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Designation Accumulation Is Only Part of
the Equation

August 14, 2022

While in college, I had very little knowledge of the appraisal industry.


Good fortune awarded me a chance to learn about the industry after years of avoiding the traditional path towards corporate America that many of my classmates were pursuing.


Subconsciously, I presume, I knew my personality and skillset were not compatible with a traditional corporate structure. 

While I graduated with three business majors in college (Real Estate, Finance, Accounting), my first post-graduate job was a data entry position at a regional appraisal firm in Harrisburg, PA.

The initial job duties and associated pay were humbling but I quickly identified the opportunities in a career that is criminally concealed – especially to undergraduates.

The MAI Designation – administered by the Appraisal Institute – was quickly identified as a distinguishing factor for quality of assignment as well as professional fees relative to the certified general licensee. That is, the MAI-designated appraiser typically attracts better work and higher fees.


As an exponent to these general benefits, there were only about 20 MAI-designated appraiser (22 today) within 50 miles of Harrisburg.

The following are benefits that I’ve realized since obtaining the MAI designation:


  • PhD level knowledge of real estate and what creates value

  • Critical thinking skills that transcend the appraisal industry

  • Confidence to communicate with experienced professionals about complex issues

  • Respect from colleagues and an ability to get into rooms with decision makers

  • More diverse assignments

  • Able to get appraisal assignments that require an MAI-designated appraiser (lenders and lawyers generally prefer MAI-designated appraisers)

  • Enhanced overall perception of credibility from clients and prospective clients


While developing my professional skills by pursuing the MAI Designation, I realized there were additional opportunities to set myself apart.


Enter the CCIM Designation.

The CCIM Designation is administered by the CCIM Institute which is a division of the National Association of REALTORS (NAR). For all intents and purposes, it is the NAR commercial education and networking arm for practicing agents and affiliates.


Today, fewer than 10 percent of commercial real estate investors and advisers currently wear the CCIM pin, making them the go-to experts in their respective markets.

The CCIM curriculum has a focus on real world experience and case studies whereas the MAI Designation is justifiably focused more on theory – given that value itself is a philosophical concept.


The real-world perspective from courses taught by active and practicing REALTORS fills what I believe is a gaping hole in the skillset of a practicing appraiser. Being so wrapped up in theory can remove the practicing appraiser from what market participants are actually experiencing in a given market at any given point in time. Modeling market behavior is the exact objective of an appraiser which is why understanding the decision-making calculus of buyers and sellers – the focus of the CCIM curriculum – is so important.

While the general certified and MAI curriculum provide valuable and well-taught courses on how to value an income-generating property, the CCIM curriculum has an exclusive focus on it.

The following are benefits that I’ve realized since obtaining the CCIM designation:


  • Specialty in understanding income-producing property

  • Perspective that many transactions occur due to tax ramifications

  • Perspective that every investment decision is based on specific criteria unique to individuals or entities (MAI = market value & CCIM = investment value)

  • Referral network of CCIM professionals for appraisal work 

  • Network of companies offering unique employment opportunities should my career path change

  • Consistent exposure to top-tier practicing commercial agents to keep pulse of the market

  • Enhanced overall perception of credibility from clients and prospective clients

  • Confidence to communicate with experienced professionals about complex issues

  • Site-to-do-business is a free resource for CCIM members. Site To Do Business is an online resource providing analytical information for Commercial Real Estate Professionals to include demographic reports and maps, thematic mapping, traffic counts, retail market potential, tapestry segmentation, consumer spending, business list data, flood source data, pictometry imagery, national geographic topo, satellite imagery, map presentations, comparison reports, and more.


It should be explicitly mentioned here that the designations – or combination of designations – do not have limited application to appraisal or brokerage, respectively.

Each are recognized as valuable assets to practitioners in any of the following fields:


  • Investors and investment counselors

  • Asset managers

  • Brokers

  • Appraisers

  • Corporate real estate executives

  • Property managers

  • Developers

  • Institutional investors

  • Commercial lenders

  • Portfolio managers (loan servicing)

  • Attorneys

  • Bankers


In conclusion, there is hardly ever a time where more education is not beneficial; however, each person must consider the cost-benefit analysis of pursuing each or both destinations.


My experience has been that the financial cost of obtaining them is well worth it and I estimate that the payback period is less than 2 years for each.

The opportunity cost of time and effort is essentially impossible to quantify and will vary for each person. Understandably, this cost typically increases with age which is why I’d recommend pursuing these designations at a younger age where the candidate has less life responsibility.

I’ve found each designation to provide unique and rewarding benefits to my career and each have catapulted me to a place I did not necessarily expect to be at my age.

However, neither of these designations mean anything without hard work and dedication.


The benefits of each are supplemented by networking and a consistent drive to solve problems. In my opinion, curiosity and problem-solving skills are the characteristics most correlated with financial success in these industries – neither of which can be obtained via the MAI or CCIM curriculum.


However, the coursework for each require development of critical-thinking skills which wield the practicing professional with unique perspective and ability relative to the vast majority of industry competition, thus consciously or unconsciously provoking curiosity and problem solving in required situations. 

In conclusion, financial success is simply the byproduct of the value you add and the problems you solve for other people. These designations enhance ones ability to solve difficult problems.

I give credit to my hard work to get to where I’m at but acknowledge the significant role each designation has played in my growth.

Please reach out if either of these designations are of interest to you!

 Michael J. Rohm, MAI, CCIM, R/W-AC, is a fee appraiser and real estate agent working throughout Pennsylvania.

He is president and owner of Commonwealth Commercial Appraisal Group and is director of valuation advisory and senior associate with Landmark Commercial Realty. Contact him at

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