Death by designation – or – if there are more initials after your name than IN your name you may be a “designation junkie”

By
Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605

So, I know I'll get slammed for some of this.  But  I think some of these designations are out of control. They also appear to be regarded as meaningless by the public.

Ok – so by the  criteria in my title I could declare more designations than most – since my name is relatively long.  But recently I ran into an agent that had the following designations on her card ….”Sally Smith, ABR, GRI, CDPE, CRS, & EPro.”  Ya gotta be kidding me!  This person has more designation letters then letters in their name.  It must be exhausting to write all that after your name!

Personally, I have a problem with designations simply because the testing required doesn’t have any teeth to show that the agent actually learned something.    Much of the testing is open book – and sustaining the designation involves paying your way and has nothing to do with learning new skills.

Agents have always wanted to look upon themselves as “professionals.”  Often likening themselves to doctors and lawyers and other high-paying professions.  A truly skilled agent is indeed worth a great deal.  However, how can our “value” be disseminated by the public when “qualifications” are shrouded in a blizzard of inexplicable letters?

Those other professionals that we often choose to intone in the same breath with our own  actually utilize degree granting institutions to confer professional or academic degrees upon their candidates.   Wow!  What a concept!  They actually expect the candidate to earn a degree that requires a some amount of academic rigor.   Maintaining the degree does not involve a fee. Another unique concept!  It may seem strange but my alma mater has not threatened to take away my doctorate just because I didn’t contribute the the alumni association. Once conferred, most  degrees actually stay with the candidate. Again – a unique concept.

Its also interesting that most professionals that go through extensive  courses of study don’t put every single degree they ever earned at the end of their name.  Had I splattered my degrees after my name the way some agents display their designations, it would have turned signing my name a massive ordeal.  It would also have looked absurd.   Somehow, I can’t imagine calling myself Dr. Ruthmarie G. Hicks, B.A., M.A., M.S., Ph.D. At least not while keep a straight face.   In all seriousness, who would do this?  Had I put all that gobbledegook  on my professional card, I would have been a laughing stock.

So why do agents persist in this?  Perhaps we are trying too hard to show that we are serious professionals.  But in so doing we actually trivialize  our position and make ourselves look foolish. Wouldn’t actually BEING a serious professional be more effective then leaving a blizzard of initials in our wake?

We need to ask ourselves, does any other profession really do this?  Perhaps if we want to be taken more seriously, we need to rethink what message it sends when throw designations all over the place like they were confetti.  If we don’t, someone will come up with a series of designations that read

Th ISIS ToTaL CraP.

Don’t think it can’t happen.

To Search for Homes and for further information go to my website/blog with free home search at The Westchester View

I am always happy to answer your questions and you can speak to me directly on my moble phone: 914-374-5529.

 

© Ruthmarie G. Hicks, http://thewestchesterview.com.  All rights reserved.

Death by designation – or – if there are more initials after your name than IN your name you may be a “designation junkie”

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Rainmaker
715,933
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY

Hi Mark,

Thanks for the input - I think CRS and GRI are the two most valued of the designations.  Yeah - they don't put you out to pasture if you don't pony up after you earned the doctorate.  THis is why that whole concept of paying to keep what is supposed to be an educational achievement makes no sense to me.  It's also funny that I mentiioned the CDPE prior to reading your comment.  As I said before, the people who need that kind of help are serious trouble and deserve someone who can actually do the job.

Hi Athina,

I wouldn't use my degrees, they aren't relevant at all.  If you have a business or law degree, that's another matter. There are simply too many designations and its become more of a cash cow than it is of true value to the client.

 

Feb 06, 2010 04:59 AM #69
Rainmaker
715,933
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY

Hi Lana,

Now YOU are denegrating.  No, I'm doing quite well, thank you very much - and I'm doing so without spending money on something I don't believe is of true benefit to me or my clients. In fact, I'm probably doing better than many people who have a string of letters tagged onto their name.  I have a business plan and that doesn't include forking out hard-earned money to pay for the privilege of initials that took maybe two days to obtain. There are other things I can spend money on that are of more direct benefit to my buyers and sellers alike. 

The point here is that education itself is being trivialized by this method.  That a two day class in some cases should supposedly give the recipient such and "edge" in knowledge is on its face - absurd.  That you should continually PAY to show the world that you sat in a class for two days is even more absurd.  It devalues true education and when we try to say we are professional and hold this sort of thing up as an example - it doesn't help us - it in fact hurts us.

If we want to be considered "professionals" its time our education reflected what other professions require.

 

Feb 06, 2010 09:32 AM #70
Rainmaker
715,933
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY

Hi Andrew,

Haven't seen you recently - I don't think that having a couple of designations is a problem.  My concern is people who point to it as a sign of true "professional" accreditation. Many push these as evidence of professionalism on the level of a business or law degree.  That simply isn't true.   Certainly using your M.B.A. is very appropriate.  I'd look downright silly using ANY of my degrees.  I use them only when I teach - and then only the one that counts - which is always the highest degree conferred.  I'm going after the one designation that matters in this field BROKER.

 

Hi Sajay,

That's sound advice.

Feb 06, 2010 09:38 AM #71
Rainmaker
715,933
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY

Hi Stephen,

I agree that this can easily be a money cow of gargantuan perportions.  If you want designations - go after one or two the make sense for your business plan. But don't fool yourself into thinking that piling on the initials makes you more professional.  After a while it just looks silly.

 

Hi Karen,
"Implied" is the operative word.   In most educational situations that professionals are engaged do more than imply dedication.  They are geared to increase credentials in a tangible way.

Feb 06, 2010 09:43 AM #72
Rainmaker
715,933
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY

Hi Jenna,

Yes, I hear toes being stepped on...but thats the nature of debate.  I have my own business plan - I'd rather spend the money on my clients!  I am also willing to spend on coaching...but not designations that I don't feel offer enough education and ask you to pay forever.

 

Hi Ann,
I think most of us know what they are - but the public - not so much.  My concern is more about the validity of the courses. DO they actually qualify the agent for what they claim to - CDPE being an example I sighted as being an area far too complex and intricate to really develop true expertise in the limited time frame granted for the "course."

Feb 06, 2010 09:50 AM #73
Rainmaker
715,933
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY

Hi Yolanda,

IF you don't think that this sort of thing doesn't wash off on the entire industry you are dreaming.  "SOME brain cells?" That's part of the problem.  Most are admitting that there is no discrimination between those who truly appied themselves and those who skated through.  That's always true if you have  an almost ZERO failure rate.  That's not professional at all.  Professionals have standards which some can't meet. Passing an academic weeding out process is part of what being professional is. The public generally considers agents overpaid and undereducated. Some of the stuff you see with people adding a string of designations that took a few days to earn as a symptofm of same.

Paying for the designation to continue IS a problem - a big one.  By its nature it shows that the designation is in part being generated in order to keep the money flowing in.

Oh and the "Dr." plus the "Ph.D." was to emphasize the absurdity of it all.

Feb 06, 2010 09:59 AM #74
Rainmaker
715,933
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY

Hi Brian,

I too believe in keeping it as simple as possible. Who needs  to have letterhead cluttered and business cards with an unending stream of letters in it.

Hi Betty & John,

Being selective makes sense.  Define  what you want to do with your business model and select a designation or two -but don't go crazy.

Feb 06, 2010 10:03 AM #75
Rainmaker
715,933
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY

Hi Erica,

You have quite a background.  I think putting selective education on your card makes sense.  It's when people tout their professionalism with a string of designations that I start to shake my head.  I have to ask whether these people understand what it means to have a "real" education from a degree granting institution. I think a lot of people who have not gone the "education route" in college/grad school think its easy, because this is all they know.  A college class is a very different animal from a designation course.

 

Hi Gregory,

THanks for the sanity check.  I never said peope shouldn't take the classes.  What I am saying is pretty much what you said - that as it sits now - that designations are a very poor measure of professionalism. The amount learned from these classes will vary wildly from individual to individual - so using them as measurement of competence is dubious at best.

Feb 06, 2010 10:13 AM #76
Rainmaker
715,933
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY

Hi Miriam,

The statistic isn't that impressive unless a good percentage that do attempt it fail to pass.  Many choose not to take the class becasue it doesn't fit their business plan.  How many people actually fail a designation class?  If the answer is "no one" then it isn't a valid measure.

Feb 06, 2010 10:15 AM #77
Rainmaker
715,933
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY

Hi Eric,

I think its more a matter of what in the way of achievement does the designation measure.  Some designations might be worth having, but personally, when virtually no one ever fails and when you have to pay for the privilege of maintaining the designation - it diultes its meaning to almost nothing. 

True -  alot of instructors can't teach.  We have our share in academe.  One of my most memorable expereinces was having a professor of biology who had such a thick accent, you could only manage to make out ever third or fourth word!  As far as real estate educators are concerned, many of them are televangelists - they gave up that gig and went into real estate because God told them to!

Feb 06, 2010 10:21 AM #78
Rainmaker
345,951
Jenny Kotulak
RE/MAX Real Estate Centre Inc., Brokerage - Oakville, ON
Broker - Oakville Ontario Real Estate

Very thought provoking post.  I popped over after seeing the link on Jon Zolsky's blog post.

Here in my neck of the woods in Ontario, Canada we aren't very big on designations.  I see a few such as SRES for senior real estate specialist, ABR, accredited buyer representative, one for a staging program, (sorry can't remember the letters) and others that are handed out by different real estate companies such as luxury home specialist, etc.

We all have to take 24 continuing education credits every two years in order to renew our registration.  I think there are lots of other ways to show your professionalism to consumers than letters behind your name.

I got my Broker's license and am a past president of our real estate board.  Sitting on committees in your community or with your local or state real estate association is not only a great leadership learning experience but you are also volunteering, networking and not stuffing anyone else's pockets with your hard earned money.

 

 

 

Feb 06, 2010 03:39 PM #79
Rainmaker
885,037
J. Philip Faranda
J. Philip Faranda (J. Philip R.E. LLC) Westchester County NY - Briarcliff Manor, NY
Broker-Owner

I see both sides of this argument. First, education is important and more education, all things being equal, is better than less. Moreover, if I were going to refer my 84 year old mother to someone, it would be to someone who, like Miriam, has a Senior Specialist designation because I think that has value. 

However, I think Ruthmarie's point, that having initials trail an agent's name like a comet is silly, is valid. First, 99% of the public has no idea what the significance of the designations are. Secondly, it could be a tad misleading for someone to have initials after their name just because they passed a 20-hour course when most people probably assume that initials indicate some sort of higher education degree. I recall my mother (who has a masters from Columbia, by the way) reading the promotional material for a college prep tutor who had "MA" after his name and remarking that such a move was absurd. My Mom did have "RN" after her name when it was called for. My father had an MBA from NYU. He never used the letters. Upon occasion, he'd sign his name with "notary public" at the end for a laugh.

I've always thought that the letters following a name should be used sparingly, if at all, unless they are MD or PhD. Note that lawyers, who are JD's, seldom use it. I think the right things to do would be to have the word  "Designations:" on your card and have the letters follow that instead of the name. Then you can go to town with the alphabet soup without exposing yourself to the skeptics among us.  

Feb 06, 2010 04:51 PM #80
Rainmaker
715,933
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY

Hi Again Eric,

t
I think your "motivational speakers that remind me of televngelists"  form of instructor has been part of what I am talking about.   I have had a belly full of that in the last 4 years and I see more of the same in some of the designations.  There were severeal  deisgnations that I was interested in initially - which focussed on what I wanted to offer clients. The first was going to be Epro... Well I looked up  Epro and found out roughly what it "taught" and was horrified.  The second was something on distressed properties.  Distressed sales are hitting our market now (belatedly)   But on those courses I was getting a lot of mixed reviews and what I also got back was that most of it was geared getting clients - not helping them out of the mess they are in.  That's getting the cart before the horse.  I saw comments scattered around that indicated most of these classes were only a couple of days of work.  How much can you learn about HOW to help sellers when the emphasis is lead generating  and the whole thing is only 16 hours long?  Both of these designations should require "updating." Maybe a few hours  every year for distressed properties because handling them is a moving target and a couple of hours of updating for Epro yearly.  These are the examples that I had looked into because I considered them relevent to my market.

Hi Phil,

This is a sensible approach to designations.  Have a couple of them that you feel are worthwhile.  Add to your name where appropriate and avoid the "comet tail" that you mention.  I think designations have become a real money maker for the powers that be and that the original purpose has been lost. In most education in our field lead generating truly trumps customer care and that is a big mistake.

 

 

Feb 07, 2010 04:33 AM #81
Rainmaker
1,004,467
Karen Anne Stone
New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County - Fort Worth, TX
Fort Worth Real Estate

Ruthmarie:  I know several people who have practically an entire can of alphabet soup listed after their name.  To me... it just smacks of some sort of inferiority complex.  Occasionally when met by such a seemingly endless set of "designations"... I just sit and chuckle... wondering if they have ever had the time to actually have a closing.  Great post... I feel the same way, as well.

Feb 11, 2010 05:29 AM #82
Rainmaker
715,933
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY

Hi Karen Anne,

I'm glad to see that AR's "moral compass" is not one of the one's casting stones.   Some now think I am the devil incarnate for this position.  But I feel that this type of thing can make us look very foolish in the eyes of the public....

Feb 11, 2010 03:31 PM #83
Rainmaker
1,004,467
Karen Anne Stone
New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County - Fort Worth, TX
Fort Worth Real Estate

Ruthmarie:  Not sure about that moral compass stuff... but I digress.  In a way, I will edge just a tad closer to a "middle ground" here.  I think that perhaps when an agent with multiple alphabet soup designations might be writing to a group of similar agents... most of whom may also value their own bowl of alphabet soup... that listing the designations after one's name may be fine.

I also think that out of all of them, even though many of them are very worthwhile... that if I had a bunch of them myself, I would only list the CRS.  It is my feeling that the CRS designation may be the most respected.

But... the whole point of MY above comment... is trying to imagine how or what the general public may think when they see an agent's name followed by several ladle's of alphabet soup stuff.  I would guess that the majority of them simply want someone who can treat them fairly, and sell their home for a good price.

It reminds me of the saying... paraphrasing here... "I don't care about how much you "know," I just want to know that you really "care."

By the way... your Tomato Blog is probably the best one I have ever seen... and I have seen quite a few.  I am impressed !

Feb 12, 2010 03:55 AM #84
Rainmaker
715,933
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY

Hi Karen Anne,

I agree that the CRS is the most valuable.  I think that most clients only want someone who is capable of selling a home.  But the alphabet soup that you describe is inexplicable to most and some of these designations are of dubious value.  The ones that take one or two days and are renewed with a fee - are probably not worth  the money and perhaps not the time - although that seems to be minimal.

Feb 12, 2010 02:59 PM #85
Rainer
1,619
Art Ramsey
Seattle, WA

For those with REALTOR designations ...

Did NAR (National Association of Realtors) disclose to you before you took the class that you would need to pay them every year to rent your designation?

Did NAR disclose the additional annual fee when they advertised this class?

Did NAR disclose to you how much the annual renewal fee would be before you took the class?

 We are talking ethics here, are we not? 

No one I know with a designation knew about these extra fees. Why is that?

Why would NAR fail to disclose annual fees, as they advertise these designations? Could it be becuase you would not take their classes?

Please email me with your NAR concerns:        Seattlebroker1@aol.com

Demand your NAR refund today!

Thanks!

Mar 03, 2010 01:20 AM #86
Rainmaker
715,933
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY

It doesn't matter if they disclose it or not. The point is that if it is truly a qualification - some CE should be attached to the yearly fee. That's how MOST educational designations and degrees work.  If not - its just a money cow.  You need look no further then the comments on the thread of agents that said they dropped designations due to the cost to know the fees exist. 

Mar 03, 2010 06:15 AM #87
Rainmaker
1,004,467
Karen Anne Stone
New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County - Fort Worth, TX
Fort Worth Real Estate

Ruthmarie:  I saw this post this morning, and thought you might get a kick out of it.   Houston Realtor Earns 10th Designation - Certified Negotiation Expert .  I can just tell in advance how jealous you're going to be... LOL.

Jul 08, 2010 12:21 AM #88
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