Educational Resources for Managers Getting Smart in Western & Central Florida

Educational Resources for Managers

The best property managers realize they don't know everything. To be successful, a manager must stay abreast of new legal developments, new building technology, and a host of other specialized areas—as well as best practices in association administration.

Few of those in the business study to become an association manager and step right into a management position as their first job. Most come from other fields, and of course there's nothing wrong with learning on the job.

While many managers network with other professionals as a good way to stay current, going to trade shows and reading industry publications like The Western & Central Florida Cooperator are also smart moves. But few things can contribute more to a manager’s professional development than continuing-education classes.

All Florida managers are required to complete hours of continuing education in order to maintain their licenses. Many of the Sunshine State’s management companies pay for classes and some courses are even offered for free. Community association managers in Florida have a wide range of choices when it comes to continuing education. Courses are offered by the state and by organizations like the Community Associations Institute (CAI) and Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM). Many law firms and other professional businesses that service the association-management industry also give classes. Not only do these classes help property-management professionals improve their services, but they can also help advance their careers and their compensation packages. A CAM license is required when managing an association of more than 10 units and/or one that has an annual budget in excess of $100,000. To be considered for licensing, prospective managers must enroll and complete 18 hours of pre-licensure education at least 12 months prior to taking the state examination.

CAI Courses

CAI has a program that can unlock an array of professional credentials and designations, says spokesperson Frank Rathbun. “Our Professional Management Development Program (PMDP) features 17 courses, beginning with The Essentials of Community Association Management and including Facilities Management, Community Governance, Financial Management and Managing the Large-Scale Association.” For a complete list of the courses, go to and click Education for Managers under Education & Events.

“Seven of the courses are offered online,” Rathbun says, “and all of them, with the exception of Ethics, are also offered in the classroom setting. Most classes are $445 for CAI members and $545 for non-members, and many management companies do support their managers by paying for the courses.”

Rathbun makes a good case for the value of continuing education. “When managers have designations, it tells you a lot about their level of commitment.” He adds that many managers do have this dedication – and CAI's robust course enrollment supports that assertion. “More than 5,000 managers take classroom or online courses annually,” says Rathbun, “and an educated manager is a better manager. These days, community associations are looking for the best, most professional management they can get . . . . The industry’s ‘best practices’ change, laws change, requirements change. You want a manager who stays abreast of updates in the business.”

He points out that there are many specialized designations and levels of education that can be earned at a pace that managers can manage, even with their busy daily schedules. Rathbun acknowledges that getting a manager out of the office or association and away from their never-ending duties is a challenge, especially when attending classes is sometimes perceived as 'time off.' But he feels boards and management companies need to see the intrinsic value.

That said, sometimes it just isn't possible to get to a class. “We know there’s an advantage to the classroom experience, such as networking and sharing information with peers,” says Rathbun. “However, we have worked hard to get these courses online to make them more convenient. In addition to our PMDP courses, we also offer up to a dozen 'live' webinars a year, covering a wide range of topics on association governance, management and operations. These webinars are also available on-demand in an online archive.”

To see what webinars are coming up, go to and click webinars under Education & Events. Also at, you can click On-Demand Webinars for a complete list of more than 100 past webinars and pricing. Also check the local Suncoast Chapter of CAI for their own offerings. Go to to see what's upcoming.

Classes with IREM

Like CAI, IREM has its own hierarchy of credentials. According to Lynne Magnavite, senior director of education for the group, “IREM offers courses in both classroom and online formats. Some of these classes serve as the education requirement for our credentials, and some courses are specifically for professional development. The courses [leading to credentialing] are designed for both.”

The many course offerings are divided into 11 topic areas: Ethics, Finance & Asset Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Leasing, Maintenance, Managing the Management Company, Marketing & Communications, Public Policy & Advocacy, Risk Management and Sustainability.

“We have two types of delivery methods: classroom and self-paced online,” explains Magnavite. “Most of the courses have perdodic quizzes, and all have an end-of-course exam. Our course design is flexible. If a student wishes to follow a credentialing path, they will have to take end-of-course assessments. If a student just wants to take the course for professional development, they don’t have to take the assessment.”

Credentialing courses range from $180 for a one-day course at the member rate to $770 for a four-day course at the non-member price. Personal development classes cost less than $100 for members and up to $119 for non-members.

To learn more about IREM offerings, go to Click Courses to search classes by topic area, location or the credential you're working toward. You'll also find information about online courses and recorded webinars at by clicking On-Demand Learning. And for ongoing and upcoming webinars, click Webinars. The local chapter of IREM also offers seminars. For the Florida West Coast Chapter event calendar, visit

Magnavite believes strongly in the real-world value of education, and says that IREM has studied its own members and found that fully 70% percent of those who hold a Certified Property Manager (CPM) designation “hold the highest management positions, i.e., owner/partner or officer/director)” in their respective firms. “Total median compensation packages for CPM members can exceed the packages of CPM candidates of the same age, with the same amount of experience and education, and with similar portfolio sizes by at least 13 percent and, in some brackets, by as much as 45 percent.”

Attorney Teachers

Since laws tend to change briskly in the state of Florida, it makes sense that many law firms offer classes—as well as less-structured informational events—for community association-management personnel, both as a service to their existing customers and a means of reaching out to prospective new clients.

Anne Hathorn, leader of the Community Association Law Practice Group at the Tampa offices of Becker & Poliakoff says that her law firm offers courses called “Legal Updates, Legislative Updates, and Board Certification. Managers are welcome, too, and get continuing education credit. We also present classes on other topics, including disaster preparedness, avoiding pitfalls in construction contracts, and employment issues.”

“The format is very interactive,” Hathorn continues. “Most often, I or one of my colleagues are the only attorney teaching the class, but occasionally there are panels including other experts on the subject matter, like insurance agents, public adjusters, CPAs, and so forth. I always like to allow the participants to ask questions as we go through the material, and this works well most of the time.”

“A lot of the classes I am teaching now are small (around 25 people),” Hathorn says, “but I do offer larger classes, like the board certifications, that have space for approximately 100 people. The smaller classes are generally offered at lunchtime, and the board-certification classes are held in the mornings, with a light breakfast offered.”

Hathorn says she tries to teach two or three classes every month. “The board-certification classes take about three hours, with time for a short break and questions. The other classes last about one and a half hours. I generally teach the classes at my office in the Westshore area in Tampa, but I also offer classes in Pinellas County, and I am always available to come to a client’s property, or management company, to teach a class to a larger group.”

“The board-certification classes are required by law, so they're always popular,” Hathorn observes. “Managers always like the Legal Update class. Recently I have been teaching a class called Is a No-Pet Building a Thing of the Past? It deals with people who request service and emotional support animals as reasonable accommodations, pursuant to the Federal Fair Housing Act. I'm seeing a great deal more of these requests than I ever did before, and the board members and managers have been very interested to learn about when those requests have to be granted, what kind of documentation they can ask for from the requesting residents, and the pitfalls of violating the law.”

Hathorn says further that there is no charge for the classes. “They are open to non-clients as well as clients. We want to educate anyone who is interested!”     

Keith Loria is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to The Western & Central Florida Cooperator.