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AG flash poll results: most valued real estate designation

AG Flash Poll

StudyingReal estate professionals have many opportunities for continued education, most notably in the form of earning designations that not only further educate but help agents to specialize in niches. Some argue that designations mean nothing to the consumer and call it meaningless alphabet soup for business cards, but many designations offer professionals a deeper understanding of the practice regardless of what a consumer thinks of their lapel’s shiny new pin.

Last month, we took a poll here at AG asking “which designation has most impacted your career?” In a declining economy, agents are seeking out ways to improve their careers and earning capacity, so we thought we would share with you which designations ranked most highly with our readers:

“Which designation most impacted your career?”

  1. 35.5% said CCIM (Certified Commercial Investment Member)
  2. 16.7% said CRS (Council of Residential Specialists)
  3. 16.7% said ePRO (Technology certification program)
  4. 4.8%% said ABR (Accredited Buyer’s Representative)
  5. 4.8% said GRI (Graduate REALTOR Institute)
  6. 2.4% said ESRES (Energy Smart Real Estate Specialists)
  7. 2.4% said CRI (Certified Real Estate Inspector)
  • Although we asked respondents not to respond that no designation has had an impact, 4.8% felt strongly enough to do so.
  • 11.9% said “other” which included interesting responses ranging from CFA (chartered financial analyst) to some military designations like CPO USN, Ret.

Regarding designations, Greg Lyles of Conrad Lyles REALTORS in Atlanta, Georgia said, “Years ago, I took the first two classes of the CCIM designation while I was developing apartment communities and shopping centers. I recall the instructor saying that, “After these two courses, you’ll know more than 90% of the agents out there.” I thought to myself, if that can be accomplished after two courses, we as an industry are in trouble!”

Have you heard of all of these designations? If you didn’t take the poll or have additional thoughts, we’d like to hear about it in the comments. Which designations do you think are valuable and which are not? What is the best reason to seek a designation?

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Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.



  1. Sasha Farmer

    April 5, 2010 at 8:44 am

    This is great! The CRS is definitely the one that has been the most helpful to me, and I honestly could have done completely without some of the others I’ve attained. However I’ve been considering the CCIM and seeing that it is even more beneficial than CRS is promising. I think my next step is attaining my broker’s license (which also might have been something worthwhile to add to this poll even though its not a “designation” per se) but maybe CCIM will follow that some day soon.

  2. Aaron Charlton

    April 5, 2010 at 9:38 am

    I’m just getting into real estate, so I’m glad to hear all of the input people have on education and certifications. I will definitely bookmark this post.

  3. Daniel Bates

    April 5, 2010 at 11:22 am

    Designations were probably originally a great thing, now that all this data is available on the internet, they’re just a bragging right for agents and huge money making scheme for NAR. While there are some great teachers out there, most are not that experienced in real estate and not fit to teach, but the best teachers are out earning a better living putting their skills to practice.

    E-PRO the absolute biggest joke in the world and that shows the level of mixed readership here that it’s among the top. It obviously depends on what you want to do. I would opt for the SRIS before any of these since I’m in a second home / retirement community, but I know I’d probably get about $100 worth of knowledge out of my $1000’s and countless wasted hours in a classroom, so I won’t get it.

  4. BawldGuy

    April 5, 2010 at 11:59 am

    I don’t mean this the way it’s surely gonna sound. Most of these designations could be had by a fairly quick high school freshman. The fail rate for the initial, and most difficult CCIM 40 hour class runs at around 40-50% — with an open book test. That’s an earned designation. This poll, though certainly not scientific, doesn’t say much about GRI, does it? Seems CRS is gettin’ it done.

    I would offer an opinion to any who are thinkin’ about ‘gettin’ my CCIM’ — forget it. It’s information for those who wish to live and work on the investment side of the business. It’s truly a difficult buncha letters to acquire for your biz card. 🙂 Considering the time/cost commitment, and the level of difficulty, it won’t be for you if you’re just going for the designation.

    It impacted my career profoundly. I was unable to continue the process after finishing all 200 hours successfully due to finances, family, and the market back then (1980), but the knowledge has made the critical difference in earnings, my credibility among real pros, serious investors, and my ability to perform at a level I’d only read about.

  5. Erica Ramus

    April 5, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    I think the EDUCATION learned in these designation courses is (mostly) top notch. CRS and GRI courses are very high end, from what I’ve seen. I take course that interest me, not to earn a designation.

    I do have a problem with annual dues to “keep” the designation you have earned. It’s just a money making scheme for NAR. Another stream of income.

  6. Phil Boren

    April 11, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    Having earned the MAI designation from the Appraisal Institute ( and with my 26 years in the real estate business, I can honestly say that some of the worst real estate agents I’ve ever encountered had the most letters behind their name. In my opinion, it’s not that the designations are meaningless per se (although those that can be acquired in a day are hardly worth having), it’s generally that the agents get them for the wrong reasons. Education, as one poster put it, is what’s valuable, and I agree. However, most agents don’t seek the “ABC” or “XYZ” designation of the day for education at all – they do it because it’s quick and they see it as an instant path to credibility. That’s the problem.

    Any designation worth having should stand up to scrutiny, so before you plunk down your $395 on Friday so you can advertise that you “earned” the “XYZ” designation by Monday morning, take a hard look at the criteria for membership in this new club. If the critical component for earning the designation is paying the fee, think twice. There are better ways to spend your time and your money.

    If you get a designation, great. Think of it as a learning experience – not a short cut to the front of the real-estate line. The real estate business is marathon, not a sprint!

  7. Steve Gold

    March 12, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    Though it isn’t listed as a ‘Designation’, I believe a strong case can be made for the title of ‘Associate Broker’ as being one of the most important designations. While this designation doesn’t necessarily convey greater knowledge, it definitely allows an agent ultimate flexibility in the business. The Broker designation is the only title that allows an agent to open their own real estate office. And I believe it is specifically for this reason that it is the most under-marketed designation. Broker/Owners do not want agents to have this ultimate flexibility for fear that more and more agents may decide to leave the office and operate on their own.

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