Property management certifications that give you an edge

Laurie Mega
Laurie Mega | 9 min. read
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Published on February 15, 2022

Whether you’re just starting out or looking to take the next step in your property management career,  you know you probably need some kind of license or certification. But you’re not sure what.

So you Google it.

What you get is a host of results and a lot of acronyms. Where do you start, and what exactly do you need?

Depending on where you operate and what your goals are, some property management certifications are nice to have while others are essential. And, while some states don’t require any formal licensure or certification, you may want to consider one or two to give yourself legitimacy and marketability.

Let’s take a look at the property management certifications and licenses out there, who administers them, and how they can help you boost your career.

#1: Property Management Organizations

Many certifications are associated with a specific property management or real estate association. There are several of those organizations and all offer their own unique set certifications.

Simply put, joining one of these organizations gives a property manager clout. Once you join and complete their certification courses, you can market yourself as having attained skills and expertise in the field. You can also use the organization’s badge or logo on your website and marketing material. You’ll be listed in the organization’s directory, as well, and enjoy other benefits that give you an advantage in the property management market.

Some well-established organizations in the industry include:

  • The Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM): IREM is a global organization that boasts a membership of almost 20,000. They offer internationally recognized training, certification, professional development courses and networking opportunities for property managers.
  • The National Apartment Association (NAA): The NAA has more than 93,000 member companies around the world. With a heavy emphasis on philanthropy, it offers support, training and education for apartment owners and operators.
  • The National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM): This is an international association of real estate professionals who operate single-family or small residential properties. Their certifications are recognized globally. Each year, Buildium collaborates with NARPM to publish The State of the Property Management Industry report, which is launched at NARPM’s Annual Convention.
  • The National Association of Realtors (NAR): The NAR trains and certifies real estate professionals and offers professional development opportunities. Their more than 200,000 members earn the right to use the title realtor by completing the NAR’s certification program.
  • Community Association Managers International Certification Board (CAMICB): CAMICB was formed in 1995 to create and execute standards of conduct for community associations. Now 20,000 members strong, it is an internationally recognized organization in the community association space.

These five organizations administer the majority of the certifications you need as a property manager. Take a look at their websites or reach out to a member to determine which one offers the right support and certifications for your needs.

Now that we’ve run through the major property management organizations, let’s take a look at the certifications they offer, as well as the licenses you need as a property management professional.

#2: Property Management Musts

We’ll start with the absolute must-haves, which typically means a license. You can also become a Certified Property Manager, which, while not required, is highly recommended.

Real Estate Broker’s License or Property Manager’s License

Most states require a real estate broker’s license or a property manager’s license in order to handle rent, negotiate leases and list properties legitimately.

A real estate broker’s license is issued by the state. There are only 11 states that don’t require you or your company to hold a real estate broker’s license. Three of those states (and Washington D.C) require a property manager’s license and Oregon requires either or.

Both licenses require coursework, classes, sitting for an exam, experience in real estate sales, and continuing education to maintain the certification. Real estate license holders must also be either 18 or 21, depending on the state.

Note: If you’re planning on getting into community associations, most states don’t require licensing. For those that do, the requirements vary, so it’s important to make sure you understand the rules for your state. You can find those details from independent organizations and databases like the Homeowners Protection Bureau and the Community Association Managers International  Certification Board.

Certified Property Manager (CPM)

According to IREM, who administers the test, “The average base property manager salary in the U.S. is $48,340. For CPMs, the average is $118,383.” While this certification is not required by any state, it is the gold standard for property managers, and is recognized internationally.

To qualify for the CPM, you must manage a portfolio of properties for three years prior to graduation and you must hold a real estate broker’s license. A course in management ethics is mandatory as well as seven other required courses before you sit for two exams

#3: PM Certifications To Boost Your Career

There are a whole array of other certifications that can help boost your career or increase the visibility of your management company. Deciding which certification track to pursue depends on which certifying organization best fits your professional goals.

Residential Management Professional (RMP)

Organization: NARPM

Description: The RMP is very similar to IREM’s CMP certification. It holds the same degree of recognition in the property management community and it has about the same prerequisites. It’s also the gateway to obtaining even more prestigious certifications with NARPM.

Requirements: To qualify for an RMP, you must have already managed 100 units over a two-year period and hold a real estate broker’s license.

Master Property Manager (MPM)

Organization: NARPM

Description: MPM is the highest designation a single member can attain within NARPM. Once you’ve attained an MPM, your business is eligible to become a Certified Residential Management Company.

Requirements: You have to have already attained your RMP and managed 500 units over a five-year period to qualify for an MPM

Accredited Residential Manager (ARM)

Organization: IREM

Description: ARM certification is meant to help newer property managers gain the knowledge they need to advance their careers. It would be a first step before going for a CPM.

Requirements: In order to attain an ARM, you’ll need to have 12 months of qualifying real estate management under your belt. You’ll also have to complete the required coursework and ethics class and sit for the exam.

Certified Apartment Manager (CAM)

Organization: NAA

Description: The CAM certification is meant for those who handle apartment rentals only.

Requirements: To be a CAM, candidates have to have at least a year of onsite management experience, complete the coursework and sit for the exam within 12 months of declaring candidacy.

Certified Manager of Community Associations (CMCA)

Organization: CAMICB

Description: According to the CAMICB, this certification earns community association managers 20 percent more income than managers who don’t hold it.

Requirements: To receive this certification, candidates must complete the coursework (which can be waived if you have 5+ years experience managing communities), apply and sit for the exam

#4: Company Certifications

In addition to individual certifications, there are company certifications that can elevate the reputation of your entire team.

Certified Residential Management Company (CRMC)

Organization: NARPM

Description: Once you or one of your employees attains an MPM, your company can apply to become a Certified Residential Management Company.

Requirements: Certification requires an onsite audit by NARPM within three years of applying. Your company must also have acquired 500 unit years of experience (one unit year = management of one unit for one year).

Accredited Management Organization (AMO)

Organization: IREM

Description: Like the CRMC, this is a prestigious company certification that demonstrates expertise in your field.

Requirements: IREM sets out a pretty extensive list of requirements for your company to gain an AMO, including having an executive team member with a CPM. Check out their AMO page to learn more

#5: Credentials

We’ve covered licenses and certifications. Whew! But we’re not done, yet. There are also continuing education credentials to keep you competitive in the property management space. All of the property management organizations offer a variety of continuing ed and certification courses that cover everything from marketing to ethics. They include:

If you’re new to property management, a smart place to start is with a real estate broker’s license. Once you have that under your belt, you can talk to your employer or other property managers to determine the best property management certifications and credentials to meet you and your company’s goals.

If you’re already a seasoned property manager, think about your goals, as well as those of your company. Then, determine which organization and set of certifications will best serve your needs.

Are there other certifications or credentials worth noting that help you stay competitive? Let us know in the comments!

Laurie Mega

Laurie Mega has planned, written, and edited content on a variety of subjects. Her work has been published by HomeandGarden.com, The Economist, Philips Lifeline, and FamilyEducation, among others. She lives in the Greater Boston Area with her husband and two boys.

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