Thanks, everyone- lots of good thoughts.
To me the takeaway message is this: before we can start to improve our image to the public, we have to reach a consensus about what WE feel it means to be a professional. That would start to address Karen's last paragraph.
I agree with Debbie that volume isn't the right standard.
I also feel that New Jersey's continuing education requirement of 12 hours in 2 years isn't anywhere near enough, especially when you don't have to take any kind of quiz or exam. Sitting through the ethics course is a good idea in theory, but in practice?
A requirement for a college degree is worth considering, as long as you could also find a fair way to grandfather experienced agents who don't have the degree. Mack, I agree with your comment about teachers.
I still think promoting the GRI should be part of the solution. IMHO, all of the other designations (ABR, SRES, etc.) are too easy to get, confuse the public even more, and are just another source of revenue for the folks who promote them.
Before becoming a Realtor I was a hospital administrator, so I'm comfortable with the idea of having to demonstrate competency by taking an exam (the public doesn't know what the FACHE certification means, but all hospital administrators do). The trend in health care is periodic re-certification, so I can see the day when there will be additional requirements in order to maintain the GRI designation.
Deirdre, you should investigate the GRI through the California Association of Realtors http://www.car.org/education/designations/gridescription/.
Once you achieve it there's no annual renewal fee, and you can re-take any of the individual courses at no charge in the future as regulations and practices change.
Thanks again for giving this some serious thought.