How to Become an Apartment Property Manager

Find out how to become an apartment property manager. Research the education and training requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in property management.

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Do I Want to Be an Apartment Property Manager?

Apartment property managers, sometimes known as on-site property managers, collect monthly rent from tenants, make routine apartment building inspections, hire grounds maintenance workers and create promotional campaigns to attract new tenants. Managers also draft lease agreements, review rental applications, verify that all tenants are following complex rules, handle complaints and write budgetary reports. They also show apartments.

These professionals may need to live on-site and often have to be available 24 hours a day in case of any property or tenant emergencies. However, this might afford low or no cost in rent. Dealing with tenants problems and being on-call 24/7 can be stressful, but the job outlook is good.

Job Requirements

Most employers require apartment property managers to have postsecondary training, such as a bachelor's degree, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Some managers may need state certification or a license, especially for those who work at government-subsidized apartment complexes. The following table indicates the qualifications needed by apartment property manager applicants, per information found on the BLS:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Finance, public administration, real estate, accounting or business administration
Licensure and/or Certification Government-subsidized apartment manager license, (if required by state); industry certifications recommended
Experience Some property management experience preferred, but not always required
Key Skills Comfortable building business relationships with tenants, able to talk with potential clients, skilled with multitasking and supervising others as needed, knowledge of rental laws, comfortable with negotiating, able to stay organized and capable of communicating effectively
Computer Skills Able to maintain electronic records of renter histories, invoices and other pertinent information
Technical Skills Knowledgeable of basic maintenance skills, (e.g., plumbing, painting, landscaping and structural repair), and familiar with inspecting properties for damage
Additional Requirements Take residence at the apartment complex, if required, and be willing to handle property-related emergencies at all hours

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

The BLS notes that most employers want applicants with a bachelor's degree from a field related to real estate, accounting, business administration or public administration. Bachelor's degree programs in property management may provide students with some of the most direct career preparation.

Property management coursework may include maintenance, financial management, property development, real estate law, real estate marketing, leasing laws, senior housing complexes and business writing. Degree programs may also have internship opportunities, allowing students to gain management experience with commercial locations and residential properties.

Success Tip:

  • Complete a certificate program. Not all property management degree programs provide enough information related to apartment management. Undergraduate certificate programs in apartment management can often be completed in conjunction with other bachelor's degree programs. Certificate program courses may cover topics like fair housing and lending regulations, customer service, government-assisted housing programs, multi-tenant apartment management, bookkeeping and general maintenance.

Step 2: Build Career Experience

Not all apartment property management positions require applicants to have previous experience. Larger complexes require significant maintenance and financial management, so owners of these properties may prefer applicants with several years of experience. Some college graduates may build experience by working as assistant property managers. As assistants, workers can shadow experienced property managers and learn the practical skills needed for the job.

Step 3: Obtain Necessary Licenses

For general apartment management, most property managers do not need specialty state licenses, since managers often work for property owners and only perform maintenance and basic bookkeeping duties. The BLS reports that a license or certification might be required for managers who work at apartment complexes subsidized by the government. Any type of state-mandated license or certification will need to be renewed on a regular basis. The renewal process may include taking training courses, passing background checks, paying licensing fees and submitting paperwork.

Step 4: Find Employment

According to the BLS, employment for property managers is expected to increase by six percent between 2010 and 2020. Apartment property managers can find employment directly with apartment complexes. There are also property management firms that place workers into property management positions. The BLS predicted that applicants with related undergraduate degrees would have the best employment opportunities.

Step 5: Get Certified

Apartment property management applicants will have more luck finding jobs if they hold industry certifications, per the BLS. Most certification programs require workers to have some work experience prior to taking certification exams. Several property management degree and certificate programs may prepare students for related certification exams.

A common certification for workers in this profession includes the certified apartment manager (CAM) designation, offered by the National Apartment Association (NAA). To be eligible for CAM exams, individuals must complete the designated training modules, have at least one year of apartment management experience and meet all other exam eligibility requirements.

Sometimes, regional apartment associations team up with the NAA to encourage local apartment managers to achieve the CAM designation. Regional apartment associations may have additional eligibility requirements that professionals must meet to earn CAM designations, but this varies by location.

Success Tip:

  • Adhere to recertification regulations. Industry certifications must be maintained by completing the renewal process every few years. Each organization has different renewal requirements, and certified professionals must meet those requirements to avoid a lapse in certification. For example, CAM renewal usually requires completing continued education courses and paying fees.
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