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Anything that you use to manage content is a CMS. Even Dreamwaver falls under this. But you’re not going to have your client use Dreamvaver to manage content. What you want is web-based system that gives your client the ability to add, edit and remove (manage) content. By far the most popular CMS used today is WordPress. So yes, you would need to know PHP. WordPress is extendable with various plugins so you could use it to build pretty much anything. WordPress also manages your MySQL database, so you will not have to do any manual adjustments on database level. You’ll get search capabilities as well. It’s a solid all-in-one package or CMS.
Hope that helps.