If you’re wondering whether or not a college degree is required in order to become a real estate agent, the simple answer is “no.”
But you might want to consider it anyway.
Let’s take a look at the minimum educational requirements to become a real estate agent and, then, consider the pros & cons of getting a degree or some other form of advanced education.
Minimum Real Estate License Requirements
In most states, a high school diploma (or equivalent) is enough to get you in the doors. And in a few states, that’s not even required.
What you will find, however, are state-mandated, industry-specific educational requirements for those wanting a real estate license. To support that, state-approved education providers offer students pre-license real estate courses that must be completed prior to taking the state licensing exam. The number of course hours required varies by state.
So, the minimum requirements in most states are:
- Be at least 18 or 19 years of age
- Be a US citizen or legal resident
- Have completed required pre-license education for that state
Getting a Real Estate License Without a Degree
You do not need any kind of college degree to get your real estate license. There are legitimate reasons to jump into a career in real estate without the benefit of a degree. Here are two primary considerations:
Time - 4-6 Months
On average it takes at least 4-6 months to get a real estate license in a traditional classroom setting. But if you're taking your real estate pre-licensing course online, it can be done in as little as eight weeks, depending on how fast you want to pace yourself.
Now, compare that to the 4-6 years it takes on average to complete a four-year college degree. If you’re champing at the bit to get going with your career, and you are very much “time is money” oriented, it could be hard to put off that first payday while you invest the additional time for higher education.
Cost - $500-$1000
The cost to get a real estate license will vary by state, but for comparison's sake, let’s look at Texas, where the 180 course hours required for the pre-license real estate student are the highest in the nation.
The average cost of those Texas pre-license real estate courses, depending on where and how you take them, is about $500 dollars. In contrast, the average cost of in-state tuition for public universities in Texas is just north of $34,000 (spread over four years).
If your only reason for going to college is to prepare for a career in real estate, that college tuition might seem like a heavy price to pay.
Getting a Degree as Part of a Real Estate Career Path
Assuming that the benefits of personal growth and critical thinking skills associated with higher education are already understood, is there any data to suggest that a college degree is of particular benefit to someone choosing a career in real estate? And is that benefit financially justified?
Actually, yes to both questions.
A recent study done of members of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) showed that earning a college degree boosted a real estate agent’s earnings by up to 44% over agents without a degree. That 44% difference equates to approximately $21,000 a year.
Another NAR study showed that agents with more education and experience benefited from increased efficiency, putting in less working hours to achieve that higher income.
A degree is not necessary, but does have benefits
So, the two primary arguments against getting a college degree while in pursuit of a career in real estate — time and money — have been pretty well addressed by the pro-college faction.
The higher average annual income earned by the agent with the college degree could pay off their tuition costs in as little as two years. And the time invested in getting the degree will likely be “reimbursed” through the efficiency-driven reduced working hours throughout the graduate’s real estate career.
Common Degrees for Future Real Estate Agents
If you decide to get that degree, what should be your focus of study? And where can you find degree programs that relate to your career of choice?
Most four-year institutions offer traditional degrees in subjects that can be great foundations for a career in real estate.
Popular majors for real estate agents include:
- Business Administration - This major provides a good all-around business education. You can expect to gain an understanding on how to build and execute a business plan and handle the financial side of a real estate business.
- Marketing - Before you can sell property, you first have to sell yourself, right? Learning marketing principles that you can use to sell yourself AND your clients’ properties will be the thrust of this major. Included in this education will be exposure to contemporary marketing channels, including business use of social media.
- Finance/Accounting - This major will set you up with a great understanding of the financial principles underlying the running any successful business. It’s also going to give you a better understanding of the math behind current mortgage lending practices. A home purchase is often the biggest financial decision a person will make, so your future clients will appreciate the expertise you’ll bring.
- Graphic Design - This might not be an intuitive choice of college majors for an aspiring real estate agent, but it has definite benefits, given the substantial amount of time you’ll spend taking property photos, building websites, and designing flyers, post cards, business cards, and other marketing materials.
Real Estate-Specific Higher Education
For those who are interested in getting a college degree but would prefer it to have a more direct tie to their future career as a real estate agent, there are options available. In fact, there are over 75 community colleges, junior colleges, and four-year universities across the country that have major or minor programs in real estate.
NAR Academy at Columbia College
For those wanting a degree with the strongest connection to the industry, the NAR Academy at Columbia College might be the way to go.
This program is the result of a partnership between the National Association of REALTORS® and the Columbia College of Missouri. The college is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and offers 11 associate, 53 bachelor’s, and four master’s degree programs at 36 campuses nationwide. It also offers a robust online program.
The Right Decision for You
Although we’ve spent a good deal of space here talking up the the benefits of getting a degree as part of a successful real estate career path, we want to reiterate that only you can decide what makes sense for you. There are plenty of stories about real estate professionals achieving tremendous success without the benefit of a college degree. What we’ve described in this article are the typical results… the averages that have been surfaced in industry studies. How applicable this information is to your situation is for you to decide.
If you are at all hesitant about getting a college degree now, you can always revisit that decision later on down the road.
Next Steps to Your Career in Real Estate
As you debate the pros and cons of getting a college degree, you might also use this time to take a closer look at the different career paths within real estate. From the outside, many people assume that it’s simply about selling residential properties, when in truth, there are many other equally interesting opportunities.
If you’re ready to pursue your dream of a career in real estate, knowing the five major steps to getting your real estate license is a must. Beyond that, we invite you to check out the Aceable real estate course for your state!