Recently, I had a conversation with another real estate instructor about designations and whether they are worth the trouble.  My opinion on this has not changed since I got into the industry years ago.  Before we get into this, though, let me explain what I mean when I am talking about designations.

In order to practice real estate, you need a license.  This is not the same as a designation or certification.  Various organizations offer various designations and certifications.  There are literally hundreds of them.  CCIM, GRI, ABR are some common ones.  If you don’t know what those initials means, you are demonstrating the primary problem with these certifications – only the people in the industry know what they mean.

Usually these certifications require you to take some classes and pay a fee.  In some situations, they require a test or practical demonstration of knowledge, but that is rare.  Sometimes they require you to pay a renewal fee every year to keep the designation.

As a general rule, if you want to progress within the organization that grants the designation, you should get the designation.  For example, if you want to join the board or become a leader in the Realtor association, you might want to get some of the various Realtor designations.  If you wanted to progress in the ranks of the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), you would want to go through their designation programs.  However, if you are trying to make money in real estate, having specific letters will not help you.  Why is that?  Well, the only people who know what GRI means are other Realtors.  Your customers will not know what it means, nor will they know what is involved in attaining it, so they will not likely be impressed.

They mean very little to the public, but a lot to people in the industry particularly those people with the designation.

If a designation advertises itself as being the equivalent of a master’s degree, the designation is probably fairly meaningless and has to resort to extreme exaggeration to prove its worth.  The designation might require 90 hours of class, but it requires no tests, no presentations, no papers, and no research, all of which are required to get a master’s degree.  It requires you to sit in a classroom for 90 hours.  Tell me what master’s degree you can get by sitting in a room for 90 hours.

Also, if the advertisements say that agents with the designation earn a higher median than those without the designation, you can assume the designation holders do not understand the difference between causation and correlation.

Are certifications and designations worth it?  It depends why you are doing them.  A few years ago, I took three courses that I was very interested in taking.  I learned a lot from these courses.  At the end, I received a gold lapel pin and some initials after my name.  Yippee!  Is that why I took the courses?  No.  In fact, I was surprised to know I was getting a little gold pin.Real estate designation pin

If you will benefit from the courses, you should register for and take the courses.  Education is always good.  But if your primary motive for taking the courses is to get the gold pin and initials, find some courses that make you excited about the content.  Find some courses where you will learn something useful.  A gold pin is not very useful.