Deciding to become a real estate agent is a major move in anyone's career journey. People enter the field of real estate from various occupations and careers, and at various stages of their lives. Everyone has different reasons why they think real estate is the correct career choice for them. But, one question consistently comes from people looking to enter the real estate industry: "How do I become a real estate agent?"
The simple answer is, “it depends.” It mostly depends on where an individual wants to practice real estate. Becoming a real estate agent requires a state license. Each state regulates their own real estate licensing process, and each state’s regulations or rules are slightly different. But, there are a few basic requirements that are always consistent.
General Requirements to Qualify to Become a Real Estate Salesperson
To be eligible to become a licensed real estate salesperson or agent, you must:
- Be at least 18 or 19 years old (depends on the state)
- Have legal US residency
- Complete your required pre-license education (find your state's requirements)
- Pass your state real estate license examination
These items represent the high-level checklist of what it takes to become a licensed real estate agent, but there are a lot of decisions you need to make along the way that will dictate whether your journey is successful or not.
Is Real Estate Right For You?
The first step in this process is making sure that real estate is right for you. As a real estate salesperson, each day is spent working for you. This means handling your own office management, paperwork, prospecting leads, developing relationships, managing contacts, and dealing with buyers and sellers. Reach out to local real estate agents and brokers and ask them questions about what the day-to-day work is like. Ask questions about real estate as a long-term career. Starting a full-time career as a real estate agent can’t be treated like a hobby. It requires a full commitment. Make sure real estate is the right path for you.
How to Become a Real Estate Agent
While the specifics vary by state, there are five steps that every individual must take to earn their license and become a real estate agent.
Step 1: Understand Your State’s Real Estate Licensing Requirements
Each state’s real estate licensing requirements are different. Your state’s real estate commission website will list the official pre-licensing requirements. Kaplan Real Estate Education offers a couple pages that narrow this knowledge gap down. The Steps to Licensing page is designed to show, in simple steps, what it takes to become licensed in each state. In addition, Kaplan offers a page dedicated to each state’s real estate licensing and continuing education requirements. See the link below for your state’s pages.
Step 2: Enroll in a Real Estate Pre-licensing Course
There are variety of ways you can choose to complete your real estate pre-licensing education requirements, from live classroom locations at local real estate schools, some realty firms, universities and technical schools offer real estate licensing programs, home-study, and online real estate education. This is an important decision in your journey. Make sure you enroll with a school that has a good reputation, offers quality content and instructors, and is focused on positive student outcomes. Your real estate licensing education will be difficult and comprehensive, but it will also be the springboard to a successful career as a real estate professional.
Step 3: Apply To Take the Real Estate Salesperson Exam
Timing is important at this step. Make sure you are following the application process with your state so you can sit for your real estate agent exam soon after you finish your real estate licensing classes. This process will be state-specific and include a fee. Check with your state’s real estate regulatory authority for complete details. Some states require you submit fingerprints and pass a background check. This can take weeks to process. In many states, the application process must be complete before you can register or schedule your exam date. Don’t let the paperwork become a roadblock to getting started in your new real estate career.
Step 4: Pass the Real Estate Salesperson Exam
Passing the real estate exam takes more than finishing the educational requirements—it takes preparation. Not everyone passes the exam the first time. Preparing yourself to pass the state exam takes additional study time. Kaplan highly recommends enrolling in an exam prep class. Because the ultimate goal is to help you pass the exam, most of Kaplan’s pre-licensing packages include the comprehensive Exam Prep Course. Taking practice exams, measuring your strengths and weaknesses, and working through comprehensive topical review will sharpen your knowledge and prepare you for exam day.
Show up to the exam location with a positive attitude, answer the questions using the massive knowledge bank you accumulated in your studies, and walk out with a passing grade on your state real estate exam!
Step 5: Find a Real Estate Broker
Your passing grade on your state real estate licensing exam doesn’t quite mean you have a license yet. A real estate salesperson (agent) is licensed to act on behalf of a broker and may not act as a real estate agent independently. Consider finding a real estate broker early in your licensing process. Once you have completed your pre-licensing education requirements and passed your exam, you and your broker will both need to complete final paperwork with the state. Once the form is accepted, your license will be issued, and you may practice real estate under the sponsorship of the broker. Keep in mind that there are a number of items to consider when finding the right real estate brokerage.
Good luck on your journey to becoming licensed, as well as your eventual successful career as a real estate agent! Each day can be unique and different for a real estate agent, and it can be a very rewarding and exciting career!