The Value of Continuing Education in CRE

September 19, 2022 | By: Patrick M. Freeman, RPA, SMA, CPM, CCIM, LEED AP, BOMI-HP, BOMA Fellow

Why Education?

Dollars. But more about that later.

Education is essential and strategic. And all the other words like that. It is a tool that exponentially leverages your abilities to work quickly, accurately, profitably, easily, and happily, and then go home and play with your dog. Or cat.

Have you ever purchased something you were excited about, had it delivered, realized there was “some assembly required” but discovered that the instructions were missing? After wrangling through putting it together without the benefit of the instructions, and having several pieces left over (and discovering it doesn’t work) you find the instructions hidden under a flap in a corner of the box. What was unclear is suddenly obvious. Fulfilling our responsibilities without taking advantage of educational opportunities is like constructing something without instructions – the results are poor, it’s frustrating, you’ve wasted time and money, and your co-workers (and bosses) aren’t helped (or impressed) by the outcome.

Research for a thesis at Georgia Tech revealed a number of insights around the value of continuing education for people in the commercial real estate industry. There were over 200 participants in the research, and 78-percent of the respondents had participated in seminars of various sorts. 73-percent had taken advantage of opportunities to benefit from corporate training. 71-percent held a four-year degree, 24-percent had achieved master’s degrees, and 40-percent held various designations and certifications. Just under 15-percent self-identified as owners, asset managers, or senior management.

The research probed in a large number of areas, and respondents had opportunity to weigh in in great detail on the topic. In summary, here are some of the more material findings of the research, and they are worth considering:

  1. There is a clear return on investment on the dollars, time, and energy necessary to pursue education, i.e., you get more out of it than it takes in those three areas to obtain it. This conclusion was held by all categories of CRE respondents, regardless of level/position. In other words, education is worth it.
  2. Education is good for the profitability of an employee’s firm because it enhances the skills sets of its employees. For the individual, the research confirmed that it is also good for the personal profitability of the employee, i.e., dollars in pockets. Importantly, it also enhances the chances of an individual being hired by an employer and once hired, being promoted.
  3. Jumping to 30,000 feet, and in broad brush terms, and as the graphic below reflects, respondents indicated that learning facilitates success, and more specifically that learning is a greater contributor to success than an individual’s preexisting, inherent traits. Put another way, no matter how naturally gifted you are, education will take you further.

Let’ unpack this a bit more. To be sure, there are individuals with inherent skills that can do a good job without the additional benefits that come from education, but a key finding of the research was that even those people who are naturally gifted in any of a number of ways and make great leaders, thinkers, innovators, etc. and who may give the impression that they don’t need any sort of “formal” education are better with instruction.

Regardless of where your starting point is, additional learning can enhance what you are able to do and can take you from wherever you are to where you want to be. The only people education won’t help are those who don’t take advantage of it, or those who already know all there is to know. Raise your hand if you fall into the latter camp.

A huge additional benefit to participating in live training is the opportunity for networking that occurs. Classroom training is ideal for this, because you have the benefit of engaging with both the instructors and other participants in a way that not only supports and facilitates learning, but also naturally creates relationships, and moreover, friendships. We are a friendly business and relying on relationships over the course of a career is not an option. It’s essential.

Real Estate Licensure

The Georgia Real Estate Commission requires practitioners to hold an active real estate license, and that requirement has significant implications. There are exceptions, e.g., if you are a property manager or leasing representative who works solely for the owner of the property, then you may be exempt. Generally, however, if you engage in any leasing-related activities you must hold an active license.

The requirements to obtain a license are significant and will involve both time and financial commitments. A second consideration is that the majority of the material you are tested on is related to residential real estate, not commercial real estate. In addition, you must complete at least 36 hours of approved continuing education course work during each four-year renewal period to meet the continuing education requirements. For the best information on these requirements, see Fortunately, your local BOMA offers many courses that qualify for these continuing education credits.

CRE Educational Opportunities

So, what options exist in support of enhancing the success of you and your teammates and your firm? The following list is not comprehensive but does cover many of the primary opportunities. A disclaimer: it is important to note that all courses are under constant evaluation, both in terms of content and modes of delivery, so the best source for investigating any of these programs is directly with the developer/host.

Your local BOMA provides a robust curriculum serving its entire membership, including engineering, allied, and property management professionals.

My local BOMA hosts the following courses:

  • BOMI offers the RPA (Real Property Administrator) designation, which is a great overview of all of the multidisciplinary facets of property management and is a very good way for someone starting out in the business to get excellent exposure to what is involved.
  • BOMI’s SMA (System Maintenance Administrator) designation is a great option not only for the engineering community, but also for property and facility managers because it provides an opportunity to get a functional handle on the physical side of our business, i.e., what is above the ceiling and behind the walls.
  • BOMI’s FMA (Facility Management Administrator) focuses on the facility disciplines involved with successfully managing an asset for an occupant owner.
  • BOMI’s BOMI-HP (High Performance) designation, a three-course designation that outlines how to achieve a return on investment in various sustainable initiatives.

IREM’s CPM (Institute of Real Estate Management’s Certified Property Manager – program is a financially focused designation that provides an overview of the multidisciplinary aspects before really diving into time value of money concepts. It does a great job of enabling the student to understand the property as an asset and taking the student through some very practical applications of financial analysis.

CCIM Institute’s CCIM (Certified Commercial Investment Member – designation is not designed to cover operational components, and addresses much of the same territory that IREM’s CPM does, but extends the process even further to give the student a broader overview of the implications of the fiscal management of an asset/investment.

Again, the above listing of programs is not comprehensive, but is representative of many of the opportunities that can be strategic in the success of your firm and your career. I hope you will make plans to pursue them!


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