Top 5 Property Management Licenses & Certifications

Written on May 13, 2013 by , updated on January 3, 2017

Property Management Licenses and CertificationsThis article discusses the licenses and certifications applicable to a professional residential property manager.

Though educational, they are not necessarily required for an independent Landlord.

There are distinct differences between the roles of a Landlord and a Property Manager. Sometimes, they are the same person, but often times they are not.

A landlord is the business or individual that owns the property (hence, “Lord of the Land”), while a property manager is the business or individual responsible for taking care of the property for the landlord.

The Manager’s Responsibilities

A property manager’s first responsibility is to the law, then to the landlord, followed by a responsibility to the tenant. The laws surrounding a landlord or a property manager vary from state to state, however, there are certain licenses and certificates that will help you succeed in growing your business and abiding in the law.

If you’re a landlord looking to hire a property manager, or a property manager looking to automate some of your work, consider trying out Cozy’s free property management software. It can help you screen tenants and collect rent more efficiently, and it’s free.

The Importance of Licenses and Certifications

Earning one or more property management certifications can be a valuable asset for your career, mainly because they will give you the authority and credibility to succeed.  Many localities require you to obtain a separate property management license (i.e. passing a test and paying a fee) to manage real estate in that district. Always be sure to always follow your state, county, or city requirements.

Most of the licenses and certifications mentioned in this article are available through online instruction, although you will often need produce some form of documentation to validate your previous experience.

If you are interested in being a professional property manager, I would seriously consider getting one of these certifications, notably a real estate license and CMCA.

Top 5 Certifications & Licenses for Property Managers


© National Association of Realtors

Government Issued Real Estate Licenses & REALTOR® Membership

Many states require a property management company to hold a real estate broker license, especially if the company is responsible for rent collections, property listings or negotiating leases. As a property manager working under a management company, you may only be required to maintain a real estate salesperson license, but you are typically required to work under the supervision of a licensed real estate broker.

Property managers in some states such as Maine, Idaho and Vermont are not required to have a real estate license. Oregon, Montana and South Carolina are a few of the states that permit a property manager to work with a license in property management instead of a real estate broker license.

Real estate and broker licenses are awarded by the state governments, real estate boards, or local authorities in the area you wish to buy and sell properties. You are required to be licensed when conducting real estate transactions (buying/selling) in any of the fifty States of the United States, as well as in many countries internationally.

Please note: a real estate license is not the same as REALTOR certification through the National Association of Realtors (NAR) albeit, you will want to join NAR as well.

CAI Logo


Certified Manager of Community Associations (CMCA)

Awarded by the National Board of Certification for Community Association Managers (NBC-CAM) and created by the Community Associations Institute (CAI), this is one of most useful and practical certifications you can obtain.  NBC-CAM adheres to the National Commission for Certifying Agencies’ (NCCA) guidelines and plays an active role in the careers of its members.

Members are actively kept up to date on the latest property management laws applicable to their state and are networked to other local CMCAs.  However, members are also required to fulfill continuing education requirements to maintain the certification.  If you are pursuing a career in property management, and expect to manage properties besides your own, I would highly recommend getting your CMCA certification.


© National Association of Residential Property Managers

Residential Management Professional (RMP)

Awarded by the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM), this is a highly recognized credential for property managers. NARPM offers designations to certify ethical and professional standards of conduct for property managers. The RMP program is similar to the CPM program, in that you will need to have a real estate license, have two years minimum experience and have managed at least 25 rental units during your candidacy period.

Other NARPM certifications include:


© Institute of Real Estate Management

Certified Property Manager (CPM)

Awarded by the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM), this is one of the most highly respected form of credential in property management. However, the requirements are extensive and it is not easy to qualify. In order to become certified in property management you must be experienced and well-trained in every aspect of the business and are certainly encouraged to invest in rental properties yourself.  You also must hold a real estate license or prove that you are not required to obtain a licensed in real estate from your locality.

Other IREM certifications include:


© National Apartment Association

Certified Apartment Manager (CAM)

Awarded by the National Apartment Association (NAA) this is the best certification for you to earn if you primarily deal with apartment rentals. CAM certification programs are available online.  In class CAM programs are scheduled by local and state affiliates. The program requires you to take a series of CAM courses, complete a project and pass the required examination.

Other NAA certifications include:

If you are investing overseas, remember that each country has their own set of rules. To learn more, check out the most common international licensing requirements.

In the US, the majority of accredited, online programs for a certificate in property management are undergraduate-level certificate programs. In most situations you are required to have earned either a high school diploma or a GED before you can enroll in an online program for property management certification or degree.


What’s Missing?

If you believe there is a national certification missing from this list, please tell us about it in the comments section below.

DISCLAIMER: All Logos and Trademarks are copyright of their respective owners. Landlordology does not represent nor is affiliated with these fine organizations.
photo credit: Giridhar-Photography via cc
Get our free newsletter

Join 200,000+ landlords

  • ​Tips to increase income
  • Time-saving techniques
  • ​Powerful tools & resources

111 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Jon Dem

    The RHM designation of Registered Housing Manager ,
    is the affordable housing industry’s highest professional designation, indicating an individual who has invested the time and effort to master the wide range of skills and practical knowledge required to effectively manage a diverse community.

    I know it can be obtained after taking course with NCHM in:
    FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT and then doing a self study of an approved property which you manage. Their website is

    I have taken a couple of their courses and it was well worth the money.

  • Ashley am

    As a woman looking to start her own property management business I found this article to be extrelmly informative. I’m bookmarking this NOW! Thanks for doing all the work to make this info atainable in one place. Bravo

  • Nori Muster

    Homeowners Association management. At this time, where I live, the managers and management companies do not need to be real estate agents, or have any certification. It’s hit or miss if you get a good manager. Luckily, after a series of bad managers, we got a good one.

  • Daphne Moon


  • Kelley Garrett

    Surprised the list overlooked the RPA designation, Real Property Administrator awarded through BOMI (Building Owners and Managers Institute International)

  • Lillian Brooks-Mack

    Looking to rejoin the real estate work force now that I have relocated to the soon to be third largest city in the us (Houston, Texas). I need education material for this state’s requirement.

  • Karl Harris

    Hi! Thanx,I find this really good insightful articles.Seriously iam a novice in the field of property and rental managmenets.I was looking for certain important certifications in this field and it really helps.Thanx a ton once again.

  • Jay Lewis

    I’m a 14 year residential Realtor, just joined a property management firm as a leasing consultant now 3 moths and really enjoying my new career.

    Since I’ve decided to make this my permanent career, I want to fast track my career path by obtaining one or two certifications. My property manager has a ARM and the CPM…we are a affordable housing tax credit SENIOR community.

    Which certs do you suggest?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Jay,

      My friends who are professional managers mostly recommend the CPM. They say that it’s the most useful, at least in my area. I suggest talking with your local residential managers, or contact the local groups/clubs, and see what they recommend.

      Good luck as you start this next journey in your career!

  • Ashley Puckett

    I hope this email finds you well. I believe your company should look into adding Penn Foster College’s Property Management Certificate. Penn Foster has been in business for over 100 years and is credited both Nationally and Regionally. In addition, they focus on distance education which works well for those who are in property management full time and have little time available to attend in person class rooms. The curriculum is very educational, I’ve been in the industry just shy of a decade and still learned from this program. It goes over basics, accounting, budgets, maintenance, business & marketing, resident relationships, fair housing, multi-family and commercial management etc. I’m a proud graduate of this program and believe it should be recognized. Thank you for your time and consideration in advance.

  • Gina

    ARM Accredited Residential Manager Certification

  • Aj

    I have several years of experience as a hotel manager with Marriott. I’m looking to get into the residential property management field. What certification would help make the transition and look appealing to a potential employer?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Al,

      I find that it really depends on the area that you live in. I think it would be best to look at job postings and see which certification comes up more often.

  • Nicole Camacho-Key

    RPA & FMA designations with BOMI/BOMA should be added to this list.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Nicole,

      Thanks for the comment. It’s my understanding that an RPA and FMA is only a certification for commercial property management, not residential. Correct?

  • boris

    thanks for saving me time and compiling these in this post!

  • Sarnen Steinbarth

    You may want to reconsider the heading: “Government Issued Real Estate License & REALTOR® License”

    As someone who teaches real estate courses to real estate licensed salespersons, brokers and property managers I hear the term: “Realtor License” all the time. When ever I get this I always remind them that there is no such thing as a Realtor license.

    While your article correctly points out that a Realtor is something different, the title makes it sound like it is a license. It is only a membership.

    The general public seems to think it is a type of license. I think this is somewhat perpetuated by blog postings like this. You may want to consider editing the title to correctly reflect what a Realtor is – a membership, not a license.

  • Sarnen Steinbarth

    You may consider adding BOMA and CCIM (Institute) to the list of related organizations.

    • Lucas Hall


      Thanks for the recommendation. It’s my understanding that BOMA and CCIM provide certifications only for for commercial property management, not residential.

      Though valuable, commercial management certs were outside the scope of this article.

      Please correct me if I’m wrong.

  • Courtney Clancy

    Curious I am looking into getting my certification. I have mostly worked with large communities and properties ..mostly military housing. We have apartments, townhomes, single family homes , a good variety of different homes we manage. Would I be better off going with the ARM or CMCA? Thank you

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Courtney,

      My friends who are PMs recommend the CMCA. But I don’t think you could go wrong with either. I suggest researching their websites and talking to local PMs in your area.

  • Nette Mil


    Can any of these verification help you if you want to be a REO Asset Manager, if they can’t any ideal of what certification/education could help you venture into this field? Thanks.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Nette,

      Do be honest, I don’t know. This list was designed to gather information for residential property managers. You might want to call the certifying company for each of these licenses, and inquire that way.

  • Candice W.

    This was amazing information! I’m completely new to real estate and this was extremely helpful!

    Just curious to know if there are specific certs for HOA management or would they be the same as property management?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Candice

      In my experience, there are a lot of overlaps between the two types of certs. You should check out the links to the certifying institutions, as most of them also have a similar HOA cert.

  • Micah

    Great article.

    I have done property management for 9 years now for one residential unit. I have no license or cert whatsoever. There are potential properties in Maryville, MO that I might want to offer up my property management services to. I currently have a corporation so I’m thinking of just making another DBA sub-company; however, what licenses and/or certs will I need?

    Thanks I advance for any insight.

  • Jay W.

    I have managed parking facilities for the last 8 years. My company has been contracted by and I have worked with JLL, Collier’s International, Parkway, and Tower Realty just to name a few. I have been told more than once by the Property Managers that I should pursue a career in Property Management. I would like to do that, but I have no idea where to start. What certificates do you recommend for me to make this transition?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Jay,

      Congrats on your decision. I suggest asking your employers which one they suggest. The different certs are popular in different areas and industries. It really all depends on what types real estate you’ll be working in. I can’t really answer your question – it’s really a personal decision, and what works best for you.

  • Todd Springer

    Hi, I am currently weeks away from taking my GA Real Estate exam and want to get into Property Management as a career. I possess a Masters Degree in Education and for the past 5 years have run my very own business. What advise would you give to someone like myself to get started in this field. Thanks

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Todd

      i suggest interviewing the largest property management company in your area that doesn’t aslo do real estate sales. I’ve found that if you try to get into property management through a sales office, you’ll learn a completely different methodology than those who live and breathe it. You want to learn from pm pros, not other agents. Then ask them what other certifications you might need in order to be considered for a job there. Build your network and relationships. Good luck to you.

  • Nasir

    Hello, I want to start my career in a leasing office or property management.
    I want to start from entry level. Please guide me what certification is helpful to get while I don’t have any property management background.
    I would be thrilled if you could give me clear and simple advice.
    Thanks in advance!

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Nasir,

      Congrats on your decision. I think you should talk to the expert property managers in the area (city or county) that you want to work and ask them which certification is best. Some brokerages prefer one cert, others prefer another.

      Good luck to you.

  • Nasir

    I live in Maryland USA and am authorized to work here.
    I just want to work in a leasing office or property management. What certification is helpful to get an entry level job in that area?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hey Nasir,

      I think you should find a reputable property management company in your area and offer to take the owner out to coffee. Ask if he/she can steer you in the right direction. As I said before, each PM could value a different certification, so find somewhere you want to work and ask them.

  • Jon

    None needed.

    Find a job with decent patient people and learn the business from the ground up.

    Go to school on the side and take accounting and business management.

    Good luck

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available. Be short, sweet and to the point.