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How To Get A Real Estate License

Rachel Burris7 minute-read
May 08, 2020


When you find yourself with extra time on your hands, it can be challenging to figure out how to make the best use of it. Sure, you can surf the web or throw the latest Netflix series on, but there are more productive ways to fill the void. Why not use that time to learn a new trade and increase your skill set? Getting licensed to become a real estate agent can create the potential for a lucrative side hustle or an opportunity to pivot into a new career.

All states require potential licensees to complete numerous hours of coursework. While this time-intensive prelicensing requirement can be done in a traditional classroom setting, it can also be accomplished through online classes. So, you can take steps toward self-improvement from the comfort of your own home. By reading this article, you’ll learn how to get a real estate license, so you can determine if joining the industry is right for you.

How To Get A Real Estate License In 5 Steps

  • Make sure you meet your state’s basic requirements.
  • Complete prelicensing educational courses.
  • Take and pass the real estate license exam.
  • Submit your real estate license application.
  • Find a sponsor and join a real estate brokerage.

How Long Does It Take To Get A Real Estate License?

On average, it takes 3 – 6 months to get a real estate license. However, the amount of time it takes varies both by state and individual. The second step involved in obtaining a real estate license is completing the prelicensing education courses required by your state.

This part of the process tends to be the most time-consuming, but the number of hours of coursework required varies dramatically by state. For example, Texas requires prospective agents to complete 180 hours of prelicensing coursework, while Minnesota only obligates interested individuals to complete 30 hours.

Still, regardless of the number of hours you’re required to fulfill, it’s up to you to determine the pace at which you finish each course and learn the material. If you choose to chip away at the coursework each day and are able to quickly retain the information, you’ll find yourself on the lower end of the spectrum. But if you take classes once a week and struggle to study for the exam, you’ll find yourself at the higher end.

Step 1: Make Sure You Meet Your State’s Basic Requirements

Before you jump in, you must first check to see if you possess the basic requirements to qualify for becoming a real estate agent. To do so, you should go to the website of your state’s real estate board or commission and check your eligibility.

Typically, in order to qualify to become a real estate agent, you must:

  1. Be at least 18 years old. (In some states, the age requirements is 19.)
  2. Have legal U.S. residency status.
  3. Have a high school diploma or GED (in most states).
  4. Be of “good moral character” and not have a serious criminal record (in most states).

To find specific information about the requirements for your area, go to the Association of Real Estate License Law Officials’ website and click on the link for your state.

Although these conditions are pretty standard, the prelicensing course requirements are not. If you’re thinking of getting your license, review the number of hours required for your state to determine if you’re ready for the commitment.

Step 2: Complete Prelicensing Educational Courses

Although prelicensing courses can take up a considerable amount of your time, you can choose how you’d like to complete them. If you’re a person who learns best in a classroom environment led by an instructor, you may want to take the classes through a real estate school or community college. When taken in-person, these classes usually meet for a few hours each week. However, if you find that you have a lot of time on your hands now and want a more convenient way to fulfill the prelicensing requirements, you may find that taking the courses online is a better option.

When taking the courses online, you can complete the work at your own pace. However, the online courses are timed to ensure that you don’t skip or skim through any material. Therefore, you must spend a certain amount of time on each page, regardless of the amount of material presented, before being allowed to move to the next page.

To decide whether to take classes in-person or online, you should consider your learning style, how quickly you wish to complete the material and how much money you wish to spend. Courses can range from $300 – $1,000, with online classes being on the more affordable end. Either way, you must make sure that the courses you choose are being offered by an accredited real estate program. The easiest way to find a qualified prelicensing institution is to review the list of accredited courses presented on your state’s real estate commission website.

Step 3: Take And Pass The Real Estate License Exam

You must complete all required hours of prelicensing coursework and pass an initial exam provided by your prelicensing institution before you can register for your state’s real estate license exam. State exams are generally offered multiple times a month at a variety of locations, so you can schedule an exam that’s most convenient for you. You can find instructions on how to register on your state’s real estate commission website.

Typically, prospective agents are given 3.5 hours to complete the exam, which consists of two sections: One focuses on real estate principles and federal laws and the other on laws that are specific to your state. Expect to answer anywhere from 120 – 200 questions, some of which require a calculator. There is a fee for taking the exam, usually $15 – $60.

Preparing For The Real Estate License Exam

Although your prelicensing classes will cover all of the material on the test, the exam is not easy. Many fail at their first attempt because they haven’t spent enough time studying. While you can choose to simply review the course material, there are also many exam prep courses and materials you can purchase to help you study. These materials often include tips for passing the exam, as well as practice tests that will help you gauge your knowledge of the material. If you decide to purchase exam prep materials, just make sure that they were created specifically for your state’s exam.

In most states, you must take the exam within 1 year of completing your prelicensing classes. If you don’t pass the exam the first time around, don’t worry. You can retake it. However, some states, like New York, only allow you to take the exam twice, so make sure that you feel prepared before sitting for it.

Step 4: Submit Your Real Estate License Application

Once you pass your exam, you have 6 months to a year to file for your license. With your application, you may be asked to submit proof of your prelicensing coursework, your test results from the state exam and an application fee. The fee generally ranges from $50 – $300. You may also be subject to a background check.

You can submit your license application and materials through your state’s real estate commission and activate your license. Generally, your application is submitted before you find a sponsoring broker, but in some states, you may be asked to file the application after joining a real estate brokerage.

Step 5: Find A Sponsor And Join A Real Estate Brokerage

Your license entitles you to work as a real estate salesperson – in some states, they may refer to this role as an associate broker – however, you can’t begin representing buyers, sellers or renters until you have found a sponsoring broker and joined a real estate brokerage willing to hold your license. Typically, you’ll have to work under an experienced broker for the first 2 – 3 years in the industry.

The brokerage you work for will be in control of paying you your commissions and may influence the type and amount of business you receive, as well as the quality of training you receive. Therefore, it’s a good idea to begin doing research on established brokerages or agencies before you complete your coursework.

When doing your research, pay particular attention to how local brokerages differ in the following categories:

  • Brokerage type: Is the brokerage a national franchise or a small boutique? Is it a traditional agency, or is its business model centered around proptech? Keep in mind that agents working for larger brokerages tend to benefit from brand recognition, while smaller agencies often provide agents with greater mentorship opportunities.
  • Commission structure: Real estate salespeople must split their commissions with their brokerage. So it’s crucial that you find out what percentage of your commission you will receive from each transaction. If the brokerage offers you a traditional split, you can expect to receive 50% of each commission. The traditional split tends to be the most common for new agents, but some brokerages may be willing to offer a higher split, allowing you to take home around 70% of each commission.
  • Franchise or desk fees: Some brokerages may take additional fees out of your commission checks in exchange for the privilege of joining a nationally recognized brokerage or working in the office. As you do your research, be sure to ask each brokerage whether they charge any fees and how much you should expect to pay.

Final Thoughts On Getting Your Real Estate License

There’s no question that getting your real estate license can lead to a lucrative new career or a flexible way to make extra money on the side. However, you must be prepared to put in the work. The average real estate prelicensing course is just under 80 hours. But keep in mind that getting your license is just the beginning.

Some states require licensees to take post-licensing courses within the first 90 days – 1 year after obtaining their license. But all states require agents to take continuing education courses regularly to renew their license. So even after you obtain your license, you must be willing to dedicate anywhere from 22 – 90 hours of your time every couple of years to keep your license up to date.

If you’re up for a new challenge, head to the ARRELO website to find your local real estate commission’s website. For more information about working in the industry, check our real estate agent resources.

Rachel Burris

Rachel Burris is a writer covering topics of interest to present and future homeowners, as well as industry insiders. Prior to joining Rocket Companies, she worked as an English teacher for the New York City Department of Education and a licensed real estate agent for Brown Harris Stevens. She holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Bucknell University, a postbaccalaureate certificate in psychology from Columbia University and a master's degree in English education from Teachers College, Columbia University.