How to Become a Realtor: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a realtor. Research the education requirements, licensure information, and experience required for starting a career in real estate. View article »

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  • 0:00 Should I Become a Realtor?
  • 0:37 Career Requirements
  • 2:03 Step 1: Licensing and…
  • 3:03 Step 1: Get a Sponsor…
  • 4:04 Step 3: Continuing Education
  • 4:30 Step 4: Become a Member

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Realtor?

Real estate agents and brokers are both state licensed to sell real estate, but brokers can operate their own real estate businesses if they choose. Either role can help clients sell, buy, or rent properties. The term realtor refers to a real estate professional who is a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and has adhered to the NAR's code of ethics. This career is very competitive, and realtors may find it necessary to work very long hours to meet their professional goals.

Career Requirements

Education Required High school diploma required; must complete a certain number of hours of real estate coursework; must be a member of the NAR
Licensure and Certification Realtors must be licensed through their state (requirements vary from state to state); certification is optional and can be obtained through local or national real estate associations, such as the National Association of Realtors (NAR); must be able to pass a background check
Experience None to become a sales agent; generally 1-3 years of sales experience to become a real estate broker
Key Skills Written and verbal communication, persuasion, negotiation, problem-solving, and time management skills; ability to use word processing, database, and spreadsheet programs; be familiar with desktop publishing, photo imaging, and loan processing software; ability to input information into various types of listing services; be able to use a digital camera, global positioning systems, and financial calculator
Salary (May 2015) $43,300/year (Median salary for real estate agents)
$56,860/year (Median salary for real estate brokers)*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Association of Realtors,

Step 1: Licensing and Education

Individuals involved in the sale of real estate for a profit must be licensed through their state. Although licensing requirements differ by state, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that applicants should be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or GED, complete approved coursework, and pass an examination. A local board of realtors or state real estate commission can provide licensing requirements. The NAR also maintains a list of each state's real estate board and their contact information.

States dictate whether pre-licensing courses are a part of the qualifications required to take the real estate licensing exam. Those who have completed college real estate courses may be exempt from taking such pre-licensing courses, according to the BLS. These multiple-choice, computerized tests are usually taken through a testing vendor and are pass or fail. If one portion isn't passed, instructions are provided on how to retake the failed portion within a specified length of time.

Step 2: Get a Sponsor and a License

After passing the exam, the next step is to locate a real estate sponsor, also known as sponsoring broker. Real estate agents work on behalf of sponsoring brokers while helping clients to buy, sell, and rent property. Brokers hold agents' active real estate licenses, split commissions with them, and offer mentoring and training to new and current agents. Real estate agents aren't allowed to perform any transactions until their license has been issued by the state and a sponsor has been chosen. Realtors typically have a specific amount of time to find a sponsoring broker after completing the exam.

Applying for licensure takes place after successfully passing the state real estate examination and locating a sponsor. Generally, an individual will have to provide exam results, proof of pre-licensing coursework, an application for salesperson license, appropriate fees, and a background check report. The state's real estate board can provide the contact information to send the application materials.

Step 3: Continuing Education

Real estate agents and brokers are required to renew their license once every one to two years, depending upon the state. Often, this requires some form of continuing education. Failure to do so will result in a lapse in continuing to work as a realtor. State, regional, and national real estate associations and independent real estate schools offer continuing education courses that can fulfill state requirements.

Step 4: Become a Member

Real estate agents can become members of the National Associations of Realtors (NAR) after becoming a member of a local real estate board. Membership is typically extended to the NAR and the state's board. The NAR maintains a strict code of ethics, which must be followed in order to maintain membership. Membership benefits include access to tools, educational resources, research reports, and brand recognition.

Remember, a realtor is a real estate agent or broker that is a member of the NAR. He or she would have to have attained a minimum of a high school diploma, completed his or her state's requirements for working as a licensed agent or broker, followed through with continuing education requirements, and maintained an active membership with the NAR.

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