How to Become a Real Estate Agent in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a real estate agent. Learn about education requirements, finding employment and the real estate license exam to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Real Estate degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Real Estate Agent?

In a nutshell, real estate agents are licensed, commission-based professionals who guide prospective sellers and buyers in the sale of property, such as houses or land. In order to do this efficiently, they must solicit customers, promote properties and compare properties in regard to location, individual features and market value. They also act as the representative of either the buyer or the seller in negotiations between the two.

The following chart gives an overview of a career in real estate.

Education Required Pre-licensing real estate courses
Key Responsibilities Buy and sell houses for clients, prepare lists of comparable properties to determine market value, show properties, negotiate terms between buyers and sellers
Licensure Required
Job Growth (2014-2024) 3% (slower than average)*
Median Salary (May 2015) $43,370*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Step 1: Meet Education Requirements

A high school diploma or GED is required to apply for a real estate license in all states. Most states require applicants to be 18 years or older, while some require a minimum age of 21. Some states require aspiring agents to complete pre-licensing courses or programs. These programs can be found online or through a vocational, technical or community college, local real estate association or university. State laws vary on the number of required hours, but most programs typically offer 30-90 classroom hours of pre-licensing study. Those who have completed a bachelor's degree in a related field may be able to have the pre-licensing course requirements waived.

Step 2: Find Employment

In order to sit for the real estate sales agent licensing exam in some states, you must be sponsored by a licensed broker. Working as a sales assistant in a real estate firm may help you gain experience and establish a sponsor. Even if your state does not require that you establish sponsorship before taking the exam, you will need it in order to work as a licensed real estate agent.

Step 3: Take the Real Estate License Exam

Preparation for licensing exams may involve studying for a significant amount of time prior to scheduling the exam. Some states offer multiple chances to pass the exam within a year. You'll need your transcripts, exam fee and registration form to apply to take the exam. Your state's real estate commission can offer specific instructions on test requirements.

Step 4: Apply for a Real Estate License

Applying for a real estate license may only be done after passing the written state exam. You'll need to pay a license fee, complete a state application, and show your transcripts, sponsor card and proof of a passing the licensing examination when you apply.

Step 5: Keep Your License Current

In most states, you'll need to renew your license on a regular basis. Most states' renewal periods are between 2-4 years. Continuing education courses are often required for license renewal.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Insurance agents generally help individuals and businesses cope when confronted with some of the expenses incurred from accidents and other unforeseen events. They advise and guide a client in the purchase of one or more types of insurance policies as they might apply to that individual's situation. They explain the nature of the policies to the buyer so that he or she can make the appropriate decision, taking all factors into consideration.

In addition to insurance, individuals and/or businesses often discover that they need to advertise themselves. An advertising sales agent advises prospective clients about advertising space and/or time available and presents them with the options available to purchase that space or time. They may create and show advertising campaigns for customers to effectively and attractively introduce and represent the client to the target audience. Advertising agents often must meet quotas, so the job can be somewhat high-pressured.

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