How to become a realtor in 2024

Last updated: July 23, 2024
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Eleana Bowman
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Buying, selling, and managing property is big business. It's an exciting industry with job opportunities across the country.

Realtors, sales agents, and brokers need excellent communication skills, local knowledge, and negotiation skills. Does this sound like you? Then, real estate could be the perfect career pathway for you.

The job outlook for those working in this field is good. By 2031, there'll be around 30,100 new real estate jobs, rising at a rate of 5%.

Want to know how to start a real estate career? In this article, we'll tell you everything you need to know about becoming a realtor. Plus, we'll give you a rundown of the top skills you'll need to do the job.

What is a realtor?

When we talk about real estate, there are a few different career choices.

First, there are real estate agents who work for real estate companies. They buy and sell properties on behalf of clients and get paid a commission.

Then, there are real estate brokers. Brokers are similar to real estate agents, except they have a brokerage license. This extra step allows real estate brokers to work for themselves and employ real estate agents.

Finally, there are realtors. They have all the same skills and qualifications as a real estate agent or broker. However, they also need to be a member of a professional real estate association, such as the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

In this article, we'll focus on realtors, but the pathway for all three professions is similar.

These real estate professionals can work independently or manage a team. Realtors usually work full-time, with some evening and weekend shifts.

How to become a realtor

Want to work in the real estate industry but don't know where to start? We've put together this step-by-step guide to help you kick off your career as a realtor.

1. Get the basics

Before you go any further, think about whether you meet the basic requirements. For example, you'll need a high school diploma or equivalent.

To work as a realtor, you'll also need to be a US citizen. And the minimum age requirement is eighteen or nineteen years old, depending on your location.

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Any experience in sales, administration, or customer service, will give you an advantage.

You'll also need to make a time commitment. Once you have the basics, the entire process can take up to six months before you can work as a real estate agent. It can take even longer to become a realtor.

2. Get a certificate

A confident, outgoing personality is essential if you want to be a successful realtor. But your people skills will only get you so far.

A real estate course will teach you the basics. You'll learn everything from real estate law to property evaluations and sales techniques.

Most community colleges offer real estate training options, and there may also be a real estate school in your area. If you're working full-time, online classes can be an option.

Education requirements can vary between states, but you'll usually need to complete a set amount of classroom hours.

While you don't need a bachelor's degree, having one can be helpful. For example, maybe your end goal is to run your own business as a realtor. A bachelor's degree in real estate, law, business, or finance will improve your chances of success.

3. Get a license

After you've earned a certificate or degree, you'll need a real estate license. What you learn during your time as a student will help you pass this stage.

With a license, you'll be able to work in your state. If you do decide to change states, you may need to get a new license or tick a few extra boxes before you can work.

So, how do you get a real estate license? You'll learn about the licensing process during your coursework. Your instructor should refer you to the right examination center in your state, so you can pass an accredited exam.

You should be able to book ‌your ‌real estate exam date online. However, you'll need to take the exam in person. When you schedule your exam, you'll also have to pay an application fee.

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On examination day, you'll be given a two-part multiple-choice test. The first part will have national questions that focus on general real estate. The second part will be about laws specific to your state. You should schedule up to four hours for this computer-based exam.

You'll need to meet the minimum score on both parts to pass. If you fail any part of the test, you may be able to retake the licensing exam at a later date with an additional fee.

Once you've passed the exam, you can apply for your real estate license. You'll have to share your results to prove you have a passing score and pay license fees.

4. Pass a background check

To work in real estate, you'll need to pass a background check. This step can be during the licensing process or may happen once you apply for your first job.

You'll be dealing with a diverse range of people and have access to residential and commercial properties. You'll also deal with confidential information, including financial records.

Background checks are done to protect the public and flag any prior offenses. These checks cover a range of areas and go back at least seven years.

Your references will be checked, and your education, work experience, and license will be verified.

Then, there's a criminal background check. Any felonies or misdemeanors will be flagged — whether they’re on a local, state, or federal database. Depending on your location, there may also be a driving background check and credit history check.

Learn more about background checks in our comprehensive guide.

5. Work for a brokerage

Once you've been through the real estate licensing process, you can get some job training. You'll usually start working for a real estate brokerage, as this is a requirement in most states.

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As you learn from your mentors, you'll get agent training. For example, you'll get to know the local area, use different computer programs, and offer assistance during open inspections.

When you work for a brokerage, you'll get valuable experience, training, and support from real estate professionals. During this period, you can start building your network.

6. Join an association

There's one more crucial step to becoming a realtor.

While you can work as a real estate agent after you've completed the steps above, you'll need to join an association to call yourself a realtor.

When you join NAR (National Association of Realtors), you'll get a range of benefits. For example, there are professional tools and resources, discounts, and ongoing support.

Your realtor status will help open doors and give you more career and networking opportunities.

7. Know your market

To have a long-term career as a realtor, you'll need to know the market where you're listing properties. Get to know price ranges and keep track of what's sold recently.

Good realtors know the importance of network connections. Meeting the locals will be beneficial, and you can look for networking opportunities in person and online.

Even if someone isn't buying or selling right now, they may change their minds in the future.

Try to keep up with industry trends, and if you decide to start your own real estate agency, you'll need a business plan.

What skills do you need to be a realtor?

Want to work in the real estate business? Here are the skills you’ll need to be a successful realtor.

Communication skills

Realtors deal with different people such as property owners, property buyers, and renters. And they can also deal with members of the public, employees, tradespeople, and business owners.

Excellent communication skills are essential. You should be confident speaking in person and over the phone. Realtors also need to be good listeners to understand what their clients are looking for.

Most realtors are comfortable talking to strangers and always have business cards ready to hand out.

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Besides verbal communication skills, realtors need excellent written communication skills and positive body language.

Negotiation skills

Another key skill every realtor needs is the ability to negotiate. Because they earn real estate commissions, these professionals are always looking for the best price.

Buying property is a big investment, and the realtor may need to act as a go-between for the buyer and seller. For example, a potential buyer may offer a lower price. The realtor can speak to the seller and come back with their acceptance or a counteroffer.

They may also have to negotiate terms and details for the contract.

Computer skills

Realtors perform a range of duties that rely on technology, so strong computer skills are a must-have.

For example, they create marketing materials for properties. These may include listings on real estate websites, promotional flyers, social media posts, and videos.

Realtors use a range of computer programs and need to check their emails regularly. They need to prepare contracts, input details from paper applications, and look over digital documents.

Besides common software such as Microsoft Office and Google Workspace, some real estate brokerages use dedicated software. If you're tech-savvy and a fast learner, you'll be able to work out how to use these programs.

Time management

Want to be a realtor? You'll need good time management skills. These real estate salespeople need to be organized and able to stick to a schedule.

For example, they need to greet potential buyers at open inspections. Realtors need to get there on time and make sure the showing runs smoothly.

They need to manage appointments with clients, phone calls, and other administrative duties. There can be deadlines to meet, and they have to make sure any sales paperwork is ready for the next steps.


In real estate, most of your business will come from word of mouth. Your reputation is everything, so it's important to have integrity.

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Realtors need to follow a code of ethics and treat their clients fairly. From the first impression to the time the real estate transaction is completed, realtors should follow the highest standards.

Happy customers will be more likely to recommend a realtor's service, improving your chances of commission.

How much can you make in real estate?

If you want to work in real estate, you may be wondering how much you can make. Remember, your income will usually be tied to a commission structure, and if you have strong sales skills, there's no limit to how much you can earn.

The average hourly salary for those in real estate is $23.45 per hour or $48,770 per year.

The location can also have an impact on your salary. For example, if you get a job as a real estate broker in California, the average annual salary is $117,820. Compare this to Colorado, where the average salary is $83,410 per year.

Where to find a job in real estate

Once you've passed your real estate licensing exam, you can start the job application process.

Where can you find a job? Head to our job board and browse real estate positions in your area. While you're there, make sure you sign up for a free account to set up job alerts.

You can also join our community discussions and connect with others in the industry.

Becoming a realtor

Are you a people person? Do you have a passion for buying and selling property? A career as a realtor could be the perfect fit.

You won’t need an advanced degree to start your real estate career. However, you’ll need a certificate and a license to work as a real estate agent.

Once you gain experience and become a member of a real estate association, you can work as a licensed realtor. To get new clients and boost your sales, you should get to know the local market and network with others in the community.

Don’t forget there are a few skills you’ll need to work in this industry. For example, it’s a sales role, so you’ll need excellent communication skills and negotiation skills. And realtors need computer skills, time management, and integrity.

Ready to start your job search? Head to our job board. Want more insightful articles? Check out our resource center.



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