advice as they may deem it necessary.
Categories: Landlords

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