Thinking about getting a professional certification such as CCIM (Certified Commercial Investment Member) or SIOR (Society of Industrial and Office Realtors)? The CCIM website boasts that members on average “earn 79% more than non-affiliated professionals, according to a 2009 National Association of REALTORS® Commercial Member Profile.” SIOR, meanwhile, has only 2,800 practitioners that hold the designation worldwide.
These certifications can seriously boost your career through networking, expertise and credibility—but they’re not easy to come by. There are a variety of factors you should consider before determining whether these business commitments are right for you.
You should think of professional certifications the same way you think of other academic honors and degrees: these things take time to achieve. Like most organizations, many commercial real estate programs require you to take annual education courses, complete a portfolio and study for a comprehensive exam.
The CCIM designation requires completing four core courses, an online ethics course and eight hours of negotiations training. The course formats are flexible (options include classroom, online instructor-led, online self-paced and blended learning), but no matter which format you choose, it won’t be something you can complete in a week or even a month. Keep in mind, you must also submit a portfolio with a minimum of two years full-time experience in commercial real estate.
The SIOR designation has even more stringent requirements. Members must have a minimum of five years documented industry experience, and you must also have endorsements from two active individual members in your Chapter.
Beyond that, SIOR applicants must meet a minimum production level per year as measured by Gross Fee Income (GFI). And like the CCIM designation, SIOR membership also has educational requirements. (If you’re a CCIM who is interested in also applying for SIOR designation, note that some of the CCIM coursework may qualify for SIOR elective course credit.)
Regardless of which one you’re thinking of applying for, you should carefully review all the requirements before paying an application fee. Figure out approximately how much time each one will take before jumping in.
Professional certifications aren’t cheap. The membership dues, study materials, test fees and ticketed networking events can add up.
CCIM annual candidacy and designation fees were $595 in 2014, but that doesn’t include courses if you’re applying for the first time. Individual courses can run over $1,000.
SIOR’s annual dues are higher at $1,295, along with a $175 application fee and $725 one-time initiation fee.
Many companies and senior managing brokers may be willing to sponsor your certification or candidacy, so be sure to check with them before applying. Even if your company will not cover the entire cost of certification, you should run your own calculations to see if the benefits affiliated with that organization would pay for itself in the long run through the connections you make and the doors it opens.
These certifications and designations are meant to elevate your status among your peers and potential clientele. As such, they require dedicated attention in order to learn advanced skills, facts and subject matter well beyond commercial real estate basics.
Before enrolling in a certification program, ask yourself, “Am I ready to buckle down and study the way I did in school?” Discipline will be your best friend, especially if you’re doing any self-paced online courses. If you a prefer a more hands-on environment, check out the CCIM and SIOR websites for instructor-led courses in your city.
Take all these factors into account when you’re deciding whether (and which) professional designations are the best for you. While these are serious factors that should be considered, the benefits of aligning yourself with best-in-the-business organizations should also carry some weight. You’ll gain credibility and industry prestige, be able to network with the industry’s best, and ultimately generate more deals. It’s up to you to decide whether it’s a fit for you at this time in your commercial real estate career.