We asked 16,655 job seekers about their Real Estate License. This is what they told us:
- 42% of job seekers said "changing careers" was the biggest reason for earning their Real Estate License
- 85% said earning their Real Estate License helped them make more money
- 82% said earning their Real Estate License helped them get a job
- 92% said they would recommend a family member or friend earn their Real Estate License
Real Estate Certification Costs, Reviews and More
A real estate certification license is required in all states to engage in real estate transactions on behalf of another individual. If you are acting as an agent to sell or buy property for someone other than yourself, you must be licensed to do so. There is no national real estate certification or license in the United States. A real estate license must be obtained in the state you plan to work in. Some states have reciprocity agreements. This means that you will not have to participate in a pre-licensing education program in another participating state, but you may be required to take the real estate license exam in that state (see more in Requirements by State). Acting as a real estate agent or realtor requires knowledge of real estate law and ethical business practices. There are serious legal repercussions if you participate in a real estate transaction without a license.
It is important that you understand the requirements in your state for obtaining the proper real estate license. Although requirements vary by state, most states have similar pre-licensing requirements.
What are the different types of real estate certifications?
If you are new to the real estate profession, you will most likely be seeking a real estate agent license (unless you reside in New Mexico or Colorado). Real estate agents with more experience may go on to pursue a real estate broker’s license.
Real Estate Agent
The most common type of real estate certification is at the agent level. Real estate agents are licensed professionals who typically specialize in either residential or commercial real estate. Real estate agents are usually first licensed to work in their state of residence. Their duties usually include finding buyers for listed properties or finding properties for clients to buy. In most states, a real estate agent must work under a real estate broker. This is an individual or brokerage firm that has additional licensing and more real estate experience. New Mexico and Colorado make this distinction clear by labeling those on the real estate agent level as “associate real estate brokers.”
Real Estate Broker
Real estate brokers have additional training and licensing allowing real estate agents to work under them. A real estate broker must first be a licensed real estate agent. Real estate brokers handle activities such as contracts with clients, earnest money deposits and escrow accounts.
People outside of the profession often use the term realtor to describe anyone who buys or sells property on behalf of another individual. However, the term "realtor" actually refers to real estate agents or brokers who are members of the National Association of Realtors. This is not a license or certification, but membership is necessary in order to call yourself a Realtor. In order to have access to Multiple Listing Services (MLS), you must have the Realtor designation. The MLS gives you access to other realtors' listings in your area.
What are the requirements for earning a real estate certification?
In most states, you must be at least 18 years old, be a high school graduate or hold a GED, and be a US citizen or have authorization to work in the United States. The majority of states require that individuals seeking a real estate license take a pre-licensing course. The pre-licensing education can be completed at a private real estate school or community college, and in some states it is offered through the state real estate board. Just make sure that the school that you choose is accredited and approved by the state real estate licensing board. The course can cost anywhere from $200 to $1,000, and it takes approximately three to six months to complete. Candidates for a real estate license must also take and pass a state exam. In addition to the exam, some states require a background check and fingerprinting. This process can cost between $100 and $200. These requirements vary from state to state, so be sure to check for specific requirements with your state real estate board if you are considering becoming a real estate agent.1
How do you become a real estate agent?
Step 1: Determine if you meet the requirements to become a real estate agent
Check with the board real estate licensing or department of real estate in the state you want to work in as a real estate agent to find out the specific requirements. Most states require a minimum age, a high school education or equivalent and citizenship or work authorization. Additionally, individuals must complete a pre-licensing course that takes anywhere from 60 to 90 hours to complete. If you do not meet these requirements, you will not be allowed to take the real estate license exam.
Step 2: Enroll in and complete a pre-licensing course
After determining that you meet the requirements in your state for becoming a real estate agent, you must enroll in a pre-licensing course. These courses require approximately 60 to 90 hours of coursework, which takes most individuals three to six months to complete. There are a variety of formats offered: in-person, online, structured or self-paced. Check with your state's department of real estate to verify that the program you choose is approved. In a pre-licensing course, students learn about topics such as:
- Fair housing laws
- Finance and mortgages
- Real estate appraisal
- Real estate investments
- Real estate law
Step 3: Take and pass the licensing exam in your state
Passing the real estate exam in your state is the next step in obtaining your real estate license. The test is multiple choice and usually offered electronically through an approved testing provider. Some states administer the exam at their own facilities. The cost of the exam ranges from $15 to $60. The average passing score required is 70 percent. Once you have passed the exam, you will receive documentation of your passing score. Submit this document along with your real estate license application.
Step 4: Submit a real estate license application
To submit an application for a real estate license, you will have to complete the required forms, submit documentation of a passing score on the real estate exam and pay a fee. The average fee is $150. In some states, you will have to complete a background check and fingerprinting as part of the application process, which you will also have to pay for (around $60).
Step 5: Join a real estate brokerage
In most states, a new real estate agent must work under a real estate broker for the first two to three years. There are a few different types of real estate brokerages, and it's important to research which type will be a good fit for you.
Step 6: Become a member of the National Association of Realtors
Joining the National Association of Realtors (NAR) is not a requirement to hold a real estate agent license, but in order to call yourself a Realtor, you must be a member of this organization. As a Realtor, you will have access to the Multiple Listing Services (MLS), which provides greater earning potential because you see all of the real estate listings in your area. To become a member, you can join a local REALTORⓇ association. This automatically makes you a member of the state and national NAR.
Real Estate License by State
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
1. Chamber of Commerce- How to Get a Real Estate License. Retrieved November 2019.
Last updated: May 2020
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“How challenging it can be to learn the ropes after certification”
“I only wish that I got this certification sooner and continued on to earn a Bachelor’s degree to go along with the certifications.”
“I wish I’d known how easy it is to achieve so I could have started sooner.”
“I went in with an open attitude and there is not anything I wished I would have known prior to earning this certification.”
“I wish I knew to start it at an earlier age.”
“Make sure you keep your day job unless you have a strong support system”
“Great way to build second stream of income. And is be flexible, you make your own schedule.”
“This certification is good to have if you plan on being in the construction industry. Please follow through and get job training to make this certification work for you.”
“Study and research the right school for your learning needs.”
“Do it! It’s a career enhancing license .”