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Unlocking the Door to Property Management: Your Essential Guide to Getting Started

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the number of jobs for property, real estate, and community association managers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2022 to 2032, which is faster than the average for all occupations. And according to Glassdoor, the estimated total pay for property managers in the U.S. is $64,650. If you are interested in real estate but would rather not work as a real estate salesperson, consider property management as a career.  

Keep reading as we unlock the door to property management. We will discuss how to become a property manager, the required skills, and the industry’s pros and cons.  

How to Become a Property Manager

Many states require property managers to have real estate licenses. However, this isn’t true in every state. To further complicate matters, even in states that require a license, some property management tasks can be performed by someone without a license. Confused? That’s why we recommend that the first step you take to become a property manager is to research your state’s requirements.  

Step 1: Research your state’s requirements for property managers. 

Check out this guide to determine if property managers need a real estate license in your state. You’ll notice that most states require property managers to have a real estate license since many of a property manager’s tasks are similar to those of a real estate agent. 

Please note: If you want to apply for a specific property manager job, read the job listing carefully. As previously mentioned, there are some tasks a property manager performs that do not require a license. You may be able to get your start in the industry by working one of those jobs while you get your license. Additionally, some specialized jobs, such as managers of government-subsidized public housing, are usually required to have additional certifications.  

Once you know what is expected in your state – or a specific job, you can start the licensing process – if needed.  

Step 2: Complete your state’s real estate pre-licensing courses.

Does your state require that property managers have a real estate license? If so, enrolling in real estate pre-licensing courses is the first step to completing this licensing process. These courses can be completed online and are very affordable. 

The course length varies by state. However, no matter how many hours your state requires, most can complete the real estate licensing process within six months.  

Step 3: Pass your state’s real estate exam. 

Once you have completed your pre-licensing courses, you must prepare for your state’s real estate licensing exam. In most states, the real estate exam is proctored by a third-party company. You will likely have to go to a testing center to take the computerized test. 

You’ll need to study to pass the exam; most find supplemental study guides helpful. 

Step 4: Pass a background check.

As a part of the real estate licensing process, you’ll need to pass a background check. Your real estate license application will ask a series of questions regarding your legal history, and you’ll be required to submit your fingerprints for a state and national background check to complete the process. There will be additional fees for the application and background check. 

Step 5: Obtain specialized certifications.

Once you have earned your real estate license, you may consider obtaining specialized certifications such as Certified Manager of Community Associations, Residential Management Professional (RMP®), or Certified Apartment Manager (CAM). For most of these certifications, you need to apply, complete specific courses, and pass an exam. While it takes time and effort, such credentials can set you apart from other applicants. 

Helpful Skills to Become a Property Manager

You’ll learn the local, state, and federal laws and regulations related to property management when you complete your real estate pre-licensing courses. This knowledge is critical to ensure compliance and avoid legal issues. However, there are skills you will need to develop – if you don’t have them already – to become a top-tier property manager.  

1. Customer-service skills

Providing excellent customer service to tenants and clients is critical in this industry. Be friendly, responsive, and helpful when interacting with your business associates. This may be easier said than done because you’ll work with tenants, owners, contractors, and others with varying priorities as a residential property manager.  

2. Communication skills

Property managers must communicate effectively with tenants, property owners, contractors, and other stakeholders. You’ll have to resolve issues, negotiate contracts, and communicate with distraught renters facing financial difficulties or conflicts with neighbors. Excellent communication skills are a must. 

3. Time management skills

Every day will be different as a property manager. You’ll need to stay on top of your schedule while answering calls, texts, and emails and dealing with emergencies. 

4. Attention to detail

There’s a great deal of paperwork involved with property management. You must pay attention to details and processes regarding lease agreements, financial records, and tenant communications.  

In addition, inspections and maintenance require a detail-oriented person. As a property manager, you’ll be in charge of a building’s upkeep, which requires a keen eye. 

Pros and Cons of Working as a Property Manager

As you consider a career in property management or real estate, it’s beneficial to consider the pros and cons of the job.  

Benefits of working as a property manager

  • Variety of daily tasks: You’ll have diverse responsibilities as a property manager. No day will be the same. 
  • Opportunities for career advancement: With experience, additional training, and certifications, you can move into higher-level positions or start your own property management company. 
  • Job stability: As long as there are rental properties, there will be a need for property managers. Did you know that according to November 2023 data, 34% of American households (or 45.2 million households) are renters? 
  • Interaction with people: Property managers interact with a wide range of people, including tenants, property owners, contractors, and service providers. This is an excellent job for a people-person! 
  • Independence: You may have a great deal of autonomy in your daily work, as property managers typically manage their own schedules. 
  • Potential for additional income: Some property managers work for a set salary, while others work on commissions based on property performance, tenant retention, or leasing activity.  

Drawbacks of working as a property manager

  • Irregular hours: Property managers may need to work evenings and weekends to accommodate tenant needs and be available in emergencies. 
  • Stress: Dealing with difficult tenants or demanding property owners can be stressful. Property managers also have to deal with property emergencies, complaints, and conflicts, which can be demanding.  
  • Maintenance and repairs: Overseeing property maintenance and repairs can be time-consuming and demanding. Unexpected issues can disrupt plans and require immediate attention.  

Are you ready to start your career as a property manager? Enroll in your real estate pre-licensing courses to get licensed, and take McKissock Learning’s professional development courses to improve your skills. 

McKissock Learning also offers real estate coaching, training, and continuing education courses to help you maintain your license. Learn more about the real estate licensing process by consulting with one of our career advisors today

Key Takeaways

  • The property management sector is experiencing growth, promising career opportunities for individuals interested in real estate without pursuing sales roles. 
  • While licensing requirements for property managers vary by state, most states mandate real estate licenses due to the overlap in tasks with real estate agents.  
  • Becoming a property manager typically involves several steps, including completing pre-licensing courses, passing a state real estate exam, and undergoing a background check. Specialized certifications can further enhance career prospects by distinguishing applicants. 
  • Successful property managers need a combination of technical knowledge and interpersonal skills.  


“Homeowners vs Renters Statistics.” iPropertyManagement. Accessed May 28, 2024. Homeowners vs Renters Statistics [2024]: by Year + Demographic (