Real Estate: Qualifications for Obtaining a Real Estate License Real Estate: Qualifications for Obtaining a Real Estate License

Even though experience allows an agent to move up in a brokerage, or branch out into specialty fields such as property management, every aspiring agent must become licensed by the state in which they work to be able to legally represent a seller or buyer. Whether called a real estate board or commission, department of regulation or licensing, or department of consumer protection, all states regulate real estate licensure. Some states have reciprocity agreements with neighboring states to allow licensing across state lines, however there is no "national" real estate license. Information on state licensing boards specific to each state can be found online. Once you are ready to pursue a real estate sales career, you should contact your state board for specific education, exam and other licensing requirements. Below are general qualifications basic to a real estate sales career.

Basic State Licensing Requirements

  • Must be a high school graduate
  • Must be at least 18 years old
  • Must pass a written test
  • Must renew license periodically, usually 1 or 2 years

Possible Additional Requirements

  • Most states require 30-90 hours of classroom study for sales agents from a state-accredited school
  • Most states require 60-90 hours of formal training for brokers, and the holding of a current real estate license, with a specific amount of prior real estate selling experience, usually from 1 to 3 years, before taking the broker's exam.

Other Qualifications

  • Pleasant personality traits
  • Good communication skills
  • Neat Appearance
  • Maturity
  • Good judgment
  • Trustworthiness
  • Enthusiasm

While meeting these requirements allows an agent to officially sell a property, career success in closing transactions truly comes down to time and experience in the market. Tenured agents who understand the ins and outs of the selling game can advance to sales manager or general manager, taking on more responsibility and potentially increasing their salary. Those who have a broker's license can branch out into their own offices.

Licensing for Real Estate Appraisers

Most states require Real Estate Appraisers to be licensed, and Federal laws require licensing for Federally-related transactions with loan amounts of $250,000 or more. Typically licensing requires specific training requirements, a period of work as a trainee, and passing one or more examinations. Specifics vary from state to state, but all states set some sort of minimum education and/or examination requirements, such as passing the National Uniform Appraiser Examination. The Appraisal Qualifications Board (AQB) of the Appraisal Foundation (AF) has established licensing standards and provides links to state appraisal licensing boards, which should be consulted for specific requirements.


Professional development does not end with the acquisition of a real estate sales, broker, or appraiser license. In order to set themselves apart in a highly competitive industry, many in the real estate industry seek further professional designations or certifications so as to increase skills and showcase experience and expertise in a particular specialty. Certifications are usually obtained through programs at sponsoring trade associations.

National Association of Realtors (NAR)

In conjunction with its affiliated Institutes, Societies and Councils, the NAR provides a broad menu of certification programs and services that assist members in increasing skills, productivity and knowledge. Professional designations are awarded by each affiliated group attesting to expertise in various real estate sectors upon completion of specific requirements. In addition, NAR offers five online certification programs that address support staff training, diversity, technology tools, resort and second-home markets and international referrals. Here are summaries of some of the available certifications from the NAR and its affiliates:

Real Estate Buyer's Agent Council (REBAC)

Accredited Buyer's Representative (ABR). This accreditation is for agents who work directly with buyer clients. The accreditation provides training in the quality of service and degree of fidelity to buyers which sellers have customarily enjoyed. Requirements include successful completion of the ABR Designation Course and one elective course, and documentation of five completed transactions acting solely as a buyer's representative. All requirements must be completed within three years. The ABR designation is only available to those maintaining membership in REBAC and the NAR.

Realtors® Land Institute (RLI)

Accredited Land Consultant (ALC). ALCs are the recognized experts in land brokerage transactions for farms and ranches; undeveloped tracts of land; transitional and development land; subdivision and wholesaling of lots; and site selection and assemblage of land parcels. The ALC designation provides valuable education to enhance competency in the field. ALC candidates must be members of the Institute, and complete a combination of six required and elective courses, three of which must be completed in a live classroom setting. Applicants must also have a minimum of three years experience in land sales or brokerage or comparable experience in related services; submit a portfolio substantiating specific levels of volume in land sales or services; pass a comprehensive exam; submit recommendations, including one from their licensing board, and pay the requisite fee.

Certified Commercial Investment Member Institute (CCIM)

Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM). A CCIMis the recognized expert designation for the commercial and investment real estate Industry.. Candidates for CCIM designation are required to complete a specified curriculum; have a portfolio showing commercial real estate experience; passed the CCIM comprehensive examination; and submit a membership application along with the requisite dues.

National Association of Realtors CIPS (NAR)

Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS). This certification for those specializing in international real estate and emphasizes the global expertise of the real estate professional. Candidates must take a core curriculum and elective courses, and pass an examination for each course. An application is submitted demonstrating the candidate's international experience, which can include international transactions, language skills, and attendance at international conferences. An annual fee is required to maintain the CIPS designation.

Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM)

Certified Property Managers (CPM). This certification demonstrates the real estate professional's expertise in real estate management. Candidates must be members of IREM; take the requisite education courses, or have comparable graduate degrees or other certifications; prepare an actual management plan or a management plan skills assessment; pass the CPM and ethics exams; and have 3 years of qualifying management experience.

Council of Real Estate Brokerage Managers (CRB)

Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager (CRB). This designation is awarded to realtors who have completed the Council's advanced educational and professional requirements, and have at least one year of management experience, twelve CRB education credits or equivalent in higher education degrees, and previously earned NAR designations. Membership in the CRB and the NAR must be maintained in order to earn and use the CRB designation.

Council of Residential Specialists(CRS)

Certified Residential Specialist (CRS). This certification is awarded to realtors with experience in residential real estate. Requirements include completing advanced training and meeting rigorous production requirements. Membership in the NAR and the CRS is also required.

Women's Council of Realtors (WCR)

Performance Management Network (PMN). This is a new designation focusing on self enhancement consisting of topics such as negotiating strategies and tactics, networking and referrals, business planning and systems, personal performance management and cultural differences in buying and selling. Requirements include completion of three PMN courses, or two courses with an additional NAR certification; and documentation of closed transactions.

Seniors Real Estate Specialist Council (SRES)

Senior Real Estate Specialist (SRES). Candidates for this designation learn how to profitably and ethically serve the real estate needs of clients age 50+. Applicants must complete a two-day SRES course and pass the exam with at least an 80% grade. Membership in the NAR and the SRES is required.

A real estate career involves virtually every field of business and offers unlimited opportunities for real estate professionals to buy, sell, or manage property on behalf of their clients. Once a real estate license is obtained, many new and exciting roles are available to you.

Employment is often sensitive to swings in the economy and especially to changes in interest rates. Real estate agents and broker occupations are relatively easy to enter and attract many candidates due to the flexibility of working conditions and the potential for high earnings. Ambitious, well-trained people who enjoy selling should have the best chance for success.