How to become a licensed community association manager
Do you want to become a community association manager (CAM) but do not know where to start? Careers in property management are lucrative, and community association managers are in high demand. Get some insights about what the job entails and find out if being a property manager is the perfect job for you.
Do a little bit of everything.If you are interested in a fast-paced job where no two days are the same, a position as a CAM is for you. As a community association manager, you’ll lead and manage a single building or community (as a sited manager) or multiple communities (as a portfolio manager). The role comes with many responsibilities looking over the community's day-to-day operations and provides plenty of opportunities to learn and grow.
Instead of a mundane 9-to-5 desk job, a property manager delivers service in various areas, like association operations, system and equipment maintenance, finance, budgeting, customer service, resident relations, staff, vendor management, compliance more.
As a CAM, you’ll work closely with board members, community leaders and homeowners, working on-site to perform inspections, hire and supervise vendors and create budgets. A community association manager also oversees maintenance, ensures compliance, responds to emergencies, approves architectural modifications, and keeps the community running smoothly. Essentially, CAMs manage the community’s lifestyle and the quality of life of its homeowners – and no two days on the job are ever the same.
You are probably wondering what kind of training or specialized education you need to start your career as a CAM. The truth is, you don’t!
No specialized degree is required.Since CAMs are genuinely Jacks of all trades, there isn’t a specific path leading to a career in the field. While many other jobs demand a prescribed degree or career track, CAM positions and property management jobs have no prerequisites, requirements or barriers to entry.
“We are always seeking quality talent. Many successful candidates come to us with retail, hospitality or service backgrounds,” says Trent Harrison, regional president at FirstService Residential. “Having a certain type of job experience on your resume is not as important as possessing the right skills, capabilities and attitude.
So what are the right skills?“I look for leaders with a sense of urgency, good listening, organizational and computer skills, and a strong customer service focus,” says Harrison. “The right candidate knows how to build strong teams and relationships and is proactive, genuinely helpful and empathetic. Successful CAMs have the drive and a strong commitment to getting the job done.”
So how do new community managers know how to perform their job duties?While some property management companies expect associates to learn on the job, FirstService Residential offers formalized classrooms via FirstService Residential University, where candidates can receive hands-on training to ensure they effectively perform their roles. At FirstService Residential University, CAM trainees gain the knowledge, skills and service delivery mindset to be successful on the job.
What about professional certification?Professional certification is not necessarily required to enter the field. Still, as their careers progress, many CAMs choose to earn professional credentials and designations through such leading industry organizations as CAI (Community Associations Institute), IREM (Institute of Real Estate Management) and NABO (National Associated Builders and Owners).
For example, CAI offers a national CMCA (Certified Manager of Community Associations) certification. And if you want to work in Florida, Arizona or Nevada, you’ll need to earn a state license. As you gain association management experience, you can earn additional certifications, including AMS (Association Management Specialist), PCAM (Professional Community Association Manager) and LSM (Large-Scale Manager).
You can also attend classes through IREM, which offers designation as a CPM (Certified Property Manager) for property managers of large portfolios and certification as an ARM (Accredited Residential Manager) for managers of small to medium-sized residential portfolios.
If you manage apartments, condominiums or cooperative properties, you may choose to earn a designation as a RAM (Registered in Apartment Management) from NABO.
Sharing best practices and earning professional certifications and designations prove you meet the highest standards for training, skills and ethics – and that’s a great way to enhance your value to both your clients and employer.
Opportunity. Stability. Growth.Not everyone is familiar with property and community management and what those roles entail, but the opportunities available in the industry are growing. And while it’s true that property and community association management positions have traditionally flown under the radar, they are experiencing tremendous growth and, in turn, significantly increasing interest among people looking to change careers.
Also, now more than ever, developers are building residential communities and creating career opportunities all over the U.S. and Canada. New condo associations, HOAs, community associations and strata corporations need good managers.
CAMs who deliver exceptional service and job performance have job stability, as board members and homeowners like to keep them around. But there is always room to grow, so community association managers who want to aim higher and find new challenges can. There are many advancement opportunities to choose from, whether managing a large team in a more complex community or seeking a higher-level leadership role. As an added benefit, your job is portable. As more managed communities are springing up in leading urban and suburban markets across North America, you can pursue new opportunities across town – or the country.