How to Begin a Professional Career as a Real Estate Agent

 

Real Estate Agents: A Quick Look
Median Salary$41,990 per annum
Entry-level educationHigh School Diploma
On-the-job trainingSome
Primary employersReal Estate Brokerages
Number of positions (U.S.)422,000
Job Growth (2012-2022)11% (On par with the national average)
New positions (2012-2022)+46,600

How to Begin a Professional Career as a Real Estate AgentWhat Does A Real Estate Agent Do?

Real estate agents are professionals licensed to promote and broker the sale and rental of real estate and other property-based assets. The profession includes both entry-level sales representatives and independent brokers. Read more.

Salary

The median annual pay for real estate brokers and agents was $41,990 according to 2012 figures published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Read more.

Becoming A Real Estate Agent

All U.S. states regulate real estate sales agents and brokers, offering licensure to those who successfully master targeted state examinations. Some vocational training may also be required by states. Read more.

Job Outlook

The projected job growth for real estate agents and brokers through 2022 is right in line at 11% as the average for all occupations in the U.S. (again, 11%). Job growth in this field tends to closely track the state of the overall economy. Read more.

Real Estate Agent Salary

How much do real estate agents make? As of May 2012, the median real estate agent salary, including salespeople and brokers, was about $41,990 per year, or $20.19 per hour, per federal estimates. Separate figures describe brokers' and agents' wages more precisely: brokers earn an average of $58,344 a year and agents earn roughly $39,142 per year according to the 2012 report. For brokers and salespersons, most of that salary comes from commissions.

How To Become A Real Estate Agent

In general, dedicated individuals who are passionate about sales may enter this industry with relatively little formal education. In some states, it is possible to become a real estate agent with no formal training at all, although it's not necessarily recommended. Training confers crucial knowledge and affords access to professional networks that help new agents break into the field. The most important part of becoming a real estate agent, however, is obtaining state licensure. Once licensed, real estate agents must then find a brokerage or larger agency to work for. New sales reps are advised to identify an experienced mentor wherever they end up working. According to the National Association of Realtors, the ideal mentor provides essential guidance and splits commissions for shared work.

How Long Does It Take To Become A Real Estate Agent?

The length of training chiefly depends on the number of instructional hours mandated by the state. It can take as little as a few months to complete basic training and obtain a license. To become a broker, sales agents need between one and three years of industry experience.

Educational Requirements

Brokers and agents are expected to have a high school diploma or the equivalent. Additionally, a majority of states require vocational training for agents, ranging on average between 30 and 90 hours of classroom instruction. Even in states where no education is required, agents commonly pursue at least some professional training, earning either a certificate or two-year associate's degree. Basic programs cover subjects like license law, liens and easements, mortgages, and fair housing. In states with training benchmarks, so-called pre-licensure classes are designed to fulfill coursework mandates and prep students to pass the state's qualifying licensure exam. In the 1980s, the financial underpinnings of the property sales industry grew significantly more complex. As a result, schools began offering bachelor and even master degrees in real estate. Today, these programs often attract those who want a solid background in business as they branch out into the industry. Relatively few real estate agents obtain graduate-level degrees. Most graduate degrees take two years to complete, including one year focused on business and management and one on contemporary real estate.

Certification

Agents who become members of the National Association of Realtors, or NAR, and work within its network of affiliated brokerages may refer to themselves as Realtors. This is the most recognizable national credential in the profession—although around half of all real estate agents in the United States are not affiliated with the NAR. The NAR also offers specialty certifications to its members who successfully complete advanced training. Popular specialized NAR credentials include the Accredited Buyer Representative (ABR), the Certified Property Manager (CPM) and the Certified Residential Specialist (CRS).

Licensing

All states plus the District of Columbia require brokers and agents to be licensed, and this usually entails passing a state-approved examination. Proof of vocational training is often also a prerequisite for state licensure. Keep in mind that licensing varies widely from state to state; be sure to proceed with training only after assessing a program's ability to satisfy the requirements specified by the official state licensing commission.

Real Estate Job Description

What is a real estate agent? Real estate agents are vocationally-trained financial experts who help clients buy, sell and rent property. Agents act as mediators between owners and sellers, banks and buyers, as well as landlords and tenants. They facilitate financial transactions, advise clients, and promote commercial and/or residential properties on behalf of third parties. There are two kinds of real estate professionals which have distinct, though overlapping roles. A real estate salesperson is an entry-level expert on the buying and selling of property. A broker, on the other hand, is the salesperson's boss. Real estate salespeople are required by law to work under the direction of a “brokerage,” or broker-run real estate agency. Many people use the real estate salesperson position as a stepping stone en route to becoming a self-employed broker. Brokers earn higher incomes and have additional job responsibilities and privileges. For example, only brokers are allowed to manage up-front deposits held in escrow. While most sales agents are paid on a commission basis, brokers earn independent fees and rarely interface with clients directly. Real estate reps are always on the hunt for fresh referrals and new client leads. Building a client base requires exceptional organizational skills, such as the ability to set productivity goals, self-market, and keep detailed client records. Brokerages and agencies like to see energetic, sociable and aggressive real estate agents that can close sales and continually reel in new prospects.

Duties

A real estate agent's duties include:
  • Attracting new leads via marketing and networking
  • Making offers and bargaining with clients
  • Applying for financing
  • Arranging building inspections
  • Touring new properties
  • Writing and redacting legal paperwork

Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in the real estate sector is set to grow by more than 46,600 new jobs—or 11% between the years 2012 and 2022. The primary driving factor in real estate job growth is the ongoing financial recession that uprooted the industry beginning in 2008. Today's agents face a challenging market and rapidly shifting home ownership trends. However, the estate sales and brokerage industry, having fully recovered all revenue lost to the initial recession, is beginning to find its way home, according to market research conducted by IBISWorld. Real estate demand and prices are both slowly rising in this $104-billion-a-year industry.

 

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