Find out exactly how to become a realtor with this step by step instructional guide. One of the nice things about this career is that becoming a realtor does not require you to have or pursue a bachelor’s degree. Successful realtors can have highly lucrative and satisfying careers and there is always much to learn in this profession. In this article we will answer questions such as how to become a real estate agent (see below for the difference between realtor and real estate agent), how to get a real estate license, how long does it take to become a real estate agent and realtor, what are the pros and cons of this career and more.

What is the Difference Between a Realtor and a Real Estate Agent

A realtor is a licensed real estate agent who is also an active member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). They must join the latter organization and make a commitment to uphold the highest standards in the profession in order to preserve their realtor status.

What Does a Realtor Do?

Like all real estate agents, realtors help clients either buy or sell homes, residential properties, commercial properties, or undeveloped parcels of land. They act as mediators, facilitators, and negotiators, representing their clients to get the best possible price for a seller or the lowest possible price for a buyer. The ultimate goal of the realtor is to make sure every transaction they’re involved in is completed swiftly, smoothly, and legally, to the satisfaction of all parties involved.

Realtors who represent sellers are known as listing agents. They assist sellers with every aspect of the sales process, including the creation of listings, the arrangement of appraisals and showings, price negotiations, and contract signings. A realtor who acts as a buyer agent, on the other hand, will represent real estate purchasers exclusively, offering their services to help their clients find suitable properties at reasonable prices. They also handle negotiations, closing procedures, and other administrative aspects involved in real estate transactions. Rental agents are another type of specialized realtor, and their job is to help prospective renters find properties that fit their family’s needs and budgets.

You might also consider learning about how to become a mediator.

How Much Does a Realtor Make?

According to the jobs search and review platform Glassdoor, the current average salary for a realtor is $64,173 annually.

However, it should be noted that realtors, real estate agents, and brokers all work on commission. Wages in the industry are highly variable, meaning realtors can make much more or quite a bit less than the industry median or average wage, depending on their skills and work habits. Between 2019 and 2029, the number of jobs available for realtors and real estate agents is expected to grow by two percent, which is only half the rate of growth for all occupations combined.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Realtor?

Becoming a realtor is actually one of the professions which doesn’t take that long to launch a career in. There are a few questions regarding time that you may be interested in, so we have answered all of these here.

  • How long does it take to become a real estate agent? It typically takes 2 to 6 months from start to finish
  • How long does it take to become a realtor? About 2 to 6 months (as you’ll see below this requires an extra step but not necessarily extra time)
  • How long does it take to get a real estate license? It can take anywhere between 40 and 180 hours of coursework, depending on your state’s requirements.

How to Become a Realtor: A Step-by-Step Guide

Let’s find out exactly how to get into real estate and become a realtor!

Step 1: Obtain a High School Diploma

The core educational requirement to enter the real estate profession is a high school diploma or GED. Once you’ve completed this level of education, you’ll be qualified to register for real estate-specific training courses, which you’ll need to take and pass in order to move forward with your goal of becoming a realtor.

Step 2: Take a Pre-Licensing Course for Aspiring Real Estate Agents

You must have an agent’s license to practice as a real estate agent or realtor, and before you can apply for that license you’ll have to complete a pre-licensing course customized for aspiring real estate salespersons.

You can register for a pre-licensing course with a real estate training school or institute that has been accredited by the real estate commission in your state. You should be able to find multiple schools in larger cities, and they will likely be distributed throughout your state in less populous locations as well.

A pre-licensing course will teach you everything you need to know to succeed as a real estate agent or realtor. You’ll be educated in the principles of real estate and real estate law, and you’ll learn all about contracts, real estate financing, professional ethics, and other practical and theoretical matters that you’ll be asked about on your licensing exam.

Each state has its own requirements for pre-licensing education. Depending on the state where you live, you’ll need to complete somewhere between 60 and 180 hours of pre-licensing classwork. Most real estate training schools offer flexible scheduling, which means you’ll be able to complete your coursework and practice sessions in-person or online, and on days and at times that are most convenient for you. Pre-licensing education in real estate is generally quite affordable, with tuition costs ranging from $300 to $900 for a course that will take from a few weeks to a few months to finish.

Step 3: Take and Pass Your State Licensing Exam and Become a Licensed Real Estate Agent

Each state administers its own unique licensing exam for prospective real estate agents and realtors. They may be offered at exam centers administered by the state real estate commission, or at national testing centers, like Pearson VUE. You’ll have to pay a registration fee of between $100 and $300 when you schedule your exam online.

These comprehensive tests are divided into national and state-specific sections, to make sure your understanding of real estate principles and practices is well-rounded and complete. A passing score of 70 percent will normally be required, and you will have the option of taking the exam again if you fail the first time.

Your application for a real estate agent’s license will include your exam score and a transcript from your pre-licensing course, plus whatever personal information is required by your state’s real estate commission (many states will require you to furnish a background check).

How much does it cost to get a real estate license? Your licensing fee will likely be in the $100 to $400 range but can range anywhere from $60 to $600, and if your application is approved you’ll be issued a certificate that proves you’re a licensed real estate agent and fully prepared to work in your chosen field.

Licenses must be renewed every two or three years, and you’ll have to meet your state’s continuing education requirements to qualify for renewal.

Step 4: Seek Employment through a Real Estate Brokerage

Real estate agents and realtors work under the supervision of licensed real estate brokers in brokerage firms. Agents and realtors cannot work independently, but must join a brokerage before becoming involved in real estate transactions.

As an associate of that business, you’ll function as an independent contractor rather than an employee. This means you won’t be paid a salary, but will instead receive your compensation in the form a commission for each transaction you complete.

This commission is paid out (usually by the seller) as a percentage of the final purchase price of the property that was sold. It must be split between brokers and agents on both sides of the deal. A commission of between four and six percent is standard (it may be higher in some states), and it is this total that will ultimately be split four ways.

To find a place in a brokerage in the area where you’d like to live and work, you’ll need to arrange an interview, and if the hiring manager or owner decides to bring you on board you’ll be given desk space and be put on floor duty at certain times or on certain days. While you’ll be able to take calls from potential customers when you’re on duty, you can also recruit or search for clients on your own. You may find them through networking efforts that involve your family, friends, or neighbors. You may also find useful contacts on social media sites, or through your own personal realtor’s website, which may be linked to your brokerage’s website or maintained by you as a separate entity.

Step 5: Join the National Association of Realtors and Become an Officially Sanctioned Realtor

A realtor is a real estate agent who has chosen to join the National Association of Realtors (NAR). You can enroll in the NAR by joining your local realtor’s association (there are more than 1,400 chapters nationwide), which will automatically make you a member of the state and national associations. You’ll be officially listed on each organization’s member rolls and will remain there as long as you pay your annual membership fees (currently $150 for the national association, plus whatever your state and local associations might charge).

When pledging your support to this organization, you agree to abide by a 17-point Code of Ethics that ensures you uphold the highest in standards and practices at all times. Before you can be accepted as a member of the NAR, you must complete a special ethics course that will help you learn and internalize this code, and your subsequent compliance to it will be monitored by other realtors and real estate professionals with whom you work.

Becoming a member of the NAR will entitle you to certain benefits that can improve your personal and professional life. This includes special discounts on insurance or office supplies, chances to attend special seminars or enroll in customized continuing education classes, and the ability to access the Realtor’s Multiple Listing Service (MLS) database, which provides detailed descriptions of all homes and properties for sale in all states and U.S. territories.

One of the primary advantages of becoming a realtor is that it allows you to qualify for special certifications or designations that testify to your expertise in various vital aspects of the real estate industry. If you have the requisite professional experience in these areas, you can sign up for certification courses that will award you the following special designations:

  • Accredited Buyer’s Representative
  • Accredited Land Consultant
  • Certified Commercial Investment Member
  • Certified International Property Specialist
  • Certified Property Manager
  • Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager
  • Certified Residential Specialist
  • Counselor of Real Estate
  • General Accredited Appraiser
  • NAR Green Designation (for dedication to environmentally sustainable practice)

You can take certification courses through institutes, societies, and councils associated with the NAR. Upon completion of each course plus all required exams, you’ll be issued special designations that permit you to advertise your expertise in the various specialty areas.

Before you can join the NAR, the owners or branch office manager of the brokerage that employs you must join the NAR first (as most will have already done before you’re hired). Realtors work at firms that are run by other realtors, which is a title available to brokers as well as real estate agents.

It must be emphasized that you don’t need to have a prescribed amount of experience as a real estate agent before you can qualify to become a realtor. You can apply for that designation any time after you’ve accepted or started a job with a NAR-affiliated brokerage.

Step 6: Pursue a Promotion to Real Estate Broker (How to Become a Real Estate Broker)

If you want to take the final step up the career ladder in the real estate industry, you could pursue a license to become a real estate broker. Depending on their state of residence, a realtor needs between two and five years of experience (along with a predetermined number of completed transactions on their record) to qualify to take a broker’s course and licensing examination.

Should you eventually ascend to the position of broker, you would be eligible to assume a supervisory or ownership role in real estate. As the sole or part owner or manager of a brokerage, you would be entitled to a commission for all the sales completed by the agents working under you, instead of only receiving commissions for sales you’ve completed as an individual.

While you can conceivably become a realtor in less than a year’s time, it will take you at least three years of training and experience before you could become a licensed real estate broker.

Pros and Cons of a Career as a Realtor

Pros of Becoming a Realtor

Skilled and motivated realtors have a firm grasp of every aspect of the real estate business, and take great pride and pleasure in their capacity to bring mutually beneficial deals to fruition. Because they work on commission, a realtor actually has a good deal of control over their compensation, and they know they will be rewarded for hard work and persistent effort. realtors gain job security from the fact that they provide a timeless service, and can potentially find clients on both sides of the transactional divide. Work satisfaction among realtors tends to be high, since they’re generally able to set their own working hours and have quite a bit of flexibility in their scheduling options.

Cons of Becoming an Realtor

The commission system can put realtors in a bind when times are slow, which can definitely be an issue in the real estate business, where up and down cycles are regularly experienced. While some sales may go smoothly, others can be time consuming and occasionally even contentious. When deals fall through at the last minute, a lot of hard work can go for naught. In general, realtors can’t expect to experience a high rate of success, since the majority of potential buyers and sellers won’t be able to reach a deal. Even though realtors have more say than most over their working schedules, the total hours they end up working may be more than the usual 40.

Important Characteristics of a Successful Realtor

The most respected and successful realtors are honest, forthright, and committed to fair practice. They don’t bend the truth or take shortcuts to complete sales, but instead demonstrate a healthy and impressive respect for their profession and for the interests of both sides in a negotiation. While their job is to represent their clients first and foremost, they trust that an honest approach will ultimately deliver the most financial rewards. Consequently, they develop a strong reputation for integrity and that helps them complete more deals than agents or realtors who shade the truth or otherwise cut corners in a futile attempt to get ahead.

A superior realtor is a strong, confident, and successful communicator. They have excellent powers of persuasion, relying on accurate yet compelling presentations to bring potential sales across the finish line. In addition to being smooth and polished speakers, they are also superb listeners who are able to pick up on subtle clues and that tell them how best to respond to the concerns that buyers and sellers may express. Top-flight realtors have an advanced level of emotional intelligence, and their ability to read people’s thoughts and feelings allows them to engage genuinely and effectively when dealing with members of the public.

Highly successful realtors are natural optimists, who expect to find success in life and who are confident they can help others find happiness and fulfillment as well. An optimistic attitude will impress clients, co-workers, employers, and all the other people a realtor must do business with while initiating, negotiating, and closing sales. An optimistic approach will foster excellent working relationships that make it easier to bring potential deals to fruition. It will also help create bonds of trust with clients that will endure even when it takes longer than expected to find a suitable buyer or seller. Optimism is also important for the realtor from a personal perspective, since they must remain positive and hopeful even when times are slow or when they’ve hit a dry spell.


Here we looked at how to get your real estate license, how do you become a real estate agent, how to become a realtor an real estate broker, how long does it take to get your real estate license and go through the process from start to finish. The realtor profession is somewhat unique in that you have quite a bit of control over your potential compensation and the field does not have a high barrier to entry, such as a bachelor’s degree. If this guide has helped you in some small way to get some clarity and forward momentum in your career, then we have succeeded in our goal. We wish you great achievement, enjoyment and success!