How To Get a Real Estate License: Requirements

When considering a career in real estate, one of the first things you need to know is how to get a real estate license. Requirements and eligibility depends on the state the applicant lives in and the type of license he or she is seeking.

There are two main types of real estate licenses: salesperson licenses and broker licenses. It is important to note that many states are now converting to a broker-only licensing system.

In these states, an applicant seeking a salesperson license must instead qualify for an associate broker license, which is considered the equivalent of a salesperson license, and pass the state and national broker exam.

A big part of obtaining a real estate license involves taking the required pre-license education courses. These courses not only prepare you for the real estate exam but also teach you the basic information you need to know to be successful in real estate. These courses must be approved by the real estate commission in the state the applicant lives in.

The commission often provides a list of approved courses or a list of approved real estate schools on their website. Check the real estate license requirements by state for prelicense education specifics and/or a link to each state’s real estate commission website.

How to get a real estate license - requirements

How to Get a Real Estate License: Requirements

Passing the real estate exam is another big step in the process. There are separate exams for the salesperson license and the broker license.

The salesperson license exam is usually shorter and easier than the broker exam. Both exams usually have a national and state portion and are timed.

To prepare for the real estate exam, applicants should take lots of practice tests and study the state real estate candidate handbook and real estate exam prep guides.

Timing is very important when applying for a real estate license. Most states impose time limits on how long pre-license education course credits and license exam scores are valid for. The time limits are usually 12 months of less, therefore it is crucial for the applicant to apply for the license before the credits and scores expire.

Experience requirements for broker licenses also often have time limits. In most states, applicants for a brokers license must have obtained the required sales experience within the past five years.

It is also important to have a clean criminal record, since many states require the applicant to undergo a criminal background check and submit fingerprints to the real estate commission. States that don’t require a background check ask the applicant to answer a series of question about his or her background or ask for letters of recommendation from reputable colleagues or associates.

Having a criminal history or questionable background won’t automatically disqualify someone for a real estate license, though. Usually the real estate commission will look over the applicant’s history and application and decide whether to allow the license or not.

Some states also allow the applicant to submit a pre-qualification form to determine if he or she is eligible for a license before officially applying. That way, the applicant doesn’t have to waste time and money qualifying for a license, only to be denied in the end.

Applicants who have bad credit, owe back taxes, are behind on child support payments or are in default on their student loans are also sometimes denied a real estate license, so make sure to get these affairs in order before trying to get a real estate license.

The cost of a real estate license varies by state but it is generally between $50-$300. Other expenses includes the cost of the pre-license education courses, exam fees and the fingerprinting/criminal background check fees.

The following is list of the general real estate license requirements with an overview of both types of licenses:


The salesperson license is an entry-level license. This type of license allows the salesperson to assist in a real estate transaction but prohibits the salesperson from brokering the deal themselves.

A salesperson license doesn’t require a college degree or any real estate experience so it is a great way for someone to get his or her foot in the door in the real estate industry. Much of the information a person needs to succeed in the industry is learned in the field, not in the classroom, so a salesperson license provides a valuable opportunity to learn and gain experience.

A salesperson must be sponsored by a licensed broker and cannot work independently. It is possible though, in some states, for an applicant to obtain a salesperson license without a sponsorship. The license is simply listed as inactive until the licensee finds a sponsorship.

Some states issue newly licensed salespeople a provisional, or temporary, license which the licensee must upgrade to a permanent salesperson license by taking the required post-license education courses during his or her first year of licensure.

If the applicant does not fulfill the required post-license education by the end of his or her first year of licensure, the license becomes invalid.

In most states, there is one way to become a real estate salesperson:
♦ have reached the age of majority in his or her state, have a high school diploma or GED, complete prelicense education courses and pass the state and national salesperson license exam.


A broker license is the highest level of real estate licenses. This type of license allows the broker to employ salespeople and broker real estate deals themselves.

Brokers sometimes work as a salesperson but most often work in more of a managerial role, overseeing an office of salespeople and splitting the commission on each real estate transaction with them. Some states require broker applicants to be at least 18 years old while other states require applicants to be at least 21 years old.

Usually, a broker license applicant must either have a four year degree in real estate or obtain a salesperson license or associate broker license first and acquire a few years of experience before he or she can qualify for a broker license.

Since real estate brokers supervise salespeople and are legally responsible if a transaction is conducted incorrectly, it is very important that the broker has received a thorough education and gained enough experience.

In most states, there are three ways to become a real estate broker:

♦ have a four-year degree, complete all of the required prelicense education requirements and pass the broker exam
♦ have between two to four years of real estate sales experience, complete all of the required prelicense education requirements and pass the broker exam
♦ have a membership to the legal bar, complete any state-specific prelicense education and pass the broker exam

States that operate on a broker-only licensing system don’t require the applicant to take a second broker exam to upgrade from an associate broker license to a broker license. Most often, the applicant simply needs to fulfill the experience requirements and any additional pre-license or post-license education requirements.

Learn more about real estate license requirements by state here:

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