How to Become a
Real Estate Agent

Best Education Tracks, Key Skills, and Top Certifications

If you love beautiful properties and meeting new people, you may love the real estate business. In this article, you’ll learn how to become a real estate agent step by step, from starting your education to selling a property.

There’s more to the process than a love for homes and customer service. Real estate agents need a strong code of ethics and a keen eye for business if they’re going to have a long and successful career.

What Is a Real Estate Agent?

A real estate agent is a person that represents buyers and sellers in real estate transactions. Real estate transactions include home resales, selling commercial properties, raw land for development, and more. Real estate agents always work in an agency under a real estate broker.

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Real estate brokers are former agents that have more skills because of a combination of experience and extra education. These skills include reading over contracts and supervising more complex transactions, depending on their expertise. Legally, brokers have to supervise every transaction that a real estate agent makes.

What Type of School Should You Attend
to Become a Real Estate Agent?

Real estate schools give students everything they need to become real estate agents. These schools teach required pre-licensing courses and give students the exam prep they need to pass their licensing exam.

These schools teach different curriculums depending on the state, as many states have different hour requirements. The curriculum at these schools will always include the basics of real estate terminology, the practices of the job, and the legal considerations you need to know for your job.

Best Real Estate Education Tracks

Though real estate schools are the least expensive and most common option for real estate agents working today, there are more options. Several colleges offer more advanced degrees to people who are looking to add real estate expertise to their business education.


Real Estate School

Real estate schools are trade schools where students learn everything they need to pass an initial real estate licensing exam. Students learn the principles of real estate, how to physically conduct the job, and the legal necessities of the profession over several hours of instruction.

The average real estate agent prepares for their licensing exam by attending real estate school. If you’re not interested in attending a school in your area, there are many online options. But if you do go the online route, make sure that your school satisfies your state’s hour and curriculum requirements.


Community College

Many two-year colleges offer more in-depth education on the principles of real estate, through several possible associate degree programs. Like the real estate schools, these programs cover communications, marketing, business skills, and the legal aspects of the trade that students need to know.

This track may give you a deeper understanding of the principles of real estate than a real estate school due to its longer study time while also remaining cheaper than the bachelor’s degree route. You can also attend community colleges online to get your degree on a more flexible schedule.


Bachelor’s Degrees

Many universities offer undergraduate programs with a real estate focus. Generally, these options are offered under a college’s business school. There are plenty of online colleges where you can obtain a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration with a real estate focus.

These programs are designed for people who have previous experience in real estate as well as newcomers to the field. As the degree title suggests, the courses are usually geared more towards the business side of real estate than the agent side. They’re also usually pricier than the other options.

How to Become a Real Estate Agent: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Become a Real Estate Agent: A Step-by-Step Guide

If you’re interested in becoming a real estate agent, it’s a simple path. The standardized process and the short learning time before you get to practice the craft can be appealing.

Below are the five steps you need to become a real estate agent.

Attend a real estate school

A local real estate school will give you the education you need to pass the licensing exam. If you want a more in-depth educational experience, you can also choose to go for an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree.

Take the licensing exam

After you’ve completed your pre-licensing education in accordance with your state laws, you can take the licensing exam. These tests cover both federal and state real estate laws with 60 to 100 questions. It’s common for students to fail on their first try, but many also pass without issue.

Get your license

After a prospective agent passes the exam, they pay to activate their license through their state real estate commission’s site, then pay to join a local multiple listing service (MLS) so they can see and list properties. Many states also require you to undergo a background check before you can be licensed.

Join a brokerage

After your application is approved and you have your license, it’s time to go to work at a brokerage. Brokers ensure that the contracts work well for both parties and that they follow state and local laws. This step ensures that newcomers don’t make any crucial mistakes as they get started in their careers.

Consider joining the National Association of Realtors

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) is the largest trade association in the country. Only members of this organization can use the term “Realtor” when referring to themselves. Membership offers many benefits, but this step isn’t necessarily required for you to have a successful career.

Key Real Estate Agent Skills

Key Real Estate Agent Skills

Successful real estate agents are great communicators and negotiators that know their local market. Real estate agents work at the intersection of business and customer service, so they have to keep their clients happy while making sure everyone gets a fair deal.

These three skills aren’t everything there is to succeed in real estate, but they’ll carry you pretty far.

Communication Skills

There’s more to communication than just talking clients into buying a house. You have to be able to generate leads for your business to keep making sales and bringing in commissions. You also need to be able to bring first-time buyers along through the process clearly and concisely.

As you’re in the sales business, you’ll have to also hone your communication style around what works best for each client. Your customer service skills are important to ensure clients love working with you and become customers for life.

Knowledge of the Market

You have to have an idea of local market value, the rules of your municipality for home sales, and a good network in your area to help you generate leads. These skills combine to form the knowledge of the market.

This skill is important because it saves you and your clients time and money when it comes to closing a sale that you worked so hard to negotiate. It also makes it easier for you to focus on negotiations when you don’t have to expend energy hunting for new clients or forging new relationships every time you need inspections.

Negotiation Skills

As an agent, you’re going to have to negotiate. You’re going to have to negotiate with other agents on real estate sales. You’re going to have to negotiate with your brokerage on your commission percentage as well.

You’ll need to take these negotiations seriously if you’re going to advance in the field, and there are plenty of courses that can help you brush up on your negotiation skills. The better you are at negotiating, the more successful your career will be in the long term.

Real Estate Agent Salary and Job Outlook

The median salary for real estate agents in the US is around $49,040, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The money you earn as an entry-level agent depends on how many sales you make, as agencies pay on commission.

The job outlook for real estate agents is in line with the general economy. There’s a two percent growth in the job market expected over the next 10 years. That percentage is slightly lower than the four percent growth expected on average across all jobs.

Min salary


Average salary


Top salary


Entry-Level Real Estate Agent Job Requirements

The minimum requirement to start working as a real estate agent is to go to real estate school and pass your licensing exam. After you’ve passed your exam and obtained your license, you can join a brokerage and start selling homes.

Once you start selling homes, you’ll be paid a commission for every transaction, so expect to earn from a minimum of $24,000 to around the median salary of $49,040, according to PayScale.

What Does a Real Estate Agent Do?

What Does a Real Estate Agent Do?

Real estate agents secure listings, sell properties, and negotiate transactions between two parties. The parties can be companies or people, and it will change depending on whether the transaction is commercial or residential.

Below is a bit more information on these basic job duties.

Secure Listings

Securing listing agreements is one of the most important parts of the job for an agent. Listing agreements are contracts where property owners agree to let agents find buyers for their properties that meet their terms.

This job duty will vary based on what area you’re in, which is why it’s so important to know your market once you get started. Real estate agents often advertise on social media or bus benches to raise their profiles and secure more listings. It’s important to secure as many listing agreements as you think you can handle if you want to be maximizing your earning potential.

Sell Properties

After you’ve secured the listing, it’s time to do the work that you’ve been training for. Selling property is the center of the real estate agent experience, and it’s a combination of art and science.

You’ll need to make buyers comfortable with the process, and make them feel welcome in the properties you’re trying to sell them. It will take some practice to nail down your style, but you should find what works for you after a while.

Negotiate Transactions

After buyers commit to the homes that you’re trying to sell them, it’s time to move into the negotiation phase. Buyers want to make sure they’re getting a great deal, and sellers want to make sure that the transaction is worth their time and effort.

It’s going to take some push and pull to make sure everyone is happy. Sellers may have to end up covering certain costs to please the buyers, but if the property is in high demand, buyers may have to end up paying more than the asking price, sometimes in cash.

Real Estate Agent Certifications

The only required certification for a real estate agent to start working is their real estate license. After attaining their real estate license and working for a few years, agents can choose to get their broker license. From there, you can get many different certificates that show you’ve mastered a certain niche in real estate.

Real Estate License

The real estate license is the minimum required license to become a real estate agent. Requirements for this license vary depending on the state, but almost every state requires you to be at least 18 years old and have taken some form of classroom instruction before passing the licensing exam.

Real Estate Broker License

After you’ve worked as a real estate agent for a few years, you’ll be eligible to go for a real estate broker license. The requirements vary depending on your state, but most states require anywhere between one to three years before agents can take a broker course and sit for the licensing exam.

More Certifications

There are other real estate certifications that you can get to show prospective clients that you’ve mastered their niche to give them the best service possible. Some examples of popular certificates are the Certified Commercial Investment Member certification for commercial properties and Accredited Land Consultant certification for selling land for development.

How to Prepare for Your Real Estate Agent Job Interview

How to Prepare for Your Real Estate Agent Job Interview

You’ll have multiple interviews as a real estate agent. You’ll have your initial job interview to land a position at a brokerage. You’ll also have to interview to impress each new client to earn their trust.

Here are a few questions that you may hear during all of your interviews.

Real Estate Agent Job Interview Practice Questions

  • What licenses do you have?
  • Have you ever created marketing materials for a listing?
  • What are your favorite ways to attract new clients?
  • How have you dealt with difficult clients in the past?

How Long Does It Take to Become a Real Estate Agent?

It can take anywhere from two months to a year to become a real estate agent. The amount of time that it takes you will depend on both the classroom requirements for your state as well as the structure of the course you’re taking.

After you’ve secured your real estate agent license and found a job with a broker, you can start advancing in the field. After a few years, you can acquire a broker license while working towards additional certifications that prove your expertise to potential clients.

Associate degree


Bachelor’s degree


Should You Become a Real Estate Agent in 2021?

If you’re interested in viewing interesting properties and helping people reach their goals, then yes. The job outlook for the field is pretty stable, and if you work hard on building your brand it can be a pretty lucrative career.

As we mentioned above, there are several niches you can find in the field that may make your decision a bit easier. You can specialize in anything from selling homes to seniors to commercial properties, so this career could be anything you want it to be.

Real Estate Agent FAQ

What is a Realtor vs a Real Estate Agent?

Realtors and real estate agents are the same thing. The only difference is that Realtors are members of the National Association of Realtors, the national trade union for real estate agents.

Is real estate a good career in 2021?

Yes. If you enjoy working with people and selling property, it can be a very stable and successful career. You have to commit to working hard to establish your brand in the beginning, but the hard work will pay off.

Is it better to be a real estate agent or broker?

If you prefer working with people more, then maybe you’d prefer to be an agent. But if you appreciate the contractual and legal side of the business more, you may prefer being a broker. You have to work as an agent before you can apply to work as a broker anyway, so you should be able to get a feel for which path is best for you during that time.

What qualifications do you need to be a real estate agent?

Anyone can attend real estate school, pass the licensing exam, and get their license provided they’re over the minimum age in their state. There are no requirements beyond getting your credentials, but communication skills and a love for customer service will make the job easier.

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