Property Management Certification in California

Property Management Certificates California

Property management has emerged as a lucrative part of the real estate sector, attracting people from all walks of life. 

This integral role oversees day-to-day operations, tenant relations, financial oversight, and maintenance coordination—an intricate balance that demands professionalism and an adept understanding of the real estate market.

The industry is growing thanks to innovative real estate trends, such as the rising movement toward build-to-rent (BTR) neighborhoods. This shift has further elevated the need for full-time property management professionals.

Property management companies now find themselves not only maintaining individual units but also managing community events, high-quality shared spaces, and additional services that enhance the rental experience.

For those who want to get into the game, navigating property management certification in California can be confusing. This article will break down the requirements and optional training to give you the best chance at success. 


California Property Management Laws

To become a property manager in California, you must first understand the profession’s state-specific laws and regulations. 

A real estate license is required for anyone to:

  • List real estate
  • Market or sell a property
  • Sell, buy, or exchange leasehold interests
  • Manage income-producing property
  • Collect rent

You can obtain two different levels of accreditation in California: a real estate salesperson license or a real estate broker license. 

California Real Estate Salesperson License

To acquire a California real estate salesperson license, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a social security number or taxpayer identification number
  • Complete three real estate-specific college-level courses or be a member of the California State Bar

Take the courses at any accredited institution, including the University of California, California State University, and many community colleges across the state. Once you meet those three requirements, the process is relatively straightforward. 

  1. Complete an application (RE 400A or RE 435)
  2. Submit it, along with the applicable fee
  3. Schedule an exam with the Department of Real Estate (DRE)
  4. Apply for a license from the DRE

Once you’ve acquired your real estate salesperson license, you must find and sign with a real estate brokerage before performing any property management roles. 

California Real Estate Broker License

Alternatively, you can apply for a real estate broker license, which allows you to represent yourself. To acquire one, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a social security number or taxpayer identification number
  • Complete at least eight real estate-specific college-level courses or be a member of the California State Bar
  • Have two years of full-time licensed salesperson experience within the last five years (or two years of equivalent full-time non-licensed experience)
  • Have a degree from a four-year university with a major or minor in real estate

If you meet those requirements, the process of acquiring your California real estate broker license is very similar:

  1. Complete an application (RE 400B or RE 436)
  2. Submit it, along with the applicable fee
  3. Schedule an exam with the DRE
  4. Apply for a license from the DRE

However, if you aim to elevate your expertise, credibility, and marketability, several organizations offer certifications in property management. 

California Property Management Certifications

While not legally required, these certifications can ensure you have the knowledge and skills to effectively manage properties according to industry best practices.

Institute of Real Estate Management

IREM, or the Institute of Real Estate Management, is an international organization founded in 1933 and serves as a source of education, resources, and advocacy for real estate management professionals. 

The Institute is an affiliate of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) in the United States and boasts a worldwide membership of over 20,000

IREM is recognized for its professional designation programs, which are respected industry-wide and often sought after by real estate management professionals seeking to advance their careers. 

The primary property management designations offered by IREM are:

CPM: Certified Property Manager

The CPM designation is among the most prestigious certifications a property management professional can earn. It demonstrates a high level of expertise, commitment, and ethical standards in the real estate management profession. 

To become a CPM, candidates must meet specific educational and experience requirements, pass a certification exam, pledge to uphold IREM’s Code of Professional Ethics, and become an IREM member. 

CPM members are recognized as real estate management experts and are often sought after by employers and property owners.

ARM: Accredited Residential Manager

The ARM designation is specifically aimed at managers of residential properties, such as apartment complexes, condominiums, and housing cooperatives. 

To earn the ARM certification, candidates must complete a required educational curriculum focused on residential management, pass an exam, have at least one year of qualifying residential real estate management experience, and uphold the IREM Code of Professional Ethics.

ACoM: Accredited Commercial Manager

The ACoM certification is designed for managers of commercial properties, including office buildings, retail centers, and industrial properties. 

Like the ARM, candidates seeking the ACoM must complete educational courses specific to commercial management, pass an exam, have documented professional experience in managing commercial properties, and agree to adhere to IREM’s Code of Professional Ethics.

AMO: Accredited Management Organization

The AMO accreditation is designated not for individuals, but for real estate management firms that uphold high standards in their business practices. It represents a mark of excellence for property management companies and is recognized by many in the industry as a symbol of professional achievement and integrity.

To qualify for AMO accreditation, a management firm must demonstrate a history of financial stability, have a CPM in an executive position within the company, and show a commitment to providing outstanding service. 

Community Associations Institute

CAI, or the Community Associations Institute, is a leading authority in the community and property management field, with its Coachella Valley chapter playing a pivotal role within the Golden State’s vibrant housing landscape. 

Founded in 1973, CAI is a national organization that fosters vibrant, competent, and harmonious communities. From condominiums to homeowners’ associations (HOAs), the chapter serves the needs of association board members, managers, and other professionals within the industry.

It is affiliated with the Community Association Managers International Certification Board (CAMICB), which awards the Certified Manager of Community Associations (CMCA) certification.

Here are some property management certifications available through CAI:

AMS: Association Management Specialist

AMP is a marker of foundational knowledge in community association management. This credential is designed for managers who are looking to demonstrate their commitment to the profession and their ability to provide essential management services to community associations.

It requires two years of direct community association management experience and completion of two M-level courses (M-201 and M-206). 

You will then have to pass the CMCA exam and submit the applicable application fee. To become an AMS, it costs $170 for CAI members and $405 for non-members. 

PCAM: Professional Community Association Manager

The PCAM represents the pinnacle of professionalism in community association management. It is a credential awarded to those who have demonstrated the highest level of skill, experience, and ethical standards in the management of community associations.

To achieve it, you must show five years of direct community association management experience and pass all six M-level courses:

In addition to the CMCA exam, you must also pass the CAMICB Case Study. The PCAM costs CAI members $225 and non-members $460. 

AAMC: Accredited Association Management Company

The AAMC designation is given to management companies that have achieved a standard of excellence. Companies with this accreditation have proven to possess the expertise and integrity necessary to provide the best management services to their associations.

To acquire it, a company must show three years of verified experience providing community association management services, have a PCAM-credentialed employee in a leadership position, and other CAI-credentialed staff. 

The AAMC costs members $320 and non-members $570 to apply for. 

LSM: Large-Scale Manager

The LSM designation is meant for managers who oversee large-scale community associations. This specialized accreditation signifies advanced experience and skills in managing complex communities with extensive amenities and infrastructure.

It is only given to an active PCAM with ten years of community association management experience, including five as a large-scale manager. You must also attend a specialized workshop or complete M-340.

Applying for an LSM certification costs members $115 and non-members $340. 

National Association of Residential Property Managers

NARPM, or the National Association of Residential Property Managers, is an association specifically dedicated to promoting high standards and ethics for professionals involved in managing residential properties. 

It was established in 1988 to support residential property managers with education, networking opportunities, and resources to enhance their businesses and practices.

NARPM offers its members a platform for professional development, including:

  • Designation programs
  • Educational seminars
  • Workshops
  • Annual conventions

While IREM focuses on a broad range of real estate sectors, NARPM targets those managing residential properties more specifically.

NARPM offers several designations and certifications catered to various aspects and levels of residential property management:

RMP: Residential Management Professional

The RMP designation is for property managers looking to demonstrate their experience and commitment to the industry. 

To earn this designation, members must complete various education requirements, attend local and national NARPM events, and provide evidence of their professional experience managing a certain number of units over a specified period.

MPM: Master Property Manager

The MPM designation is a higher-level recognition for property managers who have already achieved the RMP designation and are looking to showcase their long-term dedication and extensive expertise in the industry. 

Candidates must fulfill additional educational and service requirements and demonstrate their experience by managing a larger portfolio of properties for a longer period.

CRMC: Certified Residential Management Company

The CRMC designation is for property management companies, and it recognizes those firms that have reached a high level of performance, experience, and service in residential property management. 

Like the AMO accreditation from IREM for commercial management firms, the CRMC designation requires companies to adhere to industry best practices and the NARPM Code of Ethics.

California Association of Realtors

The California Association of Realtors (CAR) is a statewide trade organization dedicated to advancing and protecting the real estate industry and the professional success of its members. 

CAR provides a wide array of benefits, tools, and education to real estate professionals in California who engage in all aspects of the industry, including residential and commercial brokerage, property management, and appraisals.

 The two credentials offered by CAR for property management are:

PMC: Property Management Certification

The Property Management Certification (PMC) program provides property managers comprehensive training in residential property management. To receive it, you must complete five of the ten designated courses:

  • PMC 1: Residential Property Management
  • PMC 2: Managing Single Family Homes and Two-to-Four Unit Residences
  • PMC 3: Apartment Buildings and Commercial Properties
  • PMC 4: Trust Funds, Fair Housing, and Legal Aspects of Property Management
  • PMC 5: Working With Investors
  • PMC 6: Vacation Rental Management
  • PMC 7: Selling Apartment Buildings
  • PMC 8: All Creatures Great and Small-Rules About Assistance Animals
  • PMC 9: Real Estate Investing Made Clear
  • PMC 10: Beneath the Surface – Understanding the Anatomy of a Home

Those who complete all ten courses will given the Property Management Master (PMM) certification. These certifications expire in two years if not properly renewed, which includes retaking updated courses. 

CCRM: California Certified Residential Manager

The CCRM (California Certified Residential Manager) certification is offered by the California Apartment Association (CAA), the country’s largest statewide rental property association. 

The certification covers nine courses, including:

  1. Beginning and Maintaining the Tenancy
  2. Budget Development and Implementation
  3. Fair Housing: It’s the Law
  4. Liability and Risk Management: Protecting the Investment
  5. Maintenance Management: Maintaining a Property
  6. Preparing to Rent: Introduction to Ethical Property Management, Preparing the Property and Developing Key Policies and Procedures
  7. Professional Skills for Supervisors
  8. Renewal of Tenancy and End of the Tenancy
  9. Renting the Property: Marketing-to-Move-In, Leasing Skills, and Security Deposits

After completing all nine courses, the CAA administers a final exam.  The certification is recognized within the state and industry as a mark of high-level expertise in managing residential properties according to California’s unique legal landscape.

Final Thoughts

The property management industry in California presents a dynamic and rewarding opportunity for professionals who are enthusiastic about real estate management. 

Achieving these certifications can provide you with a competitive edge, ensure compliance with state laws, and demonstrate your commitment to the industry’s best practices and ethical standards.

If you’re interested in expanding your knowledge and expertise in property management, or if you’re curious about the latest trends and tools like virtual guard services, we invite you to dig deeper into our insights page

Discover detailed guides and resources tailored to help you navigate the complexities of property management and embrace the opportunities that lie ahead.


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