The median annual wage of real estate brokers was $54,910 in May 2010. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,550, and the top 10 percent earned more than $161,820.
The median annual wage of real estate sales agents was $40,030 in May 2010. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $20,460, and the top 10 percent earned more than $95,220.
Brokers and sales agents earn most of their income from commissions on sales. The commission varies by the type of property and its value. Commissions are often divided among the buying and selling agents, brokers, and firms.
An agent’s income often depends on economic conditions, the agent’s individual motivation, and the types of property available. Income usually increases as agents become better and more experienced at sales. Earnings can be irregular, especially for beginners, as agents sometimes go weeks or months without a sale. Some agents become active in community organizations and local real estate organizations to broaden their contacts and increase their sales.
Many real estate brokers and sales agents work more than a standard 40-hour workweek. They often work evenings and weekends to accommodate clients' schedules. Additionally, beginners, in particular, may spend a significant amount of time networking and attending community events to meet potential clients. Although they frequently work long or irregular hours, many can set their own schedules.
Some brokers and sales agents work part time, often combining their real estate activities with other careers.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition