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What is a Real Estate Agent/Broker?

A real estate broker is a licensed property professional who conducts real estate transactions on behalf of their clients. Because the broker has the education, experience, and a license to conduct real estate transactions, they are the best-qualified to handle all details, except for deciding which property is the one the client wants. Both real estate brokers and real estate agents have specific state licensing and certifications that needs to be completed in order to be an agent or broker. After obtaining the appropriate education required and licensing, the agent or broker has certain job duties that need be followed in order to help their clients find the ideal home or commercial business property.

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Steps to Becoming a Real Estate Agent

By law, in all 50 states, you are required to hold a real estate broker’s license. This means you need to go to school and earn, at minimum, a certification in real estate. You can go so far as to earn a full bachelor’s in real estate, which may be useful if you plan to become a broker. If you take several business classes, this will serve to help you as you establish and operate your real estate agents business.

In some states, you can take just a few of the required classes you need to take your broker’s exam and receive your license. Generally (though not always), the classes are designed to offer you what you need without any duplication.

  • Step 1 Explore the University/College Real Estate Program Offerings

  • Step 2 Decide if you want to do a 2 Year, 4 Year or Certification Program

  • Step 3 Take the Licensing Exam for a Real Estate Agent

  • Step 4 Take the Brokers Exam after Agent Experience Requirement is Fulfilled


Step 1

Explore the program offerings at the universities you are interested in attending. When you find real estate agents majors, view the courses offered by each college or university. You should find courses such as How to Negotiate and Close a Real Estate Sale, How to Value the Property and Prepare a Listing, and How to Handle Procedures Related to Escrow, Taxes, and the Transfer of Property.

You’ll also learn about the different loans that property buyers use in real estate transactions, legal issues related to real estate transactions and real estate-related state and federal laws and about the licensing requirements in your state. If you are majoring in business administration (B.B.A.) while taking real estate courses, you’ll learn about accounting, marketing, operations, human resources, and finance.

Step 2

If you don’t want to attend a full, four-year real estate program, then you can opt for a shorter two-year program at a community college. Here, you can earn a real estate-broker certificate of achievement. Once you graduate and have your certificate in hand, you’ll be ready to take your licensing exam and accept an entry-level real estate agent position.

You will take classes such as Financial Accounting, Accounting for Small Businesses, Business Law, Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, Real Estate Finance, Real Estate Principles, Legal Aspects of Real Estate, Real Estate Appraisal, and Real Estate Practice. Once you receive your certificate of achievement, it’s time to study for your exam.

If you are planning to obtain a bachelor’s degree, you’ll first complete your general education courses. Once you are finished with most of your general education credits, you can apply for admission to the real estate college (or business college). In your first few semesters, you may take classes such as Real Estate Principles, Real Estate Practice, Real Estate Appraisals, Real Estate Economics, or Investments.

If you are taking a longer four-year program, then you’ll be able to take many more classes that apply directly to real estate.

If you take all the classes required in the college’s or university’s real estate program, you should be ready to make arrangements to sit your real estate agent’s exam. This class also gives you the foundation to take the state examination for the state-licensed trainee appraiser.

Step 3

Once you graduate from a four-year university or earn your certificate from a community college, it is time for you to study for, and take your licensure exam. Every state has specific requirements for taking and passing the real estate agent exam. You’ll need to pass this test and then get some experience under your belt before sitting for your broker’s exam. The number of years you will need to spend working as an agent depends on the state in which you are licensed or looking to be licensed.

Accredited real estate programs offered by community colleges and universities work in consultation with the real estate licensing programs of the state in which they are located. This way, when you take your real estate classes, you will be confident that they align with state licensing requirements. Some colleges or universities may not have complementary classes that will satisfy licensure requirements. As you are signing up for classes, ask your advisor of your state requires classes the university doesn’t offer. You may be able to find a resource where you can take such classes so that, when it’s time for you to sit for your exam, you won’t have to worry about lacking any required classes.

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Step 4

After working under your Real Estate Agent license for the required years, you will be able to finally sit for your Broker’s licensing exam. This will allow you to act as the head of your own firm or business. You’ll have the power to work for yourself or get a well-paid position with a company that needs a real estate expert. The sky’s the limit.

Needed Skills to Acquire

As a real estate agent, you’re going to be working in a highly visible position where you will be interacting with the public every day of the week. Along with selling real estate, you will be selling your services.

You should:

  • Be believable
  • Be likable
  • Make good sales presentations
  • Get to know the properties you sell
  • Be a good listener
  • Get along well with people
  • Know how to handle feedback
  • Have good personal grooming
  • Use acceptable speech and etiquette
  • Have good communication skills
  • Be ethical
  • Be a good salesperson

Along with the above skills, you need soft skills that allow you to align your goals with those of sellers and buyers. These include:

  • Reading social cues and knowing what social cues other cultures might find disrespectful.
  • Tactfulness - knowing how to end a transaction without offense or how to say something without offending someone.
  • Patience - Real estate deals and sales won’t happen overnight. This is a significant action for both seller and buyer to take, so they want to take their time and make sure that they are making the right decision. In commercial transactions, this can take even longer.

Alternative Education and Career Paths

If you already have a career that you started after earning your first college degree and you want to move into real estate, you may wonder if you need a degree.

Technically, no. You don’t. In the U.S., only about 42% of the National Association of Realtors hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. However, it is something that will help you in this field.

One more caveat: You may have to take some college-level classes so that you’ll be able to obtain a real estate agent's certificate or license. Most, though not all, states do require that people aiming for a real estate license take supplementary courses.

The California Department of Real Estate requires a new real estate agent to complete several business and real estate classes. Once you do, you can take your licensure exam. It may be different for your state, so be sure to check with your local licensing bureau to be sure what your requirements will be.

In the second scenario, you may hold a degree in legal studies. With your knowledge of the law, you’ll be familiar with the large amount of legal paperwork that is required for each real estate transaction. You’ll be able to work as a broker and additionally, handle legal paperwork and filings that would normally be managed by the brokerage’s outside lawyer.

Real Estate Agent Careers & Salary

Where Might You Work?


You may work in a real estate brokerage or you may decide to strike out on your own, working independently. Even working in a brokerage, you are an independent operator, just leasing desk/office space from the brokerage. When you are fully independent, working from your own space, then it’s your responsibility to pay for all the marketing materials that a brokerage would normally buy or order for you.

You may also work in a rental or leasing office, showing properties for rent. This goes for residential and commercial rentals. As of 2016, 56% of real estate agents were fully self-employed; 30% worked in a real estate/rental and leasing company.

Whether you work independently or from a rental and leasing office, you should expect to work for more than 40 hours a week. Your work hours won’t generally fit within the traditional 9-5 mold. Instead, you’ll work when it’s convenient for your clients to meet with you. You’ll also spend much of your time at commercial events, where you’ll network.

You’ll look for and solicit potential clients; advise them on mortgages, prices, and market conditions; generate lists of sale properties; promote properties, using advertising, listing services, and open houses; and take prospective buyers or renters to look at properties.

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Potential Career Paths

Once you receive your broker’s license, you can work in one of several real estate-related occupations:

  • Associate Broker
  • Broker
  • Broker Associate
  • Real estate Associate
  • Office Administrator
  • Office Manager
  • Office Administrator
  • Realtor

Commercial Real Estate Agent
Work with a commercial finance brokerage, where all leads are generated in-house. As a member of this team, you will assist in the acquisition of properties to be developed and/or existing structures. You’ll take part in daily morning kickoff calls where you can problem-solve your problematic clients and their needs with other brokers.

Manager, Real Estate
Manage the site selection and acquisition process, including site verification and qualification, negotiation, exchange of purchase and lease agreements. You may also provide project management and finance oversight as you deliver entitlements of a new store within deadline and budget.

You should know how to analyze markets within your assigned territory to identify the best available sites, track competitor locations and activities, and develop and cultivate positive relationships with brokers, developers, landowners, potential business partners, and professional organizations.

Farm Manager/Real Estate Agent/Outside Sales
You will leverage your experience and knowledge of agriculture. However, this is a sales position, requiring a sales mindset. Responsibilities for this position include: meeting with potential customers, selling landowners on using the brokerage to manage their farmland, supervising and managing real estate leasing activities, supervising a real estate agent, assisting with on-the-ground farm management, working with brokerage customers to bring their farms to the platform, coordinating with growers to develop farm plans, working with growers to collect data on farm activities, and maintaining internal company CRM systems.

Real Estate Career Salaries

Occupation Entry-Level Mid-Career Late-Career
Real Estate Sales Agent $49,000 $45,000 $67,000
Real Estate Agent $44,000 $60,000 $61,000
Real Estate Appraiser $45,000 $59,000 $73,000
Real Estate Paralegal $38,000 $51,000 $60,000

Career Outlook

As of 2016, the job outlook of a real estate agent and sales agents is slated to grow 6% through 2026. This is as fast as the average for all other occupations.

This means you can expect a continuous demand for a real estate agent and a sales agent. Individuals and families continue to move, look for new rentals, or buy homes. Even more pertinent, the millennial generation will soon enter the household-forming cohort. This means they will soon begin looking for new homes, after delaying home ownership because of the country’s economic outlook and other, personal considerations.

As the job market continues to improve, families may be spending more money. This will lead to increased need for brokers and industrial real estate transactions.

Advancing From Here

If you are reaching the top of your pay grade as a real estate agent, you may wonder what the next step is. Consider returning to school for your master’s degree in real estate. Choose a specialization, so you can work in commercial or residential real estate, asset management, or property management.

Consider branching into international real estate. With the right master’s degree, you may choose to aim your career into a capital markets group, where you can work with either retail or multi-family real estate. Take a real estate law course where you can work on the legal side of real estate transactions, property law, transactions, titles, and contracts.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What can you do with a real estate license?

Some of the common jobs in real estate include: residential real estate, real estate inspector, real estate developer, real estate appraiser, real estate agent, real estate property manager, leasing agent, real estate escrow officer, and commercial real estate.

What is the workplace of a real estate agent like?

A real estate agent will likely split their time between working in the office and traveling to estates. A real estate agent will also likely attend seminars and conferences to keep informed and take advantage of networking opportunities.

How to become a real estate agent?

Each state will have its own set of licensing requirements to become a real estate agent. Generally to become licensed, you will need to take the pre-licensing courses, take and pass the exam in your state, and activate your real estate license.

How much does it cost to submit a real estate license application?

The cost of a real estate license application can range from $300 to $400. You may also be charged an additional fee of around $125 for a background check.

How much does a real estate agent make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average wage of a real estate agent is $49,000.

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