Industry Certifications & Designations
A "certification" is something that has to do with a specific set of skills that professionals learn, skills that are usable across a variety of different real estate specialties. For instance, there is a relatively new certification program called "e-PRO" that teaches sales associates some of the finer points of using technology and the Internet to market themselves. Since e-PRO training can be used across a broad spectrum of real estate disciplines - as usable in working with buyers as it is in working with sellers, or in commercial real estate as well as residential - it is considered a "certification" course.
A "designation," on the other hand, usually involves specific training for a specific discipline. For instance, there is such a thing as an "Accredited Buyer Representative" (ABR) that helps brokers and agents work on problems unique to residential home buyers. Most of the skills learned are best put to use on the buyer side of the transaction.
One other thing: There are no certification/designation police. You may find yourself involved with people who have "certifications" that sound more like "designations" and vice versa. Also, some people will continue to put course initials on their business cards long after their designation has expired. Either they saw no need to take the initials off the card, or they didn't want to go the expense of getting new cards reprinted.