Rental properties don’t manage themselves. Busy landlords often prefer to hire property managers to handle the obligations and operations of their real estate investment. If you want to become a property manager, having a degree can help you achieve this goal.  

Property Management Education Requirements

While property manager isn’t a career that strictly requires a degree, people in this occupation are more likely than not to have some sort of formal education beyond high school. O*NET reported that the bachelor’s degree is the most common level of education for property managers, with 55 percent of the field reporting this degree. Another 10 percent of property managers have a post-secondary certificate. Even though the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the typical level of education expected for entry-level property managers, real estate managers and community association managers is a high school diploma, only 15 percent of the field reported this as their highest level of education.

Why should you consider earning a degree in property management or otherwise undergoing career preparation to get started in this profession? The main reason companies are increasingly looking to hire property managers with an education or training beyond the high school level is because this job isn’t easy.

In the role of a property manager, you need to balance many different skills and areas of knowledge, including communication skills, administration and management skills, knowledge of accounting and economics and knowledge of laws and regulations that affect property rentals and management requirements. Additionally, you may need technical competencies in the use of access software, like key card management programs, as well as accounting software such as Intuit QuickBooks and database software programs like Propertyware, Yardi and Advantos Systems DataTrust Enterprise, according to O*NET. All of these demands mean that the job of a property manager isn’t one you can do successfully with little knowledge or preparation.

Another reason to consider earning a degree or certificate to be a property manager is the potential to make more money. Generally, the more extensive your credentials – education, experience, licensing, certification and more – the greater your earning potential. 

property management degrees

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What to Expect From Property Management Degrees and Careers

Whatever you choose to major in when you’re preparing for a property manager career, there’s a good chance that your course of study will include some emphasis on management and leadership abilities as well as relevant aspects of business administration. When you serve as a property manager, you basically take ownership of the function of keeping that property rented and maintained – and of all of the tasks and processes needed to make this happen – so that money can keep pouring in from this financial investment.

A property manager takes on all the jobs typically associated with a landlord or superintendent. It’s part of the property manager’s job to collect rent or HOA dues, hire maintenance workers (or do repairs yourself, if you’re the hands-on type), keep up with city ordinances and regulations to stay in compliance, fill vacant spaces on the property and, unfortunately, evict renters who don’t keep up their rent or cause trouble.

Often, property managers oversee many properties, either for a single large employer that owns many properties or for many different individuals and small businesses. Some property managers establish their own firm and provide property management services to clients who hire them to perform these job duties. Depending on your situation, the property itself may not be the only thing you manage. Some property managers have a staff of superintendents, secretaries and regular handymen or maintenance workers to oversee.

A lot of what constitutes your day-to-day work as a property manager will depend on whether you directly oversee properties yourself or act as an administrator over the people who do directly oversee the property.

Are There Degrees in Property Management?

Bachelor’s degree programs in property management are few and far between, but they do exist. For example, Virginia Tech offers a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in property management, but it’s one of only a very few institutions in the nation that does so.

Just because there aren’t many degree programs specific to property management doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of education and training programs in this area that don’t award a bachelor’s degree. Many property management education programs are either certificate programs awarded by vocational colleges and career schools, like this four- to eight-month program at Penn Foster, or certification courses offered by professional organizations and associations, such as the Institute of Real Estate Management.

Generally, non-degree training programs in property management are short and highly focused. While students pursuing a bachelor’s degree would typically need to devote much of their studies to general education courses that don’t seem particularly relevant to this career, certificate and certification programs tend to focus primarily on coursework with practical application in the property management career field. For example, the property management career diploma offered at Ashworth College begins with coursework in the basic duties and skills of property managers, business plan development and training in building a team and delegating tasks. Students of these programs typically go on to study areas such as maintenance management, property management recordkeeping, staff recruitment and training, rent and lease structures and terms, tenant relations management and legal and tax issues involving property management.

The curriculum of a property management course offered by the Institute of Real Estate Management will typically encompass studies in financial reporting, investments, valuation of real estate, real estate terminology, marketing and property maintenance.

The relevant professional credential awarded by the Institute of Real Estate Management is the Certified Property Manager (CPM) designation. CPMs maintain private as well as commercial real estate investments and are responsible for ensuring the appreciation of such properties. To achieve certification, you must submit an application, agree to a code of ethics, complete some form of education in the field and pass a certification exam. 

The Best Property Manager Degree Options

Although uncommon, property management programs at the bachelor’s degree level aren’t unheard of, just hard to come by. Most property managers who pursue a full-fledged college degree, rather than a certificate or certification course, major in areas like business administration, real estate, finance, accounting and public administration.

Property Management

The core coursework of a property management bachelor’s degree program might include introductory studies in property management, property management operations, marketing and leasing of both residential and commercial properties, management of affordable and specialized housing, residential technology and advanced property and asset management. Property management may seem like a pretty specific major as it is, but students may have the opportunity to specialize further by taking electives in areas of particular interest to them. These related electives might include real estate law and appraisal, housing policies and challenges, ethical leadership and many others.

One benefit of pursuing a bachelor’s degree in property management rather than a certificate or certification course alone is a greater opportunity to work on developing your communication skills through coursework in basic college composition, business writing and public speaking.

Business Administration

Majoring in business administration equips you with a broad undergraduate background in business. That’s helpful for property managers, since a lot of their work fits under administrative job functions. You may or may not have extensive management duties pertaining to other people, but you are likely to need skills pertaining to managing the financial aspects of operating the rental property, as well as skills in planning, marketing, scheduling, coordinating maintenance work and property renovations and overseeing compliance with laws and regulations. Courses in operations management, strategic planning, marketing and business law are all valuable for those pursuing a property manager career path. Any business administration concentration may be suitable for an aspiring property manager, but if you want to get specific, you might choose to focus your coursework on real estate. 

Real Estate

You could also opt to major in real estate. These programs are usually offered out of business schools or departments, either as concentrations within a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree or as a distinct Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) degree. Either way, you’re likely to take coursework in business foundations, finance, financial and managerial accounting, operations management, marketing management, organizational behavior, business law, economics and management strategy. The more specialized major coursework for a degree in real estate management and development typically includes real estate law, real estate finance, real estate investing and asset management, real estate management, urban finance and environmental planning, sustainability in the built environment and negotiations and conflict resolution.

Finance or Accounting

Many of a property owner’s job duties fit under the umbrella of financial management of rental properties, the BLS reported, so studying finance or accounting makes sense for this career path. Both of these majors are among the more quantitative fields of business study, but they have their differences.

The field of accounting emphasizes the work of generating financial statements and reports. Accountants generally use basic math and arithmetic, as well as accounting software tools and a thorough knowledge of laws and regulations, to produce these reports. As a field of study and a profession, finance focuses on analyzing data to make decisions about managing wealth, financial assets, and financial operations. Finance majors generally need more advanced skills in mathematical and statistical analysis.

An accounting degree program will typically cover the concepts and methods of financial accounting, cost accounting or managerial accounting, tax accounting and auditing. The curriculum of a finance degree will usually include studies in corporate finance, investments, financial statement analysis and financial markets. Finance majors are more likely to have the option to pursue a real estate concentration, which may include studies in real estate law, the foundations of real estate practice and real estate finance and ethics. Students majoring in either of these subjects will likely complete some coursework in the other field, with accounting majors regularly studying business finance and financial management and finance majors taking a course or two in fundamental accounting principles and practices.

Public Administration

Public administration is a less common but equally applicable educational path for aspiring property managers, according to the BLS. Because public administration degrees prepare students for work in community leadership and policy-making, the coursework equips students with administrative skills and knowledge of law, regulations and policies – all of which can be valuable for property management work. Courses in public administration, financial accounting principles, government regulations, budget and finance, administrative law and public management and leadership may make up your curriculum in this major.

Although you don’t need any particular major to become a property manager, you may need to attain a real estate license in certain states.

Getting a Job in Property Management

Unfortunately, the job market for property managers isn’t expected to thrive in the near future. The BLS predicted that opportunities in this occupation would grow at a slower than average rate of just three percent between 2020 and 2030.

To have the best chances of snagging one of the 11,400 new jobs that are expected to be added during this decade (or an existing job role left vacant by established property managers changing employers, switching careers or retiring from the workforce), you’re likely going to need both a college degree and some sort of professional certification, such as the credentials offered by the National Association of Residential Property Managers or the Institute of Real Estate Management.

Don’t let the less-than-stellar job outlook discourage you from pursuing this path if property management is the kind of work you really want to do. Job growth might not be below average at the moment, but the profession itself isn’t going anywhere.

People rent houses, apartments and other types of living spaces for a variety of reasons. Some renters do so out of necessity, not meeting the requirements to secure a mortgage loan. Others don’t want to commit to living in one place for long enough that it makes sense to buy a home, or they would rather not deal with the hassles and headaches that inevitably come with being a homeowner. People may rent a vacation home for the week or move into an active adult community–the kind where property managers handle their yard work and maintenance–in their senior years. For these reasons, as well as many others, the ongoing need for property management services is a relatively sure thing.

The BLS reported a median salary of $59,660 for property managers in 2020. The highest-paid 10 percent of property managers earn upwards of $134,570 per year, while the lowest-paid 10 percent of the field reported earnings below $31,330. 

Additional Resources 

What Can I Do With a Land and Property Management Degree?

How Does Someone Become a Real Estate Agent?

What Degree Should I Get for Real Estate?