The 8 Best Real Estate Designations for Prestige and Expertise


How do you stand out as a trusted authority in real estate? Simple: through real estate designations. Real estate designations add prestige to your professional profile and showcase your commitment to expertise and growth.

Here, we’ll explore real estate designations a bit further, differentiate them from real estate certifications, and review eight of the best ones you can attain.

What are real estate designations?

Real Estate Designations and Certifications

What are the Best Real Estate Designations?

  1. Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager (CRB)
  2. Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES)
  3. Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM)
  4. Accredited Land Consultant (ALC)
  5. Certified International Property Specialist
  6. Certified Property Manager
  7. Certified Residential Specialist
  8. Seller Representative Specialist

Free Resource: Real Estate Strategy Template

What are real estate designations?

Real estate designations are professional certifications that give agents and brokers an edge in specific areas of the industry.

After completing specialized training and often an exam, an agent can boast this designation to highlight their expertise. Whether green housing, senior living accommodations, or commercial properties, there’s a designation to match every niche.

These designations are more than just a few letters after your name — it’s a commitment to specialized knowledge and continuous learning.

The Association of Real Estate License Law Officials (ARELLO) estimates that there are over 3 million active real estate licensees in the United States. With competition that tough, agents need to put in the extra work to stand out. Real estate designations help you do that.

Real Estate Designations and Certifications

Real estate designations are often conflated with real estate certifications — and for good reason. Both provide avenues for real estate professionals to demonstrate their experience and expertise in specific aspects of the field.

They allow real estate agents, brokers, property managers, and other people to show potential clients they have both a specialized understanding of different real estate niches and a commitment to professional development.

Certifications and designations are fundamentally similar in that they require some degree of training and scrutiny to attain. You can use both to improve a real estate professional’s resume and reputation. And for the most part, certifications and designations are both primarily awarded by the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

The primary differences between the two are in the rigor of each one‘s respective coursework, the professional experience required to earn each one, and the issue of annual dues. While certifications are impressive and require work, receiving one isn’t nearly as labor-intensive and time-consuming as pursuing a designation.

Most designations also require evidence of extensive experience in an area of expertise. And, if you receive a real estate certification, you’re typically not expected to pay annual dues to maintain it — whereas most designations make you pay to keep them on a consistent basis.

If you want to project your expertise and commitment to ongoing professional development but have less time to allocate to screening, studying, and examination, you‘re probably best off getting a real estate certification. If you’re willing to put in the extra effort for more prestige and professional benefits, you’ll likely want to get a full-on designation.

Now, let’s take a look at eight of the best real estate designations real estate professionals can pursue.

What are the best real estate designations?

best real estate designations

1. Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager (CRB)

Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager (CRB) designation

Best for: Seasoned brokers

The Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager (CRB) is one of the most prominent, esteemed designations available. As its name implies, the designation is tailored to help real estate professionals with brokerage management, allowing you to increase productivity, develop key business management skills, and ultimately become a more effective broker.

Though you don‘t need a brokerage license to obtain this designation, it still suits experienced brokers more than other real estate professionals — and its required credentials reflect that. If you’re a seasoned broker looking to refine your field-specific skills and bolster your resume, consider earning a CRB designation.

Pros

  • Enhanced credibility: Holding a CRB designation improves a broker’s reputation and showcases their commitment to professional standards and advanced knowledge.
  • Advanced skills and knowledge: The training equips brokers with cutting-edge strategies, leadership skills, and an in-depth understanding of current industry trends.
  • Exclusive virtual community access: The NAR provides CRB designees with a dedicated virtual networking platform that allows them to connect, share insights, and collaborate with other top professionals in the field.

Cons

  • Time and financial investment: Achieving the CRB designation requires an investment in time and money for training and examination.
  • Obligatory NAR Membership: CRB designees need to maintain an active membership with the National Association of Realtors (NAR), which comes with its own set of fees and requirements.

How to earn it:

  • Complete three CRB courses.
  • Fulfill two experience electives — which can include:
    • Having five or more years of management experience
    • Having a bachelor’s degree in any major
    • Having other National Association of Realtors (NAR) credentials.
    • Completing an additional two CRB courses, beyond the requisite three.
    • Possess at least one year of professional experience.
  • Pay a one-time $150 designation fee.

2. Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES)

Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES) designation

Best for: Real estate professionals who deal with clients over 50

The Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES) designation is a resource for real estate professionals interested in guiding clients over the age of 50 through the home buying and selling processes.

This designation helps its subscribers understand the differences between housing options for seniors and how reverse mortgages work. It also provides insight into how to use pensions, 401Ks and IRAs in real estate transactions — along with offering insight into how to protect clients from mortgage finance and loan schemes that target people over 50.

Pros

  • Targeted marketing resources: The SRES designation provides professionals with access to high-quality, customizable marketing materials. This allows them to promote their expertise in assisting home buyers and sellers aged 50+.
  • Ongoing education: SRES designees benefit from continuous education materials which ensures they stay updated on the latest trends and strategies related to serving the age demographic.
  • Specialized skill set: Agents acquire unique skills tailored to address the distinct needs and concerns of older homebuyers and sellers that sets them apart from generalist agents.

Cons

  • Additional SRES council membership: Beyond the NAR membership, an agent must also be a member of the SRES Council, potentially incurring additional fees and commitments.
  • Renewal requirements: The SRES designation isn’t a one-time achievement. Agents must periodically renew their status, which can mean additional time, coursework, or fees.

How to earn it:

  • Maintain an active NAR membership.
  • Complete the SRES course.
  • Maintain an active membership in the SRES Council.
  • Pay annual dues.

3. Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM)

Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM)

Best for: Professionals with extensive commercial real estate experience

The Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) designation recognizes leading experts in commercial investment real estate. It’s arguably the most prestigious of all commercial real estate designations. It indicates that the designee has completed coursework in financial and market analysis — backed by thorough experience in the commercial real estate space.

Given that commercial real estate is expected to grow by 3% every year until 2028, it’s a great time to invest in thai designation.

Plus, the designation isn’t specific to one type of commercial real estate professional. Anyone from brokers to appraisers to real estate attorneys to bankers can pursue it.

That said, anyone who receives the designation needs to have extremely extensive commercial real estate experience — so CCIM members tend to work at the executive level.

Pros

  • Networking and deal making opportunities: Members tap into a vast global community. Whether through the members-only online forum, CCIM Connect, or the national and chapter networking events, there are plenty of opportunities for collaboration, support, and dealmaking.
  • Innovative technology: CCIM designees get access to “Site To Do Business,” the institute’s comprehensive commercial real estate (CRE) technology solution. This platform optimizes financial and market analysis, valuations, and site selections.
  • Industry recognition: Holding a CCIM designation positions professionals as top-tier experts in the commercial real estate sector.

Cons

  • Portfolio requirement: Candidates must have a substantial commercial real estate portfolio to qualify for the CCIM designation. Newer professionals might find this challenging.
  • Intensive credentialing process: The credentialing process is time-consuming and expensive, and it also requires ongoing commitment, such as maintaining an active membership.

How to earn it:

  • Complete the CCIM Educational Curriculum, including:
    • An ethics course
    • Negotiation training
    • Elective courses from the Ward Center for Real Estate Studies
  • Submit a portfolio of qualifying experience to demonstrate experience in commercial real estate — covering activities, transactions, projects, or work products. Transactional portfolios that meet the minimum volume requirements could include:
    • Three or more qualifying activities totaling $30 million or more
    • Exactly ten qualifying activities totaling $10 million or more
    • Twenty qualifying activities with no dollar volume requirement
  • Pass a day-long comprehensive exam, preceded by a two-day course concepts review.

4. Accredited Land Consultant (ALC)

Accredited Land Consultant (ALC)

Best for: Seasoned land sales professionals who are willing to commit to an extremely rigorous process

The Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) is the only land-specific designation recognized by the National Association of Realtors and is among the most prestigious available in the field of land sales. These kinds of consultants have extensive experience in selling agricultural land, timberland, ranches, recreational properties, or vacant land for development.

The designation comes with its share of perks. For one, it adds a new degree of legitimacy to your marketing and industry reputation. It also has demonstrable financial benefits — ALCs earn an average of over $100,000 more annually than non-designees in the space.

Becoming an ALC is a particularly rigorous process — with most designees spending multiple years pursuing the designation.

Pros

  • In-depth land transaction training: The ALC curriculum dives into topics like land taxation, environmental concerns, zoning regulations, and property rights. The focus equips professionals with nuanced understanding rare in the broader real estate market.
  • Fast track option: The ALC offers a Fast Track option for seasoned professionals, allowing them to expedite their certification based on their existing experience and qualifications, making the designation more accessible.
  • Access to RLI connect: RLI Connect is an exclusive online portal dedicated to land listings. This way, members are the first to know about prime land opportunities.

Cons

  • Land transaction threshold: Agents need to complete a specified number of land transactions or reach a particular sales volume to even qualify for ALC.
  • Annual dues: Beyond the initial course fees, ALC designees pay annual membership dues to maintain their status and continue benefiting from the designation’s resources.

How to earn it:

  • Successfully complete a total of 104 Land University contact hours.
  • Submit a portfolio that substantiates specific levels of volume achieved in land sales or in providing real estate services related to land.
  • Submit a professional resume that demonstrates a minimum of two years of experience in land sales or brokerage or a minimum of three years of comparable real estate experience in auction, appraisal, leasing, development, farm management, consulting, brokerage management, or related services in land.
  • Submit a short essay on why you would like to become an Accredited Land Consultant.
  • Submit at least two letters of recommendation from current Accredited Land Consultants, one of which must be from an ALC within the applicant’s local market.
  • Successfully complete a comprehensive online final ALC Exam that covers the core components of the LANDU curriculum.

5. Certified International Property Specialist

Certified International Property Specialist

Best for: Real estate professionals looking to globalize their business

The Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) designation helps real estate professionals assist American property buyers looking to purchase abroad and foreign nationals interested in purchasing property in the United States.

Foreign property investment is booming — in 2023, 13% of residential properties in the US were purchased by Chinese buyers.

Foreign property investment is booming. 13% of residential properties in the US were purchased by Chinese buyers.

It provides designees with the insight, research, know-how, and resources to globalize their efforts. Members can also connect with a network of over 3,500 fellow designees within 45 countries. Having this distinction lets prospects know you’re among the best and most trusted resources for navigating the global real estate market.

Pros

  • Invitations to NAR exclusive events: A CIPS designation entitles agents to exclusive invitations to NAR events, providing further networking and learning opportunities.
  • Subscription to insightful global perspectives: Members receive the “Global Perspectives” print newsletter, which provides valuable insights and updates on the international property market.
  • Specialized marketing tools: The CIPS program offers professionals marketing tools tailored to the international property market.

Cons

  • NAR membership dues: Agents who wish to earn and keep the CIPS designation must continue to pay NAR dues.
  • Time constraint on application: Agents have three years to complete their CIPS courses and submit their designation application, which may put pressure on some professionals.

How to earn it:

  • Complete two core courses in local markets and transaction tools.
  • Complete three elective courses.
  • Be a member in good standing of the NAR.
  • Pass an online exam with a score of 80% or better.
  • Submit a CIPS application form.
  • Pay course fees, an application fee, and annual dues.

6. Certified Property Manager

Certified Property Manager designation

Best for: Experienced property managers looking to maximize the value of their properties

Certified Property Managers (CPMs) are experts in real estate management. It teaches people how to manage properties, handle money, work with people, and understand laws and maintenance. This training helps them take care of different kinds of properties, like homes or businesses, in the best way.

According to the NAR, 70% of professionals who hold this designation hold the highest management positions in their offices. The CPM designation also boosts your earning potential. The average base property manager salary in the U.S. is $48,340. For CPMs, the average is $118,383.

Pros

  • Valuable subscription: Members receive a subscription to “Journal of Property Management,” which keeps them informed on industry trends.
  • Leadership opportunities: CPM designees are eligible for leadership roles both at the national and chapter levels of IREM.
  • Scholarship access: CPM members have access to the IREM Foundation Scholarship Program, which offers financial assistance for further education and training.

Cons

  • High costs: The CPM designation requires a substantial financial commitment of $7,500 to $8,500. Maintaining the designation costs $495 annually.
  • Experience requirement: Candidates must possess 36 months of specific real estate management experience to qualify for the CPM designation

How to earn it:

  • Complete seven required courses.
  • Have at least 36 months of qualifying real estate management experience as defined by IREM.
  • Acquire three professional reference letters.
  • Fulfill a one-year candidacy period by being a CPM Candidate Member, ARM Member, or ACoM member in good standing for the 12 months before CPM approval.
  • Be a member in good standing of NAR.
  • Hold a real estate license or verify that you’re not required to hold one for your current position.
  • Attend two IREM chapter meetings or events during the 12 months immediately before CPM approval.
  • Be interviewed and approved by your IREM chapter.
  • Complete the Ethics for the Real Estate Manager course.
  • Pledge to uphold the IREM Code of Professional Ethics.
  • ​​Pass the CPM certification exam.
  • Pass a management plan on either an actual property or a skills assessment.

7. Certified Residential Specialist

Certified Residential SpecialistBest for Residential Sales Agents, Managers, and Brokers

The Certified Residential Specialist is the most prestigious credential residential sales agents, managers, and brokers can attain.

Here’s how much the residential property market is expected to grow by:

residential real estate market size

It’s a good time to jump in. The designation strengthens any residential real estate professional’s resume while providing them with access to a robust and active network of residential specialists. The average REALTOR serving as a sales agent makes $49,700 annually. In contrast, CRS designees make $127,000.

The designation covers advanced topics in property marketing, client relations, and transaction management in residential real estate. The course focuses on mastering negotiation techniques, understanding market trends, and using technology in residential sales.

Pros

  • Educational discounts: Discounts of up to 50% on most education offered by the Residential Real Estate Council (RRC). This makes continuous learning more accessible.
  • Referral network: Holding a CRS title grants professionals exclusive access to the Council’s referral network, a valuable resource to expand business outreach and collaborate with other renowned specialists in the field.
  • Marketing opportunities: A listing in the Council’s online and print directories and professionally branded materials — like customizable sign riders, fact sheets, business cards — and other recognition and resources.

Cons

  • Exclusive education source: Professionals pursuing relevant education elsewhere can’t earn the CRS designation without fulfilling all educational requirements through RRC. The designation doesn’t accept outside credits or courses.
  • Experience and production requirements: The CRS designation demands specific criteria concerning years of experience and transaction volume. Meeting these prerequisites can be challenging, especially for newer professionals or those in markets with slower transaction rates.

How to earn it:

You can take one of two paths to earn the CRS designation — the 60/30/30 Program or the Pro Program.

60/30/30 Program
  • Have 60 transactions or $30 million in volume in the past five years.
  • Complete 30 Hours of RRC education.
  • Be a member in good standing of the Residential Real Estate Council.
  • Be a member in good standing of the National Association of Realtors.
  • ​​Complete two hours of continued education every calendar year.
  • Pay annual dues.
Pro Program
  • Have 10 or more years as a licensed real estate agent.
  • Have 150 transactions total or an average of $1 million per year with at least 40 transactions.
  • Complete 16 Credits of RRC education.
  • Be a member in good standing of the Residential Real Estate Council.
  • Be a member in good standing of the National Association of Realtors.
  • ​​Complete two hours of continued education every calendar year.
  • Pay annual dues.

8. Seller Representative Specialist

seller representative specialist designation

Best for Real Estate Professionals Who Represent Sellers’ Interests

The Seller Representative Specialist designation is a high-profile credential for real estate professionals who represent sellers and their financial interests in real estate transactions. It provides an opportunity for seller representatives to refine and project their skill sets.

The designation gives designees a solid foundation to better represent the interests of sellers through thorough training, a wide range of resources, networking opportunities, and ongoing support.

Through the program, Seller Representative Specialists learn to apply a code of ethics, comply with state and federal laws while representing sellers, communicating value to sellers, and several other key responsibilities seller representatives need to have a grip on.

Pros

  • Elite membership: Earning the SRS designation places professionals among an exclusive group of trained seller client advocates. The spotlight improves their standing in the industry.
  • Rich educational resources: SRS members have a treasure trove of exclusive education, resources, and services at their disposal.
  • Increased visibility and referral opportunities: The “Find An SRS” Online Directory not only allows the public to easily locate SRS members but also facilitates direct member-to-member referrals.

Cons

  • Maintenance and renewal: SRS may require periodic renewals and continued education, potentially incurring additional fees.
  • Over-reliance on digital platforms: Less tech-savvy professionals might find it challenging to engage with the SRS community and leverage all the benefits.

How to earn it:

  • Complete the SRS course, either online or in a classroom.
  • Complete one of the SRS elective courses.
  • Be a member in good standing with the National Association of Realtors.
  • Be a member in good standing with SRS.
  • Have documentation of three completed transactions in which you acted solely as a seller representative.
  • Submit the designation application.
  • Pay annual dues.

Earning a real estate designation can be extremely labor-intensive and exhausting — some of the ones listed here can even take years to land. Still, having one behind you can bolster your reputation, enhance your professional network, fast-track your professional development, and ultimately make your business more lucrative.

If you’re willing to put in the time and effort for those benefits, exploring one of the designations listed here might be in your best interest.

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