If you’re a professional residential property manager, there are certain licenses and certificates that are either necessary or nice to have to boost your credibility and career.

Of course, there are differences between the roles of a landlord and a property manager. Sometimes, they are the same person—but often they are not. A landlord is the business or individual that owns the property, while a property manager is the business or individual responsible for taking care of the property for the landlord.

Though educational, property manager certifications are not necessarily required for an independent landlord.

Property manager’s responsibilities

A property manager’s first obligation is to the law, then to the landlord, followed by a responsibility to the tenant. The laws a landlord or a property manager must follow vary from state to state, but there are certain licenses and certificates that will help you grow your business and stick to the rules no matter where you live.

If you’re a landlord looking to hire a property manager—or a property manager looking to automate some of your work—check out Cozy’s free tools for listing properties, screening tenants, and collecting rent online.

Why become a certified property manager?

Earning one or more property manager certifications can be a valuable step in your career, mainly because they give you authority and credibility. Many localities require you to obtain a separate property management license (i.e. pass a test and pay 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 below are available through online instruction, although you may need to produce some form of documentation to validate your previous experience.

If you’re interested in being a professional property manager, I would consider getting one of these property manager certifications—especially a real estate license and CMCA membership.

Top 5 property management licenses & certifications

1. 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 collecting rent, listing property, or negotiating leases. As a property manager working under a management company, you may only need 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 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 (i.e. buying and selling) in any state—as well as in many other countries.

Please note: a real estate license is not the same as REALTOR certification through the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Consider joining NAR as well.

2. Certified Manager of Community Associations (CMCA)

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

Members are 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.

3. 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, two years’ minimum experience, and have managed at least 25 rental units during your candidacy period.

Other NARPM certifications include:

4. Certified Property Manager (CPM)

Awarded by the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM), this is one of the most highly respected credentials in property management. However, the requirements are extensive, and it’s not easy to qualify. You must be experienced and well-trained in every aspect of the property management 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 license in real estate from your locality.

Other IREM certifications include:

Accredited Residential Manager (ARM)

Accredited Commercial Manager (ACoM)

Accredited Management Organization (AMO)

5. 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-person 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:

Certified Apartment Portfolio Supervisor (CAPS)

Certificate for Apartment Maintenance Technicians (CAMT)

National Apartment Leasing Professional (NALP)

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

In the U.S., 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 either a high school diploma or a GED before you can enroll in an online program for a property management certification or degree.