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How to Become a Real Estate Agent

Byline:  Christine DiMaria began writing back in 2001, and now has a strong Internet presence with publications on top-ranked websites.

  A real estate agent, also known by the trademarked term realtor, is the person who acts as the middleman when people buy or sell homes. They're responsible for listing homes for sale and locating buyers for the homes. They give tours of the homes and have open houses in order to find buyers. If you're considering become a real estate agent, you must know where to begin. Be sure to check with your state's guidelines because each state has its own regulations for training and certification.  

General Information

Sometimes the term broker is used interchangeably with the word realtor; however, a broker requires more training, and a broker is licensed to own his or her own business.  A salesperson in the housing market usually is employed through a real estate agency and works under the direct supervision of a broker. Most real estate agents are considered self-employed, even if they work with a real estate agency. In fact, according the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 57 percent of brokers and sales agents were self-employed as of 2010.

Training and Education


The education requirements vary from state-to-state. Regardless, each state requires a prospective agent to complete some amount of coursework. And in all states, you must be at least 18 years or older and have a high school diploma or the equivalent of one. Both agents and brokers must take classes in an accredited college, community college or university. There are associate's and bachelor's degrees in real estate available. These usually aren't required, but they do make you more marketable to real estate agencies. Sometimes, a college may offer certificate programs that typically take less time to complete. Business courses can be useful and so can classes in economics, law and finance.   In the state of Pennsylvania, a person must complete at least 60 hours of training. Generally, this is broken up into two 30-hour courses in the fundamentals of real estate and the practices of real estate. If an applicant possesses a bachelor's degree in real estate or holds a law degree, this prerequisite can be waived.   In Ohio, a salesperson must complete 120 hours of educational coursework related to the practices and principles of real estate, appraisal and finance. The Ohio Real Estate Law course lasts 40 hours and so does the Ohio Real Estate Principles and Practices. Both the Real Estate Appraisal course and the Real Estate Finance course are 20 hours each. A potential agent must also complete a finance management course, a human resources course and an applied business economics class.  In addition, a person must also have two years of post-secondary education, ninety quarter hours or sixty semester hours.  


In order to practice as a realtor, most states require you to hold some type of license. Each state has its own laws and testing requirements though. For instance, in Pennsylvania, a person must pass a state licensing exam that's administered by PSI Exams. This particular exam includes two different portions: a national and a state. The national portion of the test covers material related to topics such as brokerage, federal law and financing. On the other hand, the state section centers around state laws and regulations that pertain to the state of PA.   Ohio residents must pass a two-part test in order to obtain their license as well. They're tested on both national and state. The national exam is more generalized information pertaining to being a salesperson, while the state part covers laws and rules that are specific to OH. A real estate agent must pass with a 75 or higher to obtain a license. As you can see, it is quite state specific so we recommend researching the state requirements, where you would like to start your career in real estate.
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