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Career Change Guide To Becoming A Real Estate Agent

Career Change Guide To Becoming A Real Estate Agent

The decision to change careers often sounds monumental and may even feel like you’re stepping out of the mainstream. Yet, major career changes are probably more common than you might. It turns out that around 49% of people have made the leap from one career to another

Sometimes, they’re chasing a more lucrative career. Other times, they’re escaping jobs that make them unhappy. If you’re looking for a career change with good earning potential that relies on good people skills, then you should consider becoming a real estate agent.

Not clear on what that kind of career change involves. Keep reading for our guide on how you become a real estate agent.

Basic Requirements

Most states require that you are at least 18 years old before you can become a real estate agent, although a handful of states set the minimum age at 19 or 21. As a general rule, you will also need either a high school diploma or a GED. A few states will accept slightly education, but don’t bank on it.


No state requires a college education for people to get their real estate license. That doesn’t mean you’re done with education. Every state has a licensing exam and you must complete real estate-specific coursework before you can take the exam.

The amount of coursework varies across states but typically bottom out at 40 hours of coursework. On the high end, you may need 135 hours or more of coursework. You’ll need to check your individual state requirements for the exact number of hours you need.

Where to Take the Courses

You can find some real estate coursework offered through local colleges. Most people look for state-specific real estate coursework through online education providers.

This lets you do the courses on a schedule that works for you, as long as you complete the work within a certain amount of time. Most online providers give you six months to a year to complete the coursework.

What’s in the Courses?

Real estate license prep courses cater their content to topics covered in the state license exam, which means you can see some variances. Most of the courses will hit a number of key topics, such as:

  • State and federal real estate laws
  • Taxes
  • Contracts
  • Business essentials
  • Financing
  • Valuation

Depending on your state, you may see more in-depth coverage of certain topics or a wider range of topics covered.

Legal Hoops

Most states impose some legal hoops that you must navigate before you can take the real estate license exam. The state may require that you get fingerprinted. A criminal background check is also a fairly standard requirement.

A felony conviction can make it more difficult for you to get a license, but it difficult is not the same thing as impossible. Many states will let you appeal to their real estate commission or division. These regulating bodies can ignore the conviction and essentially give you a waiver to take the exam and hold a license.

License Exam

The actual exams break down a little differently in each state, but won’t typically stray off of the topics covered in an approved license exam prep course.

Most exams will break the test up into questions about local real estate laws and business practices and federal laws regarding real estate. You state will set the minimum threshold of correct answers for a passing grade, but 70% for each part is fairly standard.

Most states also require that a licensed real estate broker sponsor your application to take the exam. So, make sure you develop a working relationship with a broker ahead of time.

Agents Are Not Brokers

As a real estate agent, you cannot simply hang out your shingle and start selling property for people. Instead, you must work for a real estate broker. For example, a Chicagoan might find work with a real estate brokerage firm like URB Chicago real estate as an agent.

Working under a broker helps ensure that you don’t accidentally violate state or federal laws while you learn the ropes of the business.

Real estate brokers started out as real estate agents, but they accumulated enough experience, extra education, and passed another exam to become brokers.

Brokers can start a real estate firm on their own and hire agents to act as salespeople. If you want to become a broker and own your own business, you’ll have to follow a similar path.

Most states require that you spend at least two years actively working as a real estate agent before you can become a broker. Brokers take additional courses in the same subjects as agents. They also do coursework in areas like human resources, business law, and economics.

On the Job Training

The coursework you take for your real estate license is largely focused on the laws you must follow, standard forms and contracts, and some core business principles. Don’t mistake those as preparation for actually working as a real estate agent.

You get that information from on-the-job training with a broker. They’ll teach you about things like the multiple listing service they use and best practices for managing clients.

Depending on the broker’s needs, you may also get some basics in marketing and copywriting. After all, someone needs to write the listing for the properties you represent.

Take those first few years as an opportunity to learn by observing how more experienced agents and brokers handle clients and properties.

Becoming a Real Estate Agent and You

The housing market has turned very hot in the last few years. If you’re thinking of becoming a real estate agent, that makes this a great time to jump into the industry.

Make sure you check your state’s specific requirements closely before you get started. If you don’t get enough hours of coursework or get the wrong coursework, it can mean taking a different prep course. That will set back your exam date.

Looking for more tips on improving your career or switching careers? Check out some of the posts over in our Economy and World section .

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