how to become a property manager

Think property managers just cash rent checks and periodically yell at wayward tenants?

In reality, property managers oversee the entire leasing cycle from advertising vacant units to screening rental applications to managing repairs to filing for eviction. If you like the real estate business but don’t love the uncertainty of realtor commissions, becoming a property manager offers a great way to earn a steady salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, property management professionals earn an average annual salary of $58,760. 

Where do you start? Like any career, you must plan and take the necessary steps in order to become a successful property manager. 


What Does a Property Manager Do?

Before jumping into any career field, make sure you understand what they do on a daily basis. Generally, property managers take on the role of the owner or landlord when they are either unable or uninterested in managing their own property. 

Below are examples of tasks that property managers routinely take on:

  1. Posting rental listings to advertise vacant rental properties
  2. Showing vacant rental units to potential tenants
  3. Collecting rental applications and screening potential tenants
  4. Signing lease agreements with both new and renewing renters
  5. Fielding phone calls and emails from tenants about maintenance issues
  6. Coordinating and negotiating with contractors, and overseeing property and community maintenance 
  7. Maintaining regular communication with the owner or landlord of the property
  8. Performing house visits and property inspections
  9. Handling expenses and the business aspects of renting (such as budgeting and bookkeeping) 
  10. Performing basic accounting tasks and preparing financial and property status reports
  11. Setting rental rates
  12. Collecting both rent and security deposits
  13. Providing continuous customer service for tenants
  14. Overseeing the eviction process
  15. Staying up to date with landlord-tenant laws

As you can see, the tasks of a property manager are quite extensive. Being a property manager has its challenges, but often makes for a fun, fast-paced job where you get out of the office for hands-on work. 


How to Become a Property Manager: Step by Step

Becoming a property manager doesn’t require a specific degree. Still, it helps to differentiate yourself as an entry-level candidate to convince a property management firm to take on the time and labor to train you in the field. 

Step 1: Meet the Minimum Requirements:

Unlike many career paths, the minimum requirements to become a property manager are straightforward: 

  • You must be at least 18 years of age (some states require you to be 21)
  • You must have at least a high school diploma or a GED equivalent 
  • You must be a legal resident of the U.S.
  • You must pass the real estate licensing exam (most, but not all, states require this)

Beyond this, the requirements can differ from state to state. Keep in mind, the states that do require the passing of the real estate licensing exam may insist on a certain number of hours in the industry.

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Step 2: Understand the Skills Needed to Become a Successful Property Manager:

Being a property manager and being a successful property manager are very different. It takes a special individual to follow this career path, for you must balance flexibility with organization. You never know when a tenant may disrupt your planned afternoon or a pipe may burst and require emergency repairs. 

Even so, you must also stay organized, as you are in charge of billings, book-keeping, and communication with both the tenants and the landlords/owners. Some important skills shared by effective property managers include:

  • Organization
  • Communication 
  • Customer Service
  • Marketing/Advertising 

Luckily, these skills do not require years of education to acquire. There are several ways you can enhance any of these personal skills on your own time.When considering property management, many people typically associate it with the management of long-term rental properties. However, it’s important to note that not all property managers focus exclusively on long-term rentals; some specialize in short-term vacation rental properties, such as Airbnb property managers.

Step 3: Obtain Any/All Specialty Certifications:

Some states require certain licenses or certifications in order to become a professional property manager. Learn about the four main certifications available and consider if any would help you advance as a property manager. 


National Apartment Leasing Professional (NALP): 

Generally, a NALP certification is obtained earlier in one’s career. It contains a combination of both coursework and on-the-job learning to prep you for the skills needed to succeed within the real estate business.

In order to obtain the NALP certification, one must complete:

  • At least six months of on-site property management experience (this can be completed as one is enrolled in the course)
  • All seven NALP courses, which totals 25 credit hours


Certified Apartment Manager (CAM): 

Similar to NALP, the CAM certification is also a solid option for those early in their career. The difference is that CAM hones in on managing apartment communities. While still useful for learning the business more broadly, it is geared towards those who want to be an on-site representative for a specific company. Obtaining the CAM certification requires:

  • At least 12 months of on-site property management experience in a management position (this can be completed as one is enrolled in the course)
  • The completion of all CAM courses, which totals 40 credit hours


Certified Property Manager (CPM): 

To even enroll in a CPM course, you must have a minimum of 36 months of real estate management experience and have obtained your real estate license, which your current job may not have required. Additionally, all of these requirements must be met within one year of enrolling in the course. Since the CPM is a greater certification to have, the details and specifics you learn regarding property management are extensive. The CPM certification teaches:

  • The hiring and managing process.
  • How to oversee all property repairs, improvements, and general maintenance. 
  • Book-keeping, billing, and collecting rent.
  • How to perform regular inspections and take eviction action if needed.


Master Property Manager (MPM)

Obtaining an MPM certification is the highest level of education you can receive as a property manager. Although this certification requires the most amount of hard work and dedication to your career, obtaining the MPM leads to respect in the residential property industry. Qualifications to enroll in this course include:

  • A minimum of 60 months of real estate management experience in a management position
  • Obtaining a real estate license or verification that your current job does not require one
  • Within a year of enrolling in this course, all other exam requirements must be met.

Step 4: Learning How/Where to Start:

Now you have learned what it means and what it takes to become a property management professional. So now what? 

Like any career, you want to build yourself up from the bottom. Apply to any and all entry-level positions within a real estate firm or property management company. Not only will you learn the basic ropes of the business but you can also start clocking on-the-job hours for one of the certifications above. Plus you’ll benefit from the instruction and supervision of a property management professional. 

Keep in mind that although these entry level positions require at least a high school diploma, having a bachelor’s degree greatly increases your chances of landing the job and earning greater compensation.

Also note that different states may require their own specific qualification requirements, offer different salaries, impose different landlord-tenant laws, and often require different lease clauses and disclosures. Make a conscious decision as to where you are choosing to start your career.

Take the leap! If a career in property management sounds like a good fit, there’s no time like the present. Whether you are just starting your career or are looking to pivot to something new, property management offers a stable occupation and lifestyle and will introduce an entire new level of real estate knowledge!

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How Much Money Do Property Managers Earn?

This varies by age, education, level of certification, and state. An entry-level property manager new to the industry earns approximately $41,000, according to

The more qualifications and certifications a property manager obtains, the greater their salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, established property manager professionals make, on average, $58,760 annually.

Annual salaries also vary by state. Different states in the U.S. have different property and rental values as well as rental types. In New York, the type and costs of rentals may be very different than those in the Midwest.


How Property Management Skills Make You a Better Real Estate Investor

Becoming a property manager doesn’t just help you earn a steady paycheck. It can also make you a better real estate investor.

As a property manager, you’ll get a better grasp of how tenant turnovers work — and how to turn over units faster to minimize vacancies. Tenant turnovers are where the overwhelming majority of the labor and expenses of being a landlord lie. When you do experience turnovers, you’ll better understand how to screen rental applications, review tenant screening reports, and judge who will make a good tenant and who won’t. 

Better yet, as a property manager you’ll learn how to retain tenants and reduce turnovers entirely. 

Becoming a property manager will also teach you the eviction process from start to finish. No more procrastinating on enforcing your lease agreement!

Finally, when you become a property manager you will build a network of support personnel that you’ll need as a landlord. That network includes contractors, real estate agents, appraisers, home inspectors, and title companies. 

Stay Updated on the Best Practices

Once you’ve landed your first job in property management, don’t stop there! Old and young dogs alike can always learn new tricks. Engage with other real estate professionals for their advice and opinions, for it is a competitive business — the more knowledge and insight, the better!

Keep yourself updated with any new rules or regulations within the industry and read property management blogs to stay in tune with the latest real estate trends. 


What do you find attractive about becoming a property manager? As you learn how to become a property manager, what are your reservations?



More Real Estate Reads:

About the Author

Emma Dudley headshot

Emma Dudley is a data marketer by day and financial writer by night, early on her journey to financial independence. She lives in Baltimore but loves international travel, and enjoys the challenge of cutting-edge fashion on a cut-down budget.

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