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How to Become a Realtor: Education, Licensing, Career Outlook

Learn how to become a realtor like this agent

The real estate industry is vital to the American economy at large, as well as individuals and families. It falls to real estate agents to keep housing transactions churning. There’s never been a better time to learn how to become a realtor and launch a career helping families find their perfect home.

Homeownership is considered one of the pillars of financial wellness and American prosperity. If more people own their homes, it’s believed, America as a whole will be stronger and individual Americans will have better financial foundations. Right or wrong, Americans value homeownership so much that we have created numerous government organizations to encourage housing purchases. The FHA, for example, is almost completely dedicated to expanding homeownership, and departments that aren’t directly connected to real estate have branches that facilitate home buying. The VA and USDA, most notably, have programs that support mortgage lending, thereby making homeownership easier and more attainable for many people.

While the requirements to become a realtor (especially education) are small, this career can bring excellent salaries and job stability. Best of all, you’ll share the joy of helping people purchase their dream homes, an experience that will keep to hustling throughout this rewarding, competitive, and endlessly satisfying career.

In this article, we’ll answer a variety of common questions, including:

How to Become a Realtor

Want to know how to become a realtor? Here is a quick step-by-step explanation of the steps to becoming a real estate agent:

  1. Earn your high school diploma
  2. Complete real estate agent education (a certificate is the minimum to fulfill a pre-licensing coursework)
  3. Pass state-mandated testing and licensing
  4. Complete real estate agent training if required by employer
  5. Continue career education (Seminars, publications, etc.)

As you can see, the steps to become a realtor are fairly quick and simple. But you still need a strong work ethic and excellent people skills. You also need to complete some form of real estate agent training, which can range from a certificate to a four-year degree.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Realtor?

If you are wondering how to become a realtor, you’ll want to know how long it takes. While this career is challenging and complex, the educational requirements are relatively light, which means you can usually complete the education quickly.

Assuming you have a high school degree, you can likely complete a real estate education in less than a year. This is because formal four-year or even two-year degrees, while useful, are not required. With only a certificate, you can take the required licensing steps and become a real estate agent.

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What Does a Real Estate Agent Do?

Real estate agents perform many important tasks that drive the real estate industry forward and help people from all walks of life and all income levels purchase a home. Specific tasks will depend on your defined role in the industry or for a business, but essentially these professionals encourage clients to buy, sell, and rent properties. The may advise clients on prices, mortgage options, the current market conditions, and other information that allows people to make an informed decision.

They will schedule home showings, open houses, communicate sales offers, and perform numerous other tasks that help launch a sale.

Agents often fall into two categories: buyer’s agents and seller’s agents. Real estate professionals will perform both roles throughout their career, and it’s not uncommon for a single person to fill both roles during a single transaction. (Although some recommend avoiding the practice of having a single agent represent the buyer and seller.)

As a buyer’s agent, real estate professionals help find homes for sale, schedule showings, gather information on properties, and craft effective buying offers. Basically, they act like a representative and guide for a buyer.

As a seller’s agent, a real estate agent will create online listings, create a detailed sales plan, contact buyers, and facilitate open houses or personal showings. They act like the representative and guide for the current owner, helping to sell the house as quickly as they can for the best possible price.

Throughout their real estate careers, agents will serve both roles, assisting both buyers and sellers.

Real Estate Agent vs Broker

A real estate agent and a real estate broker, while similar, have different functions and roles. Essentially, a broker can do everything an agent can do, but can also assist with problems and snags in the sales process. Brokers have a higher-level position, but there is also more education and testing.

Real Estate Agent Education: Step by Step

One of the top benefits to real estate careers is that it does not require a heavy load of formal education. If you are wondering how to become a realtor, you should know that with minimal yet focused training, you can become a real estate agent in roughly a year or less, which means many people can enter this exciting and potentially-lucrative career field.

As far as formal education, the only consistent requirement is a high school diploma or equivalent. You don’t need an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree, let alone an advanced graduate degree, to work in this career.

You will, however, need to complete a few course to be eligible for licensure, which is required in all states. Most agents and brokers must take state-accredited course that prepare you for licensing and allow you to take licensing exams. However, if you have completed college courses related to real estate, you may be able to waive this requirement.

College degrees may soon become the standard for anyone who wants to become a realtor. While not required by law, employers often prefer candidates with college degrees. Fortunately, there are many community colleges and large universities that offer real estate degrees.

Certificate programs are another option, which offer a fast, affordable, and effective way to educate yourself in the real estate industry and prepare for licensing. A certificate in real estate is an excellent choice for someone who holds a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field.

However, while effective in delivering broad knowledge, certificates to not give as detailed and comprehensive of an education, so many aspiring real estate agents will still prefer the longer route of a bachelor’s degree. Although not required, a formal degree may soon become standard practice for how to become a realtor.

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Real estate course can vary widely depending on the specific program and the institution. Course often cover the basics of real estate, mortgage financing, contracts, and investing in real estate. Negotiations are usually part of the coursework, often taking up their own classes.

Real estate professionals can also advance their careers through certificates, which are usually offered through the same institutions that offer four-year degrees. While an associate’s or bachelor’s degree is broad in scope, a certificate usually focuses on a specific and narrow aspect, such as digital marketing, negotiation, or leadership in real estate. Alone or as part of your overall training, certificates advance your knowledge while making you more attractive to real estate firms.

How Long Does it Take to Complete a Real Estate Education?

Completing a real estate education can take less than a year, or, if you pursue a bachelor's degree, it can take four years or more. At a minimum, it usually takes about a year to complete the appropriate certificates, take the tests, and become licensed as a real estate agent. This creates a fast and (usually) affordable path towards a rewarding career.

How to Get Real Estate License in the U.S.

Getting a real estate license is one of the most important steps when you want to become a realtor. Each state has different real estate agent requirements, so you’ll need to check your state regarding certification and licensing requirements. In most cases, licensing can be completed after you take a few course related to real estate. When people ask about how to become a realtor, they often need to research state licensing requirements.

There are two basic and fundamental requirements for becoming a real estate agent regardless of your state. First, you must be 18 years of age or older. Second, you must have a high school diploma or equivalent. If you meet these requirements, you can move into the specific requirements from each state.

Texas

To become a real estate agent in the state of Texas, you need to complete at least 180 hours of pre-licensing course from an approved institution. This is actually much more than many other states; you can find some areas that require as little as 40 hours. Because of this requirement, it can take much longer to become a real estate agent in Texas than in other states.

California

In California, you need to complete at least 135 hours of pre-licensing courses to become a realtor. This may be less than Texas, but it’s more than many other states. One of the more unique aspects for becoming a real estate agent in California is that you must demonstrate that you are a truthful and honest person. You’ll also need to find a broker or agent working in the industry, and have them provide professional supervision for a specific timeframe.

Florida

In Florida, you only need to complete 63 hours or courses before you are eligible for the examination. Before becoming licensed, the state of Florida also requires that you complete fingerprinting. This step needs to be completed and processed by the state before license testing, so it’s important to complete this phase as early as possible.

Career Overview: What’s it Like to Be a Realtor?

Once you complete real estate agent training, you’ll be able to enjoy this excellent career. However, it’s not enough to know how to become a realtor. You also need to understand what this career is like. Working as a real estate agent is exciting, fast-paced, and interesting. You get to work with people from all types of backgrounds, and you get to see some of the most interesting properties in your area. This career is not for everyone, so you need to understand what it’s like to have one of these real estate agent jobs, how much you could earn, and what type of stability you might enjoy.

This career choice can bring numerous benefits and a variety of downsides that you should understand if you want to become a realtor. It’s not for everyone, as you need to be passionate about sales, willing to work with all types of people (including difficult people), and have a drive to hustle all day, including evenings and weekends.

The Downsides

First, let’s start with the downsides of being a real estate agent. One of the main downsides of real estate agent jobs is that you’ll have to work when your clients are available, which means evenings and weekends. Don’t expect to work from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday; a real estate agent is usually working late into the evenings, and often has to work all day Saturday and even Sunday. This is a basic part of the career, but it makes it hard to work in the profession if you are a parent or simply like the routine of a regular schedule.

There is also the simple fact that your salary is largely based on sales commission. You won’t earn an exact income, but will instead be rewarded on performance. When sales are coming through, being a real estate agent can be extremely lucrative, but when times are slow, it can be hard to make a living.

As a real estate agent, you’ll also experience frustrations and disappointment. You may have aligned the perfect sale, but if the buyer is unable to secure a mortgage loan, the sale could fall through, leaving you without an expected payday. People may not show up for scheduled property showings, a seller may be stubborn on pricing, or a buyer may have too many demands for the sale. All of these situations, and more, can make working as a real estate agent incredibly frustrating. Dealing with frustrations is practically one of the requirements to be a real estate agent.

Benefits of Working as a Realtor

There are, however, numerous benefits to working as a real estate agent. Besides the chance to earn a strong salary when you become a realtor (which we’ll cover later) and the minimal real estate agent requirements (which we covered above), this is also an exciting, rewarding, and engaging career choice.

As a real estate agent, you get to meet a variety of people, all while helping them find the perfect home for their future. There’s a certain pride, a real feeling of accomplishment, that comes from guiding someone to the ideal home, then helping them make the purchase.

You can also enjoy a flexible work schedule when you become a realtor. Yes, we discussed the work schedule as a negative, but it can also be a tremendous positive. In this career, you won’t have to take time off to go to the dentist, visit friends, or spend time with your family. There’s no time clock; you can work on your own schedule and perform the tasks as you see fit.

Salary for real estate agent jobs can be outstanding, and there are certainly median incomes, but it’s important to note that earnings are virtually unlimited. If you want to hustle all day and all weekend, you can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. The only limit is your work ethic!

This career also brings mobility. Some professions are limited to certain areas, but a well-trained, experienced real estate agent can work in any market. Small towns, urban centers, rural settings; from coast to coast and border to border, there is no corner of the country where a real estate agent can’t make a living. From the middle of Manhattan to remote Alaska, once you complete the requirements to be a real estate agent, you can work virtually anywhere.

How Much Do Real Estate Agents Make?

Real estate agents may not have the highest salaries in the country, but considering the minimal education requirements, this can actually be an incredibly lucrative career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for real estate agents was $51,220 in May of 2020. Real estate brokers earned a median salary of $60,370.

Real estate agent salary, however, can vary widely. The top 10% in this field earn over $112,410 while the top 10% of brokers earn over $174,120. The median salary is strong but not massive, and there is excellent potential for hardworking, highly-skilled professionals to earn a large real estate agent salary.

See where your salary may fall according to the state you live in from ZipRecruiter data.

Become a Realtor with the Right Education

If you want to get your real estate license, start with the right education. With a certificate, associate’s degree, or bachelor’s degree, you’ll understand how to become a realtor so you can launch one of the top real estate careers.

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