Real estate is a large and necessary career field, employing nearly 370,000 sales agents and another nearly 100,000 brokers. It’s likely that you have met a real estate agent or at least glimpsed their work in the listings of homes or apartments to rent advertisements for open house events. However, even if you have thought for a long time that you have the right personality to be a good real estate agent, you likely don’t know the details of getting into this career field. Generally, you must meet eligibility requirements for a state license, including some form of real estate education, and go through some on-the-job training after you receive your license.

The Basic Path to a Real Estate Career

how does someone become a real estate agent

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Becoming a real estate agent revolves primarily around getting your real estate license. This state-issued license is awarded based on requirements that usually include a minimum age, an approved program of prelicensing courses, a passing score on an examination and potentially a background check, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Before you jump right into a real estate prelicensing program, you should become familiar with all of your state’s licensing requirements. You don’t want to enroll in a prelicensing program that doesn’t meet your state’s requirements. If you are under the minimum age for licensing in your state – usually 18 or 19 years old – then you may want to think more about the timing of your coursework before you enroll in a program. In states where a background check is strictly required, you may not want to move forward with the real estate prelicensing education process if you have a past criminal conviction that could preclude you from working in the field.

Depending on how you decide to approach your profession, you could spend weeks or years – hundreds of dollars or possibly tens of thousands of dollars – preparing for your real estate career. However, there are benefits of entering the field with more extensive preparation.

Consider Your Education Options in Real Estate

Your education in real estate can vary from a few dozen hours of classroom study at a non-degree-granting real estate school to full-fledged bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. What a real estate education looks like for you depends on both your state’s licensing requirements and your own preference regarding a degree or a shorter, professional course. A college certificate or degree is not required for a real estate license, the BLS reported, so spending more time on your education is optional. Often, the college real estate courses you take as part of a certificate or degree program can take the place of the prelicensing curriculum otherwise required by the state, as well.

Why, then, would you choose to pursue a full degree for a job that doesn’t require one? Success in real estate is all about the knowledge and skills you have. A prelicensing course covers the minimum education you need to get started in the field, but a real estate degree program goes so much further. Although your college education would likely start with studies in the principles and practices of real estate, just as many state-required prelicensing courses do, there is a lot more to your curriculum. College students of real estate have the opportunity for more specialized coursework, such as appraisal and assessment, real estate investment and finance, property management, mortgage markets and commercial real estate analysis and management. You can also learn more extensive general business skills in a college program than you would in the more focused but less extensive prelicensing curriculum.

If you’re looking for the quickest path into a real estate career right now, you’re in luck. The prelicensing coursework in many states takes just 3 to 8 weeks to finish. Once you complete these studies, you can prepare for the licensing exam and get started in your career. The extent of a prelicensing real estate program depends on the state that requires and approves these educational programs. The most restrictive states may require up to 180 classroom hours of study for aspiring real estate sales agents, while in the easiest states to get a degree in, you need only 40 hours of study.

Having a bachelor’s degree in the real estate field pays off – literally. The National Association of REALTORS reported that having an undergraduate degree can increase earning potential by up to 30 percent.

Work With an Experienced Realtor

Just because you have attained your real estate license doesn’t mean you are an expert in the practice of conducting real estate transactions. There’s a lot to learn in the real-world practice of buying, selling, renting, leasing and developing properties. Often, the company or broker for which a real estate sales agent works will support them through on-the-job training, either as part of a formal company training program or by pairing the new agent with a mentor or an established realtor. Even though you may be eager to be out on your own, working with a successful real estate professional can help you more quickly pick up the skills that are best developed through practice – not to mention, minimizing rookie mistakes that can prevent your career from flourishing.

Even self-employed real estate sales agents, who make up more than half of the profession, have to work with a broker, the BLS reported.

Additional Resources

Are There Different Rules in Different States for Real Estate Agents?

Do I Need to Have a College Degree to Become a Real Estate Agent?

What Degree Should I Get for Real Estate?

Do I Have to Pass Any Exams to Become a Real Estate Agent?