The Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) designation recognizes experts in the commercial and investment real estate industry. Professionals who earn the CCIM designation include appraisers, asset managers, attorneys, bankers, commercial lenders, corporate real estate executives, developers, institutional investors, investment counselors, leasing professionals, property managers, real estate brokers and other industry professionals. More than 15,000 real estate professionals have already earned the CCIM designation, with another 5,500 currently in active pursuit. This article will briefly introduce the CCIM designation, and explain the educational requirements and methods of preparing for the CCIM exam.

See: Find Fortune In Commercial Real Estate

CCIM Designation

Affiliated with the National Association of REALTORS, the CCIM Institute awards the CCIM designation to individuals who have successfully completed a process developed to ensure that awardees are proficient in both the theory and application of commercial and investment real estate practices. CCIM candidates must complete a curriculum that includes "ethics, interest-based negotiation, financial analysis, market analysis, user decision analysis and investment analysis for commercial investment real estate." In addition, candidates must submit a portfolio that demonstrates their commercial real estate experience and complete a comprehensive examination. Candidates can pursue the designation through one of six types of membership:

  • Institute Membership – The most common membership for United States-based professionals.
  • Canada – The Institute equivalent for professionals who live in Canada.
  • International – The Institute equivalent for professionals who live outside of the U.S. or Canada.
  • U.S. Government Discount – For U.S. government employees or those in the military.
  • Fast Track – For professionals who have already earned certain eligible designations (AACI, CLO, CMB, CRF, CPM, CRE, FRI, MAI/SRPA, RPA, or SIOR).
  • University Fast Track For individuals who have graduated from an approved real estate master's program.

Education - Designation Curriculum

Most CCIM candidates, with the exception of those in the University Fast Track program, must complete the designation curriculum which includes the following coursework:

  • CI 101 – Financial Analysis for Commercial Investment Real Estate
  • CI 102 – Market Analysis for Commercial Investment Real Estate
  • CI 103 – User Decision Analysis for Commercial Investment Real Estate
  • CI 104 – Investment Analysis for Commercial Investment Real Estate

Depending on the type of membership, candidates may also be required to complete the following additional coursework:

  • CCIM Online Ethics Course
  • Preparing to Negotiate
  • Electives

Although the CCIM Institute is headquartered in Chicago, Ill., each of the four core classes (CI 101,102,103 and 104) is offered in a classroom setting in a variety of U.S. and international cities. Each classroom course runs from two to five days, typically from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The classes are also offered as an instructor-led online study, self-paced online study and executive course formats, which include a combination of classroom and virtual online sessions. Preparing to Negotiate and the Ethics courses are only available as self-paced online study formats.

To receive course credit, a course examination must be passed with a score of 70% or higher. Examinations are administered on the final afternoon of classroom courses, and are given through the online course site for other course formats. Candidates may retake courses, if necessary, at a reduced rate.

Portfolio of Qualifying Experience

The Portfolio of Qualifying Experience is a standardized method of verifying the quality of a candidate's work as a commercial investment professional. The Portfolio provides documentation that the candidate has completed at least the minimum level of necessary experience that the CCIM Institute requires for the CCIM designation. The Portfolio must include evidence of 10 qualifying activities that total at least $5 million, or 20 qualifying activities regardless of total volume.

Candidates must include the following in the Portfolio:

  • Application,
  • Professional resume of real estate experience,
  • Summary of qualifying activities, transactions, projects or work products,
  • Activity data form for each activity,
  • Detailed explanation of position role and responsibilities,
  • Copies of closing or settlement statements for each activity,
  • At least two proofs of material participation in each activity (such as commission checks or a signed listing agreement with the candidate's name) and a
  • Letter of recommendation from a CCIM chapter representative.

A streamlined Portfolio may be completed by candidates who are from the U.S. or Canada, and who are full-time commercial real estate professionals with five or more years of experience in the commercial real estate industry. Candidates must include the following in the streamlined portfolio:

  • Application.
  • Professional resume of real estate experience.
  • Summary of qualifying activities, transactions, projects or work products.
  • Signed and notarized Affidavit from CFO, CPA or managing broker.
  • Detailed explanation of position role and responsibilities and
  • Three letters of recommendation; one each from a CCIM Designee (who is not related to the candidate and who does not work in the same firm), a client and a local chapter representative.

Comprehensive Examination

The Comprehensive Examination is intended to test a candidate's knowledge of the principal elements from CI 101 – 104. Following completion of the curriculum and approval of the Portfolio of Qualifying Experience, the Examination is the final requirement for earning the CCIM designation. It is a full-day exam offered in multiple cities worldwide, and is immediately preceded by an optional two-day Course Concepts Review.

Exam Preparation

In general, individuals who are interested in earning the CCIM designation are required to:

  • Become a candidate of the CCIM Institute.
  • Successfully complete the designation courses.
  • Earn two elective credits.
  • Submit the Portfolio of Qualifying Experience and
  • Pass the Comprehensive Examination.

After the first four requirements have been met, candidates are eligible to take the six-hour Comprehensive Examination. Successful completion of the curriculum requirements is the most important factor in preparing for the exam. Candidates may also prepare:

  • Taking the Course Concepts Review Prep Program,
  • Taking the Course Concepts Review (CCR) or
  • Joining a study group with a local CCIM chapter.

The optional Course Concepts Review Prep Program is a computer-based tool designed to provide a refresher before candidates take the CCR and the Comprehensive Exam. Candidates may also choose to attend a two-day CCR that is offered immediately prior to the Comprehensive Examination. The CCR is intended to prepare candidates for the exam through concentrated case studies, course review and group interaction, and covers the material that was introduced in CI 101-104. In addition to the Course Concepts Review Prep Program and CCR, many of the CCIM's 57 chapters organize study groups to assist candidates in preparing for the exam.

The Ward Center for Real Estate Studies

CCIM's Ward Center for Real Estate Studies is named after Robert L. Ward, CCIM, who served as CCIM's President in 1978 and who was a CCIM instructor for more than three decades. The Ward Center offers one- and two-day workshops on relevant and current topics in commercial real estate, self-paced online courses and on-demand webinars. The Ward Center's library of web-based seminars is offered free to all CCIM members. Workshops include such topics as "Advanced Negotiation" and "Advanced Market Analysis for Commercial Real Estate." Webinars include topics such as "Reliable Valuations in a Troubled Market" and "Green Building Economics and Valuation: Industry Trends and Feasibility Analysis."

The Bottom Line

Pursuing the prestigious CCIM designation is an investment in terms of time, effort and money. Many industry professionals, however, find the investment has an excellent return on investment. According to the 2009 National Association of REALTORS Commercial Member Profile, CCIM members on average earn 79% more than non-affiliated professionals. In addition to gaining a respected designation, CCIMs also have access to online business services, networking and educational resources available through the CCIM Institute.