Real Estate Agent: Occupational Outlook & Career Profile

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a real estate agent. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and state licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

Essential Information

Real estate agents facilitate the sale of all types of property and can work for buyers or sellers. They need a high school diploma or a GED certificate and real estate training that is approved by their state. Some hold degrees in real estate. They must pass an examination to obtain the mandatory license to work as a real estate agent. Many are self-employed, and others work in real estate agencies, including franchises with many offices around the country. They are usually paid on commission, so their income depends on their sales performance and on market conditions.

Required Education High school diploma or the equivalent and state-accredited real estate courses; some states will accept college courses in real estate
Licensing State license required
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 11%
Mean Salary (2013)* $53,140

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Real Estate Agent Occupational Outlook

According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, employment for real estate agents is expected to increase 11% from 2012 to 2022, which is about as fast as the national average for all occupations. This growth is due to the resurgence of the real estate market following recent economic downturns. While growth is expected, the industry is still vulnerable to economic fluctuation that may cause real estate prices to fall. While most agents work in traditional real estate offices, they may also be employed by building construction and land subdivision companies.

Salary Information

In May 2013, BLS statistics reflected that the average real estate agent made $53,140 annually. Most agents earned between $21,240 and $98,090 per year at that time. Agents based in the states of New York and Illinois, as well as in the District of Columbia, received the highest salaries in 2013, as reported by the BLS.

Career Profile

Real estate agents represent buyers and sellers of commercial, residential and other properties. These professionals must be knowledgeable about local neighborhoods and property laws. Real estate agents may also need marketing skills to promote themselves and their properties. They may be required to do research when pricing a property or negotiating an offer.

Real estate agents may work evenings and weekends, depending on their client's schedule. While some time is spent in the office, many hours are spent hosting open houses or prospecting for clients. Real estate agents often work for brokers and may interact with lawyers, accountants and financiers during the selling process.

Educational Requirements and Options

Aspiring real estate agents must complete high school. While a college degree isn't a necessity, postsecondary institutes offer certificate, associate's and bachelor's programs in real estate. These programs include coursework in real estate law, investing and finance. Some programs may integrate courses that are required by state licensing boards into the program.


The BLS states that all 50 states and the District of Columbia require agents to be licensed. In order to become licensed, individuals must pass an exam that covers real estate concepts. Some states may have educational requirements that must be completed before individuals sit for an exam. Licenses must be kept current, and may be done by completing continuing education requirements.

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