The Difference Between a Real Estate Agent and a Real Estate Broker in California

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In California, a real estate agent and a real estate broker are two different things. Yes, they both facilitate the purchase and sale of real estate. But there are a few key distinctions between the two titles.

If you’re considering getting your California real estate license or your California broker’s license, you’re probably wondering what is the difference between a real estate agent and a real estate broker in California?

Key differences between a Real Estate Agent and a Real Estate Broker in California

Basic Differences

Perhaps the biggest difference between a real estate agent and a real estate broker is that a broker can legally own a real estate firm and hire real estate agents to work under him or her. Real estate agents do not have this opportunity. 

Real estate agents are required to work under a supervising real estate broker in California. Brokers, on the other hand, have the freedom to work under another broker, work completely independently, or build their own real estate companies full of real estate agents working under them. 

Differences in Education Requirements

California real estate brokers are required to take more real estate education courses than real estate agents. While agents need only three college-level courses to qualify to take the state exam, brokers need eight.

Neither designation requires a college degree, but brokers in California can meet their education requirement by completing a 4-year degree with either a minor or major in real estate.  

Differences in Experience Requirements

Real estate agents in California do not need any experience in the real estate field to become licensed. They learn real estate principles and practices through their education requirements and can rely on their brokers to oversee their work as they learn on-the-job. 

Brokers in California, however, must prove that they have experience in the industry. This additional requirement can be met in one of two ways:  

  1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree from an accredited college or university with a major or minor in real estate.

  2. Gain two years’ real estate sales experience or equivalent. Equivalent experience includes careers in fields like property management, real estate development, escrow processing, and mortgage lending.

Having real estate experience is an important qualification for any broker since they are able to work without supervision by another broker.

Differences in Exam Requirements

The exam requirements for agents and brokers in California is similar. But brokers are held to a higher standard.

California real estate agents need to complete a 150-question exam over three hours and score at least a 70% to pass. California real estate brokers need to complete a 200-question exam over five hours and score at least a 75% to pass. 

Differences in Fees

Both agents and brokers in California pay exam fees and licensing fees. Both groups also pay renewal fees when the time comes to renew their licenses. But the fee amounts are a bit higher for brokers since their qualification process is a bit more complex. 

For California real estate agents:

  • Real estate salesperson exam fee - $60 

  • Real estate salesperson license fee - $245

  • License renewal fee - $245

For California brokers:

  • Broker exam fee - $95

  • Broker license fee - $300

  • License renewal fee - $300

Should You Be a Real Estate Agent or a Real Estate Broker?

You don’t need to choose between being a real estate agent and a real estate broker right away. Most California real estate professionals start as real estate agents to gain some real-world experience and make sure the career path is a good fit for them. Then they promote themselves to real estate brokers when they feel ready to grow their careers.

Now that you understand the difference between a real estate agent and a real estate broker in California, you can start planning your real estate career path. Take the first step today by enrolling in your pre-license real estate education courses. Your new career is waiting!

Michael Rhoda

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