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How to Become a Real Estate Agent

For anyone who appreciates architecture, beautiful properties, and seeing others living their dreams, being a real estate agent is a great career to shoot for. Real estate agents are the people you contact when you are wanting to buy or sell a home. They are responsible for making arrangements to buy, sell, or rent properties like houses and land.

While real estate agents often work in a firm, it is very common for them to run their own small businesses. This allows for job flexibility because they are essentially their own bosses. Becoming a real estate agent by following the steps below is a great opportunity for many people.

How to Become a Real Estate Agent: A Step by Step Guide

Step 1: Research Your State’s Minimum Requirements

The first step to becoming a real estate agent is to research your state’s minimum requirements and be sure you meet them. Most states require you to be a certain age and have completed certain education requirements, like a high school diploma or GED. Most states will also require you to complete a background check and report any criminal history.

If you meet these requirements, you will then want to look into the application process and any fees involved in submitting one. You will also want to check and see what pre-licensing courses and exams are required, how to become eligible for them, if there are any post-licensing requirements, and how to achieve the next level of licensing. After completing your extensive research, you should have an idea of how much everything will cost and what requirements you need to meet to proceed.

Step 2: Take Pre-Licensing Education Courses

Every state requires you to complete some pre-licensing courses. In some states, you only need to finish 40 hours of classes, while in others that number is well above 100. It all depends on where you live. These classes are often offered by the state, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to enroll. Many places offer them online, through places like Kaplan Real Estate Education, or you can try enrolling in person at your local community college or even at some real estate brokerages.

For low-cost options, many community colleges offer both online and on-campus courses for you to choose from, though there may be better options in your area. Be sure to enroll in the classes that will be easiest for you to learn in. If you enroll in online courses but learn better in-person, you aren’t going to have a good time learning and it may impact your ability to pass the licensing exam.

Step 3: Take (and Pass) the Licensing Exam

The process of signing up for the licensing exam differs for every state, but the instructors of your pre-licensing courses should be able to help you through the process. If not, you can always go to your state’s real estate commission website to find information there. Either way, getting signed up for the licensing exam should be a relatively easy and painless process.

The exam itself consists of two parts that are scored separately. One part is based on national standards, testing your knowledge of general real estate principles and laws. The other part is based on your state’s specific laws and standards. Both parts are in multiple-choice format and you must pass both of them to receive your license. If you pass one and fail the other, you will need to retake the exam.

Every state has their own policies surrounding exam retakes. There are different rules about how many times you can retake it, how long you must wait between tries, and the deadline by which you have to submit retakes.

Once you have passed your exam, you will need to submit an application along with any other required documents and fees to your state’s real estate agency. They will then mail you your license certificate and you will be listed as a licensee through the agency. Keep in mind that you must have the physical license certificate before you can begin working as a real estate agent.

Step 4: Decide Between Realtor and Real Estate Agent

People often use the terms realtor and real estate agent interchangeably, but they are actually different jobs. While they both do the same job, realtors have to be members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The NAR has a very strict code of ethics that realtors must follow. Realtors also have access to a plethora of benefits unavailable to real estate agents, like business tools and real estate market data and research.

By becoming a NAR member, you add a lot more credibility to your name as a real estate agent, though it is not necessary. Many real estate agents do just fine without becoming realtors. It does take a little extra work to become a registered realtor, though if you want the benefits, it may be worth it.

Step 5: Work at a Licensed Brokerage

While running your own real estate firm may be your dream, you will first need to work for a licensed brokerage. In fact, most states require you to work under a licensed brokerage for a certain period of time to gain experience before trying to start your own firm. This is a good way to get a feel for the job and figure out how you want to run your own firm.

Most brokerages will hire you to work as part of a team, but some allow you to work independently. Both options have their benefits. As part of a team, you are able to learn from more experienced workers who have a lot of advice for new agents; working independently allows you to figure out your own style and way of doing things. Either way, you are likely to be paid a percentage of commission rather than a salary.

After gaining experience at a licensed brokerage, you will have the option to either continue working under them or spread your wings and start your own firm. Both choices are great options, and it is up to you to decide which is best for you. If you plan to start your own firm, you will need to save up the funds to run it.

Step 6: Know Your Market (and Keep Learning)

Perhaps the most important step to becoming a real estate agent is knowing the market you are working in and continuing to learn about it. While this isn’t technically required to be a real estate agent, it is a skill that will separate you from other agents. Being a good real estate agent requires this knowledge.

As you likely know, the markets for housing, land, and corporate space change all the time. If you can keep up to date on these changes and even learn to predict them, you will immediately become a go-to agent in your area.

Becoming a real estate agent is an awesome career choice and it requires very little work compared to other careers. This is a common field for self-employment, so if that’s what you are looking for, you are covered here. As long as you meet your state’s requirements, completing the courses and earning a license should be relatively easy, and much quicker than earning a college degree.


How long does it take to become a real estate agent?
On average, it only takes around four to six months to become a real estate agent. This varies depending on your state and the required pre-licensing courses.
Is it hard to become a real estate agent?
For some people, becoming a real estate agent can be difficult, but as long as you have the motivation and drive for it, this can be a fairly simple career to start. You have to put a lot of work into earning your license, but once you have it, employment isn’t hard to find.
How much do real estate agents earn?
The average annual salary of a real estate agent is around $46,000, but this number varies greatly. Real estate agents earn anywhere between $23,000 and $110,000 per year.
Do real estate agents need college degrees?
While some of the pre-licensing courses required can be completed through a college, real estate agents do not need to earn college degrees. They simply need to take a few courses and an exam. However, some real estate agents like to earn a college degree in law or marketing to build their skillset.
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