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Recognized annually in the month of November, REALTOR® Designation Awareness Month was established to encourage members of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) to start or complete an officially endorsed designation or certification through NAR or one of its Institutes, Societies and Councils.

Underscoring the importance education plays in a real estate professional’s career, NAR is dedicated to helping REALTORS® enhance their professional skills in order to stay ahead of the competition—day-in and day-out.

Drilling down even further, it’s the dedication of individuals such as Candy Cooke, president and owner of Real Property Counselors, Inc. in Buchanan Dam, Texas, who have committed to giving back to the industry through teaching designation/certification courses that truly highlights the importance of continuing education year-round.

“When I started teaching about eight-and-a-half years ago, I only had one designation,” says Cooke. “Today, I have 24.”

A continuing education enthusiast, Cooke’s passion for training new agents runs deep.

“I realized I was unhappy with the education out there, and I felt like it was my turn to give back,” says Cooke, who’s been involved in various aspects of the real estate industry for the past 33 years.

“Not only do I love giving back to the industry, but I also enjoy helping new agents understand how important it is to have more education.”

But with so many designations/certifications to choose from, it’s not always easy to determine where to begin.

For Cooke, NAR’s Graduate, REALTOR® Institute (GRI) designation provides the perfect starting point for real estate professionals. Next on her list is the Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®) designation, as it gets people in the habit of taking care of their clients appropriately. “It’s also important to note that the certifications that go along with the designations have awesome information.”

GRI and ABR® designations aside, keeping up with one’s education is all about picking the courses that will help them the most. “As real estate professionals pursue continuing education, it’s critical that they pick courses that are pertinent to what their field is, or what it is they want to go into. It’s also important to choose instructors that teach in a way you can learn,” says Cooke, who is in the classroom five days a week.

“It’s so much fun to get in the classroom and really dig down into the content and get everyone excited about using the knowledge I’m imparting,” explains Cooke.

While REALTOR® Designation Awareness Month comes and goes each year, committing to continued education never goes out of style.

“Our Code of Ethics requires us to be competent,” concludes Cooke. “Taking designation and certification education courses allows you to network with other professionals and get the real estate information you need to protect your clients, while at the same time reducing your risk and liability.”

During the month of November, all online NAR designation and certification courses are 20 percent off at onlinelearning.realtor.

For more information, please visit realtor.org/education.