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April 23, 2020| Lester Yat

Like headline circus jugglers, property managers have to be ready to handle whatever is thrown at them, day after day. And their skill in catching every challenge tossed their way — and seamlessly working each on into their daily routine — is a testament to their skill and experience.

But that skill doesn’t arrive out of thin air, and time on the job isn’t a guarantee of success in handling those myriad challenges.

Building owners and association boards know that the best property managers tend to be those who have invested the time, effort and expense involved in attending management courses and earning industry-recognized certifications.

Learning Never Ends

Managers whose resumes sport industry designation acronyms like CAM, AMS and PCAM, are serious about their jobs and in a position to provide cutting-edge, in-depth knowledge for the benefit of the buildings they oversee.

But while youngsters used to dream of running away to join the circus and become stars under the Big Top, chances are slim that even students heading off to college have their hearts set on careers in property management or are filling their semesters with courses in condominium finance.

So where do managers — who often enter the industry from other, sometimes unrelated fields — learn the property management ropes?

Fortunately — for them, and for the buildings they manage — several industry organizations have established workshops, seminars, courses and rigorous requirements leading to a host of coveted certifications. And those designations aren’t just meant to enhance resumes; they are neon-bright signals to property owners and boards that managers have pursued the knowledge needed to keep their buildings or complexes running smoothly. The courses cover the spectrum, from budgeting and cash flow to association communications and community leadership.

An Alphabet Soup of Certifications

Here’s a sampling of the management education and certifications offered by industry organizations.

  • The Community Associations Institute (CAI) is an international organization of over 34,000 members, “dedicated to building better communities.” CAI’s 62 chapters — including the Pennsylvania and Delaware Chapter — offer frequent educational programs, and managers on the Professional Management Development Program path can take multi-day courses throughout the year, leading to professional designations such as the Certified Manager of Community Associations (CMCA), Association Management Specialist (AMS) and Professional Community Association Manager (PCAM). CAI, incidentally, also offers a number of educational programs for association homeowners and board members, to help them better understand the workings of common interest associations; as well as education and designations for related business partners.
  • The Pennsylvania Apartment Association East (PAA East) is a non-profit organization representing multi-family developers, owners and managers in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties. An affiliate of the National Apartment Association, PAA East provides the NAA Education Institute curriculum of management designations, including Certified Apartment Manager (CAM) and Certified Apartment Portfolio Supervisor (CAPS).
  • The Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) is an international community of real estate managers “dedicated to ethical business practices, maximizing the value of investment real estate, and promoting superior management through education and information sharing.” IREM is affiliated with the National Association of REALTORS, and serves both the multi-family and commercial sectors of the real estate industry. Like the other organizations mentioned, IREM offers a variety of educational courses. They lead to designations like Certified Property Manager (CPM), Accredited Residential Manager (ARM) and Accredited Commercial Manager (ACoM).
  • The Pennsylvania-Delaware Affordable Housing Management Association, along with the National Affordable Housing Management Association (NAHMA), is a resource for owners, managing agents and managers of government affordable housing. The organization offers courses on a variety of housing topics, from lead paint issues to fair housing compliance. Its certifications include National Affordable Housing Professional (NAHP), Certified Professional of Occupancy (CPO) and Credential for Green Property Management (CGPM).

So what do those designations mean for property owners and association boards? Consider the premise set forth by IREM: “Well-managed properties pay dividends in terms of value and in the quality of life for residents, tenants and customers.”

And no matter how you look at it, that’s a real juggling act.

To learn more about these professional organizations as well as the education and certifications they offer, visit and