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How to Become a Real Estate Broker or Sales Agent

Real estate brokers and sales agents need at least a high school diploma. Both brokers and sales agents must be licensed. To become licensed, candidates complete a particular number of hours of real estate courses. 


In all states and the District of Columbia, real estate brokers and sales agents must be licensed. Licensing requirements vary by state, but most have similar basic requirements:

Some states have additional requirements, such as passing a background check. In many cases, licenses are not transferrable among states, but some states have reciprocity agreements and will accept licenses issued by other states. 

To obtain a broker’s license, individuals need a specific amount of experience as a licensed sales agent, usually 1 to 3 years. They must also take additional formal classroom training. In some states, a bachelor’s degree may be substituted in place of some experience or training requirements. 

State licenses typically must be renewed every 2 to 4 years. In most states, brokers and agents must complete continuing education courses to renew their license. To verify exact licensing requirements, prospective brokers and agents should contact the real estate licensing commission of the state in which they wish to work.


Real estate brokers and sales agents must have at least a high school diploma or equivalent. To become licensed, brokers and agents must take state-accredited pre-licensing courses. Some states may waive pre-licensing course requirements if the candidate has taken college courses in real estate. 

As the real estate market becomes more competitive and complex, some employers prefer to hire candidates with college courses or a college degree. Some community colleges, colleges, and universities offer courses in real estate. Some offer associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs in real estate, and many others offer certificate programs. Courses in finance, business administration, economics, and law also can be useful. Brokers intending to open their own company often take business courses, such as marketing and accounting. 

In addition to offering pre-licensing courses, many real estate associations have courses and professional development programs for both beginners and experienced agents. These courses cover a variety of topics, such as real estate fundamentals, real estate law, and mortgage financing.

Work Experience

To get a broker’s license in most states, real estate brokers must have experience working as a licensed sales agent. Requirements vary by state, but most require 1 to 3 years of experience. 


In larger firms, experienced agents can advance to sales manager or general manager. Sales agents who earn their broker’s license may open their own offices. 

Important Qualities

Independence. Real estate brokers and sales agents must be able to work independently, managing their own time and organizing, planning, and prioritizing their work. Some brokers manage a one-person business in which they must handle every aspect of the business. 

Interpersonal skills. Strong interpersonal skills are essential for real estate brokers and sales agents, because they spend much of their time interacting with clients and customers. As a result, they must be pleasant, enthusiastic, and trustworthy to attract clients. 

Persuasion skills. Real estate brokers and sales agents need to be persuasive to convince potential clients of their ability to sell real estate and to persuade customers to buy available properties.     

Problem-solving skills. Real estate brokers and sales agents need problem-solving skills to address, often immediately, any concerns clients or potential customers may have with a property. They also mediate negotiations between the seller and buyer.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition