Continuing education is essential to maintaining your real estate career, but the high price tag on most certifications and designations can make you wonder if it’s worth it. The National Association of Realtors® offers 25 different designations. Just reading through the descriptions of each one can make you go cross-eyed! How do you decide which ones are most beneficial for you?

This choice can be made much easier by determining your reasons for obtaining a designation: what do you want to get out of it? Taking an honest look at your motivations and expectations will help shine a light on the designations that are truly worth your time and monetary investment.

Continuing education should enhance your career, not just your image.

Continuing education should enhance your career, not just your image.

Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind as you consider continuing education courses:

Don’t do it for the letters

ABR, CRS, GRI…all these acronyms plastered under your name on a business card make an agent look pretty important, huh? Not so much. The truth is, potential clients don’t give a rip about these fancy letters, let alone know what they stand for. Trying to impress clients by adding a few letters to your name will be a futile effort. David Philips from The Real Daily says, “Letters after your name are irrelevant if you do not put into action the ideas, systems, and tools you learn in a designation course. If you do that, then your clients will recognize you as a professional.”

Do it for the referrals

Some designations offer a referral network you can join after you finish the course, making you more visible to people who are looking for a specific kind of expert. If this source of referrals is what you are after, then get after it! For example, NAR’s e-PRO® designation has a “find an e-PRO®” tab that lists all the designation-holders. If another agent is looking to refer a client to an e-PRO® in your area, that could mean a new lead for you! You can learn more about the e-PRO® designation here.

Do it for the application of skills

Educating yourself is always a good idea as long as you actually use the knowledge acquired! Phillips says to ask yourself this: “Will it make me smarter, better, more productive, and/or less dangerous in my area of the marketplace?” If the answer is “yes,” take the course. If it is also in line with a niche market you want to pursue, take the course. Just make sure it is a subject that legitimately interests you and that the skills learned will enhance your productivity.

Don’t postpone your career for it

A fresh, new agent might be tempted to get as much education under his or her belt as possible before jumping into a career, thinking, “there’s no mountain too high” with the right information. In this business, experience and diligence are far more valuable to potential clients and brokers than are certifications. Make sure that whatever continuing education courses you choose can be completed parallel to your career, not in lieu of it.

The biggest takeaway to remember when obtaining real estate designations is this: Simply taking a course will not increase your success; the application of knowledge will. The value of any designation is always going to be what you make it.