Do you want to be the person who makes sure that apartment complex repairs get done on time, shows prospective business tenants around the office park, or handles leasing and rent collection like a boss? If so, you may want to look into a multi-faceted career as a property manager. There’s a lot to the job but we’re here to give you an overview on how to get started in this field, which is projected to grow faster than average over the next few years.1
Let’s get to work!
Career paths are there for property managers
From local community housing authorities and small-town shopping centers to luxury vacation rentals and big-city office towers, the property management landscape offers you a lot of variety.
Do you want to work where other people work, or where they live? The property management field is divided into two general categories: commercial and residential.
Residential property managers may specialize in:
- Houses and duplexes that are leased to long-term tenants
- Apartment complexes
- Vacation and short-term stay properties listed on platforms like Airbnb and VRBO
- Mobile home communities
- Public housing complexes
Commercial property managers are responsible for properties like:
- Shopping centers
- Office complexes
- Storage facilities
- Other properties that are leased to businesses
What’s better than managing one property? Managing multiple properties!
After several years, property managers may become regional property managers responsible for managing a team of property managers in a particular geographic area, like part of a state or a major metro area.
For example, a regional property manager might have managers at several apartment complexes in one city reporting to them. Or they might have a territory that includes dozens of shopping centers in a few hundred square miles, each with its own property manager.
Education & license requirements for property managers
The education you need for a property management career depends on two big factors: your state’s property management requirements and whether you want to manage residential or commercial properties. Most states require residential property managers to have a real estate broker license, and most of those states also require a high school diploma or a GED to get licensed.
A few states and the District of Columbia require a property management license instead of a broker license. A handful of states don’t require either kind of license to work as a residential property manager, so it’s best to check your state’s basic requirements. You can also visit your state’s real estate department or commission website to see the requirements in detail.
Say your state does require a real estate license. How long does it take to earn one? That also depends on the laws in your state. Many states, including New York, require 75 hours of class time, while Texas requires at least 180 hours.
In many states, you can complete some or all of your real estate classes online through a private real estate education provider. If you live near a community college campus or a private real estate school, you may also have the option to take classes in person.
After you finish your classes, you’ll need to pass your state’s real estate licensing exam. (Don’t stress—you can retake it if you need to!)
Basically, if you work full-time on your license in a state that requires a lot of classroom hours like Texas, you can earn your license in as little as 3 to 4 months.2 If your state requires fewer classroom hours, you can earn your license and get to work even sooner.
Some property managers start with an entry-level job at a residential property management firm and move into commercial management after they gain a few years of experience and some extra professional certifications (more on that in a moment).
That means you could get into commercial property management with a high school diploma, your real estate license, and additional experience. However, some commercial property management jobs also require a bachelor’s degree in business administration.3 If this is the career path you want to take, check out job listings for the exact kind of property management you want to do and see what you’ll need to qualify.
How to find training & certification programs
There are many training and certification programs property managers. In fact, you may feel a bit overwhelmed when you first start exploring all the professional certification programs available. Here are a few of your options for building your expertise and your earning power.
Check with your state realtor organization about any specialized trainings for their members.
For example, Texas Realtor members can earn Residential Leasing Specialist and Residential Property Manager certifications.4 In California, realtors can build their property management business with Property Management Certification and Property Management Master training.5
Check with nation-wide property management professional groups.
Here are three that offer recognized certification programs for working property managers, regardless of which state you’re in:
- NAA (National Apartment Association): Certified Apartment Manager credential is for managers with at least a year of onsite experience.
- NARPM (National Association of Residential Property Managers): Residential Management Professional designation is for professionals who have at least two years of experience managing at least 100 housing units.
- IREM (Institute of Real Estate Management): Certified Property Management program helps managers move up to higher-paying positions with more responsibility. It’s designed for professionals with at least three years of property management experience.
These organizations offer advanced certificates, too, once you’re farther along in your career. It’s wise to get familiar with these training tracks now so you can think about how you’d like to map out your career path.
What skills do property managers need?
Just like a building needs a solid foundation, a strong property manager starts with the right education and certificates. But you’ll also need some serious people skills, sales expertise and administrative know-how, including:
Active listening and customer service skills:
You have to keep tenants and landlords happy, which means you need to understand what they want and find ways to deliver for both parties.
Clear communication skills:
Not only will you deal with tenants and owners, you’ll also work with repair people, contractors and inspectors. And you may manage other employees, work with your property’s marketing team, and talk to prospective tenants. And you’ll need to relay information between some or all of these people to keep your property running smoothly.
Do you have the basics of MS Office or Google Docs down? Good. In addition, there are several different platforms that property management firms may use to, well, manage things, so be ready to keep learning. Common property management software programs include 360Workplace, Appfolio and Rentec.6
Multi-tasking with attention to detail:
We hope you look good in hats, because you’ll be wearing a lot of them! Showing prospective tenants a property, inspecting renovation work for final approval, hiring a new pest control service and pulling together monthly reports for the home office? All in a day’s work for a property manager.
Sales and negotiation skills:
Can you close the deal with a new tenant? If a current tenant has a plumbing problem, can you solve it in a way that leaves them happy enough to renew their lease?
If these sound like skills you already have—or skills you can learn—it may be time to start building your property management career.
How much do property managers earn?
Unlike real estate agents, whose income is based on commissions, property managers earn a regular salary. Sometimes they’re eligible for bonuses and commissions, but those only account for a small percentage of their total income.
In the U.S., the median yearly salary for property managers is $53,683, with a range of $35,000 to over $89,000, depending on experience and location.7
Location matters a lot when it comes to property manager pay. Smaller markets tend to pay less on average, while major urban centers can pay well above the national median.
For example, the average salary for a property manager based in Jackson, MS is $45,590. In San Francisco, the average is $67,528.
Time to make it happen
While every day for a property manager is a little bit different, the path to getting started in the industry is usually the same:
- Determine your desired career path (residential or commercial)
- Find out your state’s licensing requirements and, if necessary, ace your classes and exam!
- Start working, typically with a residential property management company
- Gain certifications to keep expanding your skills and moving forward in your career
Manage your career path with these steps, set your sights high, and you’ll be managing skyscrapers in no time!
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Property, Real Estate, and Community Association Managers.
- Aceable Agent. How Long Is Real Estate School in Texas?
- Indeed. What does a property manager do?
- Texas Real Estate. Designations and Certifications.
- CAR.org. Designations.
- Capterra. 7 Most Popular Real Estate Property Management Software.
- Glassdoor. Property Manager Salaries.