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How To Become A Real Estate Agent (State By State Guide)

US Census Bureau statistics from April of 2019 indicate that during the first four months of the year, about 673,000 homes in the US were sold. The same statistics showed that approximately 64.8 percent of people in the US owned a home in the last quarter of 2018.

While people can sell and buy homes on their own, a qualified real estate agent makes the process far simpler and spelled out. With an agent, both the buyer and seller have someone who knows that market and all laws, helping them to navigate the process with ease.

To help people sell their current home and find their dream home, you first need to become a licensed real estate agent. Learning how to become a real estate agent is where you want to start your journey.

There are several steps to this process, and you want to ensure that you complete all of them. This will make sure that you have all of the pertinent knowledge that you need to not only get into the field of real estate, but to succeed in this industry. Here you will learn exactly what it takes to become a real estate agent in the United States.

Breaking Down Key Distinctions

get into real estate

When you start looking at how to get into real estate, it is important to know the differences between a few key distinctions. This will help you to choose the right course to achieve your career.

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Real Estate Agent vs. a Real Estate Broker

Before getting into real estate, you have to decide if you want to be a broker or an agent. Agents manage property sales. While brokers can do this too, an agent needs to be overseen by a broker where a broker can operate independently and run their own business.

In some states, there may also be some differences regarding the education and licensing requirements for each of these real estate careers. For many people, they start out as agents and then work their way toward becoming a broker.

Residential Real Estate vs. Commercial Real Estate

When you are becoming a real estate professional, you have to decide the types of properties that you want to sell. If you want to keep your focus on selling homes, residential real estate is the best option. However, if you prefer to sell properties for things like businesses, commercial real estate is what you want to pursue.

There are some real estate professionals that choose not to focus and sell both types of property. However, since there are often additional laws and regulations associated with commercial real estate, it is imperative that you take the time to learn about this sector before you start working in it. This will ensure that you are able to fully help your clients and operate within the confines of the law.

Real Estate Agent vs. Realtor

Both of these professionals essentially do the same things when it comes to their work responsibilities. However, certification makes the difference between the two. A real estate agent has their license and can sell real estate. Now, a realtor has their license too, but they also have a National Association of Realtors certification.

When you are working to become a real estate agent, getting your license is the first step in your professional career. However, you can then opt to pursue different certifications, such as the National Association of Realtors certification to further prove your expertise and prove to potential clients that you can offer the highest level of service.


What Are the General Requirements to Become a Real Estate Agent?

become a realtor

The overall requirements will different slightly depending on the state that you are trying to get licensed in. However, in general, the following is necessary to become a real estate agent:

  • Be a legal US resident
  • Pass the state examination to obtain your real estate license
  • Be of a specific age, which is typically 18 or 19, depending on the state you are working to get licensed in
  • Complete all of the needed prelicense education as determined by your state

These are among the general requirements that will get you to your real estate license. It is important to explore the steps in more detail so that you know what to expect.

Step One: Learn the Licensing Requirements for Your State

To obtain this information, you will go to the real estate commission website in your state. Here you can get the details of the prelicensing requirements. Here are some examples of the differences you may see among certain states:

  • Training requirements: Some states require more hours than others. For example, if you want to become an agent in Texas, you will need 180 hours. However, in Georgia and New York, your training hours are 75.
  • Background checks: To get your license, you will typically need a background check. However, some states, such as Texas, Colorado and California, also require fingerprinting.
  • Educational rules: In some states, you must have at least a GED or high school diploma. Examples include New Jersey and Ohio.

Prior to even getting into the pre-licensing courses, you want to know exactly what your state will expect of you. This makes it easier to determine if there are some extra steps that you need to take before moving on to taking all of the needed courses.

Step Two: Your Pre-licensure Courses

This is where you learn what you need to know to be successful in this industry. When it comes to how to become a real estate agent and how to function in this field, these courses will provide you with all of the pertinent details.

There are a variety of different courses that you can take. However, here is an example of the types of classes that you can expect as you work through a course:

  • Real estate principles and practices
  • Real estate finance
  • Real estate law
  • Real estate appraisal

As you go through these classes, they are generally tailored to the state that you are in. For example, Ohio real estate finance and Ohio real estate law, if you are taking your classes in Ohio.

These classes are often broken down into smaller segments. Examples include:

Principles and Practice

  • Selling and listing process
  • Closing sales
  • Financing and taxes
  • Property valuation
  • Escrow procedures
  • Listing and pricing

Law and Legal Aspects

  • Real estate laws
  • Influential agency concepts and policies
  • Contract clauses
  • Disclosure guidelines and procedures

Real Estate Appraisal

  • Capitalization
  • Legal considerations
  • Economic principles
  • Types of value
  • Ethical considerations
  • What influences real estate value

Real Estate Finance

  • Fundamentals of real estate finance
  • Commercial real estate development
  • Evaluating real estate markets

Choosing a School

When you are looking at how to get into real estate, the school that you choose will be one of the most important decisions that you make. Various trade schools and colleges offer real estate courses. You will need to contact the schools in your area to see which ones offer this type of education.

You can also choose a school that is specific to teaching people how to become a real estate agent, such as Real Estate Express. Here you can focus on the details about becoming a real estate agent, making it much easier to focus on your course load and get the most out of what you are learning.

If you want to ensure that you are as prepared for the examination as possible, you might also consider attending a school that does exam-prep courses after you finish all of your pre-licensing requirements. This can help you to better familiarize yourself with the licensure examination and study for it, ensuring that you are fully prepared.

The costs of the schools will vary greatly, so having a reasonable budget in mind before you start is a good idea. This can help you to narrow down your options to those that are affordable for you.

Once you finish all of the required courses, the school will typically provide a certificate of completion, or something similar. In addition to this certificate, make sure that you get your transcripts as most states want to see both of these when you are applying to take your real estate agent examination. Make sure to look over your transcripts to ensure that they are complete and accurate so that there are no delays when you are ready to take the exam.

Step Three: Take Your Real Estate Agent Licensure Examination

While the cost varies by state, you can expect to pay $100 to $300 to get your real estate agent license. What you need to do to sign up for this exam will be on the real estate commission’s website for your state. In most cases, there is a third-party testing center that you will visit to register and pay for your examination.

When you are taking your exam, expect to complete two sections. The first generally focuses on general real estate principles and federal real estate laws. Once you get to the second part of the exam, you will be focusing more on the real estate laws and other information that pertains to your state. For both of the sections, you can expect multiple choice questions. However, some will require you to perform basic math to get to the answer.

Within two years of passing your pre-licensing requirements, you will need to pass the examination to get your license. You can take this exam as many times as necessary to pass. However, once you pass the two-year mark, in order to sit for the test again, you will need to go through a pre-licensing course again.

Step Four: Activate Your License

Once you pass the test, you have your license, but you need to activate it before you can start working as a real estate agent. You will go to the real estate commissions website for your state and pay the necessary activation fee. While all states vary, the average cost is $200 to $400 for this part of the process.

Once you have this taken care of, it is time to get your local MLS membership so that you can see which properties are available to sell. Other things you can do with this service that can aid your career include seeing listings prior to them hitting the market, analyzing various trends in the market and pulling the tax information for properties.

Step Five: Start Working at a Brokerage

As a real estate agent, you will need to work under a broker who supervises you. This is true for all 50 states in the US and Washington DC. Under a broker, you will get to sell real estate and earn commission. In most cases, a commission is the payment and there are no hourly wages associated with being a real estate agent.

When you first start out at a brokerage, you will learn how to function as a real estate agent. It is not uncommon to shadow someone who already established themselves in the business. Remember that since real estate commissions are how you earn money, you might not start making money immediately.

You should prepare yourself for at least a few months of training and learning how to operate as a real estate agent. This will give you time to learn the ropes and start working with your own listings. Having a few months of living expenses put back while you are working on becoming a real estate agent will make this much easier.

When you are searching for a brokerage to work for, keep the following points in mind:

  • Think about the long-term goals for your career and determine which brokerage best aligns with them
  • Consider the success of the brokerage and the income potential to ensure that it matches your financial goals
  • Learn more about the workplace culture so that you can determine if you will be comfortable working there
  • Get information about the brokerage’s management to ensure that they foster a productive workplace
  • Read some reviews for the brokerage online to see how both employees and clients feel about them

State By State Requirements To Become A Real Estate Agent


Alabama

The median salary for a real estate agent in Alabama is $39,525. Here are the requirements for Alabama:

  • 19 years old
  • 60 hours of pre-licensing courses
  • Within 12 months of licensure, complete 30 hours of training

(See which real estate schools are best in Alabama)

Alaska

The median salary for a real estate agent in Alaska is $47,287. Here are the requirements for Alaska:

  • 19 years old
  • Serve a full sentence if you had a felony
  • 40 hours of pre-licensing courses

Arizona

The median salary for a real estate agent in Arizona is $41,798. Here are the requirements for Arizona:

  • 18 years old
  • 90 hours of pre-licensing courses

Arkansas

The median salary for a real estate agent in Arkansas is $38,903. Here are the requirements for Arkansas:

  • 18 years old
  • Background check
  • 60 hours of pre-licensing courses

(See which real estate schools are best in Arkansas)

California

The median salary for a real estate agent in California is $47,118. Here are the requirements for California:

  • Must show proof of truthfulness and honesty
  • 135 hours of pre-licensing courses
  • 18 years old

Colorado

The median salary for a real estate agent in Colorado is $42,056. Here are the requirements for Colorado:

  • Fingerprinting and background check
  • 162 hours of pre-licensing courses
  • 18 years old

Connecticut

The median salary for a real estate agent in Connecticut is $45,642. Here are the requirements for Connecticut:

  • 18 years old
  • 60 hours of pre-licensing courses

Delaware

The median salary for a real estate agent in Delaware is $44,292. Here are the requirements for Delaware:

  • 18 years old
  • 99 hours of pre-licensing courses

District of Columbia

The median salary for a real estate agent in the District of Columbia is $46,684. Here are the requirements for District of Columbia:

  • 18 years old
  • 60 hours of pre-licensing courses

Florida

The median salary for a real estate agent in Florida is $40,074. Here are the requirements for Florida:

  • 18 years old
  • 63 hours of pre-licensing courses
  • GED or high school diploma

(See which real estate schools are best in Florida)

Georgia

The median salary for a real estate agent in Georgia is $40,812. Here are the requirements for Georgia:

  • 18 years old
  • 75 hours of pre-licensing courses
  • Background check

(See the best schools for Georgia)

Hawaii

The median salary for a real estate agent in Hawaii is $44,258. Here are the requirements for Hawaii:

  • 21 years old
  • 60 hours of pre-licensing courses

Idaho

The median salary for a real estate agent in Idaho is $39,813. Here are the requirements for Idaho:

  • 18 years old
  • 90 hours of pre-licensing courses

Illinois

The median salary for a real estate agent in Illinois is $43,322. Here are the requirements for Illinois:

  • 21 years old
  • 45 hours of pre-licensing courses
  • GED or high school diploma

(See the best Illinois schools)

Indiana

The median salary for a real estate agent in Indiana is $41,212. Here are the requirements for Indiana:

  • 18 years old
  • No history of criminal convictions
  • 90 hours of pre-licensing courses

Iowa

The median salary for a real estate agent in Iowa is $40,369. Here are the requirements for Iowa:

  • 18 years old
  • 36 hours of pre-licensing courses
  • Background check

Kansas

The median salary for a real estate agent in Kansas is $40,031. Here are the requirements for Kansas:

  • 18 years old
  • 30 hours of pre-licensing courses
  • GED or high school diploma

Kentucky

The median salary for a real estate agent in Kentucky is $39,694. Here are the requirements for Kentucky:

  • 18 years old
  • Background check
  • 96 hours of pre-licensing courses
  • GED or high school diploma

Louisiana

The median salary for a real estate agent in Louisiana is $40,411. Here are the requirements for Louisiana:

  • 18 years old
  • 90 hours of pre-licensing courses
  • GED or high school diploma

Maine

The median salary for a real estate agent in Maine is $40,664. Here are the requirements for Maine:

  • 18 years old
  • Three notarized recommendations stating you have a good reputation
  • 55 hours of pre-licensing courses
  • GED or high school diploma

Maryland

The median salary for a real estate agent in Maryland is $43,493. Here are the requirements for Maryland:

  • 18 years old
  • 60 hours of pre-licensing courses

Massachusetts

The median salary for a real estate agent in Massachusetts is $45,895. Here are the requirements for Massachusetts:

  • 18 years old
  • 24 hours of pre-licensing courses

Michigan

The median salary for a real estate agent in Michigan is $42,216. Here are the requirements for Michigan:

  • 18 years old
  • 40 hours of pre-licensing courses

Minnesota

The median salary for a real estate agent in Minnesota is $43,153. Here are the requirements for Minnesota:

  • 18 years old
  • Three real estate classes

Mississippi

The median salary for a real estate agent in Mississippi is $36,699. Here are the requirements for Mississippi:

  • 18 years old
  • Bona fide resident of the state
  • 60 hours of pre-licensing courses

Missouri

The median salary for a real estate agent in Missouri is $40,200. Here are the requirements for Missouri:

  • 18 years old
  • Be a licensed attorney or do 48 hours of pre-licensing courses

Montana

The median salary for a real estate agent in Montana is $38,239. Here are the requirements for Montana:

  • Must have completed at least the 10th grade
  • 18 years old
  • 60 hours of pre-licensing courses

Nebraska

The median salary for a real estate agent in Nebraska is $38,682. Here are the requirements for Nebraska:

  • 18 years old
  • 60 hours of pre-licensing courses
  • GED or high school diploma

Nevada

The median salary for a real estate agent in Nevada is $43,722. Here are the requirements for Nevada:

  • 18 years old
  • 90 hours of pre-licensing courses

New Hampshire

The median salary for a real estate agent in New Hampshire is $42,815. Here are the requirements for New Hampshire:

  • 18 years old
  • 40 hours of pre-licensing courses

New Jersey

The median salary for a real estate agent in New Jersey is $46,637. Here are the requirements for New Jersey:

  • 18 years old
  • 75 hours of pre-licensing courses
  • GED or high school diploma

New Mexico

The median salary for a real estate agent in New Mexico is $38,555. Here are the requirements for New Mexico:

  • 18 years old
  • 90 hours of pre-licensing courses

New York

The median salary for a real estate agent in New York is $51,041. Here are the requirements for New York:

  • 18 years old
  • 75 hours of pre-licensing courses

North Carolina

The median salary for a real estate agent in North Carolina is $40,242. Here are the requirements for North Carolina:

  • 18 years old
  • 75 hours of pre-licensing courses

North Dakota

The median salary for a real estate agent in North Dakota is $39,610. Here are the requirements for North Dakota:

  • 18 years old
  • 45 hours of pre-licensing courses

Ohio

The median salary for a real estate agent in Ohio is $41,187. Here are the requirements for Ohio:

  • 18 years old
  • GED or high school diploma
  • 120 hours of pre-licensing courses

Oklahoma

The median salary for a real estate agent in Oklahoma is $39,652. Here are the requirements for Oklahoma:

  • 18 years old
  • 90 hours of pre-licensing courses

Oregon

The median salary for a real estate agent in Oregon is $42,014. Here are the requirements for Oregon:

  • 18 years old
  • GED or high school diploma
  • 150 hours of pre-licensing courses

Pennsylvania

The median salary for a real estate agent in Pennsylvania is $42,098. Here are the requirements for Pennsylvania:

  • 18 years old
  • Have a degree in real estate or take 60 hours of pre-licensing courses

Rhode Island

The median salary for a real estate agent in Rhode Island is $44,671. Here are the requirements for Rhode Island:

  • 18 years old
  • 45 hours of pre-licensing courses

South Carolina

The median salary for a real estate agent in South Carolina is $39,483. Here are the requirements for South Carolina:

  • 18 years old
  • GED or high school diploma
  • 60 hours of pre-licensing courses
  • 30 hours of post-licensure education

South Dakota

The median salary for a real estate agent in South Dakota is $36,108. Here are the requirements for South Dakota:

  • 18 years old
  • 116 hours of pre-licensing courses

Tennessee

The median salary for a real estate agent in Tennessee is $38,323. Here are the requirements for Tennessee:

  • 18 years old
  • 60 hours of pre-licensing courses

Texas

The median salary for a real estate agent in Texas is $41,422. Here are the requirements for Texas:

  • 18 years old
  • 180 hours of pre-licensing courses

Utah

The median salary for a real estate agent in Utah is $39,965. Here are the requirements for Utah:

  • 18 years old
  • 120 hours of pre-licensing courses
  • Background check

Vermont

The median salary for a real estate agent in Vermont is $40,622. Here are the requirements for Vermont:

  • 18 years old
  • 40 hours of pre-licensing courses

Virginia

The median salary for a real estate agent in Virginia is $41,930. Here are the requirements for Virginia:

  • 18 years old
  • 60 hours of pre-licensing courses

Washington

The median salary for a real estate agent in Washington is $45,051. Here are the requirements for Washington:

  • 18 years old
  • 60 hours of pre-licensing courses

West Virginia

The median salary for a real estate agent in West Virginia is $37,374. Here are the requirements for West Virginia:

  • 18 years old
  • GED or high school diploma
  • 90 hours of pre-licensing courses

Wisconsin

The median salary for a real estate agent in Wisconsin is $41,550. Here are the requirements to become a real estate agent in Wisconsin:

  • 18 years old
  • 72 hours of pre-licensing courses

Wyoming

The median salary for a real estate agent in Wyoming is $37,543. Here are the requirements to become a real estate agent in Wyoming:

  • 18 years old
  • 54 hours of pre-licensing courses

FAQs

As you are working on becoming a real estate agent, you surely have a lot of questions that come up. With the answers to these, it will be easier to navigate the process and start your career.

How Much Do Real Estate Agents Make?

Every state has a different median income. In the US as of May 2018, the average salary for those in this field was $48,690 per year. Since sales workers throughout the US earn an average of $35,720 per year, real estate agents are a sales professional with the potential to earn more than the average.

According to statistics from 2019, the following are the 10 states with the highest real estate agent incomes:

  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Colorado
  • Massachusetts
  • Rhode Island
  • Alabama
  • California
  • New Jersey

How Much Does It Cost to Become a Real Estate Agent?

The state you are seeking licensure in will ultimately determine your costs. The following shows average costs:

  • Education: $200 to $1,000
  • Licensure examination: $100 to $300
  • Background check: $50 to $100
  • Activating your license: $200 to $400
  • Errors and omissions insurance: $350 to $400 a year

If you plan to get your realtor certification, you can expect $120 per year plus signup fees. Once you are working in real estate, a variety of other costs are possible that average $500 to $1,000 a year, such as computer software and business cards.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Real Estate Agent?

While this will vary based on how many hours of pre-licensing education your state requires and whether you need to retake the licensure examination, the average is four to six months. It is rare that it will take someone more than a year to complete the process.

Is It Difficult to Become a Real Estate Agent?

In most states, the process is relatively straight forward. You will follow the steps above. However, it is important to note that you will learn a lot in your classes. It is imperative that you take good notes and study so that you can earn your certificate of completion and be able to pass the licensure examination.

How Do Real Estate Agents Get Their First Clients?

Once you join a brokerage, you will get a chance to learn the ropes. From here, you will be able to start seeking out and taking on your own clients.

Do Real Estate Agents Make a Base Salary?

In most cases, you will earn commission in this line of work. However, there are some exceptions to this rule where a broker may pay a modest salary. If you want to earn a salary and commission, you will need to find a brokerage that provides this.

Can You Work Part-Time as a Real Estate Agent?

This industry is very flexible. As long as you are able to keep up with the needs of your clients, you can often choose the hours that you work. However, make sure to check with your brokerage to determine if they allow for part-time employees.