How to Get Your Real Estate License

Obtaining a real estate license is slightly different from state to state, but most salespeople will go through a very similar process that starts with learning what it takes to be an agent.

How do I become a real estate agent? Well, that depends on the state where you’ll be licensed, but there are some common steps that every applicant has to take regardless of where they live. Over the years, states have largely adopted the same process for getting your real estate license, which is great news if you’re looking to get licensed in a second state.

For the most part, there are five major steps to getting your real estate license and becoming a real estate agent:

  • Take the Required Real Estate Courses
  • Complete the Background Check
  • Submit a Real Estate License Application
  • Take the Real Estate Salesperson Exam
  • Find a Real Estate Broker

This guide will give you an overview of how to get your real estate license no matter where you plan to work.

Step #1 - Take the Required Real Estate Courses

take required courses to get real estate license

The first step to becoming a real estate agent is to complete the required real estate courses. A formal entity in each state, usually a commission or agency within the state licensing division, will determine what education is required for a real estate license. The requirements will specify:

  • How many hours of coursework must be taken.
  • The course material that needs to be taught.
  • What must be done to successfully complete the courses.
  • Timelines for completing the courses.
  • Who can provide the required real estate courses.

Now you may be thinking, “can I get my real estate license without taking the required courses?” There are typically a few exceptions. Many states exempt applicants from taking the required real estate education if:

  • They took college courses on real estate and/or earned a degree in real estate from an accredited higher education institute.
  • The applicant is a licensed attorney in the state.
  • The applicant already has an active real estate license in another state. This is what’s called reciprocity.

The required real estate pre-licensing education is essential for the vast majority of applicants. Without it you would have a very difficult time passing the real estate exam to get a license.

After the pre-licensing real estate course is complete you should receive a certificate of completion that proves you meet the education requirement for a license. The certificate will be needed before you can schedule a time to take the real estate license exam.

DON’T FORGET: Verify that your course provider is state-approved before enrolling.

See Real Estate Course Requirements in Your State

Arizona Real Estate CourseNew York Real Estate Course
California Real Estate CoursePennsylvania Real Estate Course
Colorado Real Estate CourseSouth Carolina Real Estate Course
Florida Real Estate CourseTennessee Real Estate Course
Georgia Real Estate Course
Texas Real Estate Course
Michigan Real Estate Course
Virginia Real Estate Course
North Carolina Real Estate Course
Washington Real Estate Course

Step #2 - Complete the Background Check

you must have a background check to get real estate license

Today, almost every state requires that real estate license applicants submit a background check. The background check is usually a two-part process:

  • You’ll need to get your fingerprints taken through the state police department or an approved third party.
  • On the application you’ll also need to answer questions about any past convictions and provide further documentation if you were found guilty of a crime.

Having a criminal record doesn’t mean that you’re automatically disqualified. In many cases, getting your real estate license won’t be a problem if it was a non-violent crime that did not involve activities related to real estate and happened more than a few years ago.

Step #3 - Submit a Real Estate License Application

submit your real estate license application

After an applicant has finished the pre-licensing course and done the background check it’s time to submit a real estate license application with the governing real estate commission in your state. In Texas, for example, you will need to apply with TREC. Applications and fees can be submitted online for faster service.

Part of the application process is submitting your paperwork that shows you took the required education from an approved provider and did the background check.

DON’T FORGET: Check to see if you need to have a sponsoring real estate broker before applying.

Step #4 - Take the Real Estate Salesperson Exam

take the real estate exam

You should be given directions on how to schedule a time to take the real estate salesperson exam once your application has been processed. Many states have contracted PSI, AMP or Pearson Vue to administer their real estate exams. The directions will tell you who is administering the exam and how they should be contacted. The exam administrator will provide information on:

  • How the exam is administered.
  • What can and can’t be brought on test day.
  • What documentation is needed on test day.
  • How the exam will be scored.
  • How exam scores are reported.
  • The topics that are covered on the exam.

Most states break the exam down into two portions: a national portion and a state-specific portion. The tests are taken at the same time but scored independently of one another so you’ve got to be familiar with the material for both. That also means you can pass one portion but not the other. If that happens you’ll only have to retake the portion you didn’t pass.

Getting Ready for the Real Estate Exam

No matter who is administering the exam, preparation in advance is extremely important. Ideally, your exam prep began weeks in advance, but even if you're short on study time there are ways to effectively prepare.

Review Your Real Estate Course Material - At AceableAgent, everything that’s on the state licensing exam will be covered in the course. There are even outlines and chapter summaries that highlight the most important points.

Get Good Sleep the Night Before the Exam - Fatigue makes test taking much harder, and can cause you to underperform. Aim to get at least seven hours of sleep the night before the exam. Do what you can to minimize any distractions that could wake you up and disrupt your sleep.

DON’T FORGET: Try to schedule your test earlier in the day. Research from Harvard University finds that students do better on standardized tests if they take the test at the start of the day rather than in the afternoon. Testing earlier helps you avoid mental fatigue that can make it harder to figure out the answers.

Take Practice Exams - All students can benefit from taking practice exams before the real test. It’s not just a matter of testing your knowledge and ability to recall information. Practice tests get you in the right headspace for taking the exam. It’s mental preparation for what you’ll experience on test day. That alone can give you enough of an edge to pass.

Ace the Real Estate Exam on Your First Attempt

At AceableAgent we understand the importance of test prep. All of our students get unlimited practice tests included with their course at no extra cost so you can ace the exam on your first attempt.

Can you pass the real estate exam in your state?

Select a State to See Its Real Estate License Practice Test

California Real Estate Practice Exam
Pennsylvania Real Estate Practice Exam
Florida Real Estate Practice Exam
Texas Real Estate Practice Exam
Georgia Real Estate Practice Exam
Virginia Real Estate Practice Exam
Michigan Real Estate Practice Exam

Step #5 - Find a Real Estate Broker

find a real estate broker

If you’ve already taken the exam you may be wondering, “where can I get a real estate license now that I’ve passed?” In most states you won’t be able to work as a real estate agent as soon as you pass the exam. At best you’ll receive an inactive real estate license that’s just a temporary placeholder until the license is active.

To become eligible for an active real estate license you need to have an employing or sponsoring real estate broker. State licensing agencies require that salespeople work under the supervision of a broker who can help ensure agents follow the law.

Beyond being a requirement, working under a real estate broker has several upsides for new agents. You’ll get:

  • The support of a team.
  • Resources for doing the job.
  • Office space for meeting with clients.
  • Guidance on how to do the day-to-day work of an agent.
  • Leads for building a client list and earning income.
  • The ability to piggyback off of the broker’s reputation.

It’s a good idea to start researching local real estate brokerages long before you take the exam so you’ve got this step taken care of in advance and can start working sooner.

Find out which type of real estate brokerage will be the best at helping you launch your real estate career.

Get a Real Estate License

Once you’ve signed on with a brokerage, either you or your real estate broker will need to let the licensing agency know. Your records will need to be updated to show that you are working under the supervision of a broker. The broker will need to submit the documents themselves or you’ll have to get them to sign the documents that you then submit.

Once everything is updated to show you are working for a brokerage you’ll receive an active real estate license and can start working!

Set Yourself Up to be a Successful Real Estate Agent

Simply having a license doesn’t mean that you’ll succeed in real estate. Once you’re done You have to hit the ground running and keep building your expertise to jumpstart your career.

Find a Mentor

No matter what industry you’re entering, it’s always easier when you have a mentor that can show you the ropes and help you avoid mistakes. Hopefully, your new employing broker is open to stepping into the role.

Keep Learning

Real estate is an industry that’s changing all the time from the laws to the technology to the resources buyers use to purchase homes. The top real estate agents understand the value of investing in education. You’ll need to complete real estate continuing education to keep your license active so you might as well make the most of the opportunity by finding courses that will help you better serve the client base you’re building.

Become an Area Expert

The best thing any new agent can do is really understand their local real estate market. A big reason why sellers and buyers enlist the help of an agent is their market expertise. But don’t just stop at comps for different types of homes. An area expert knows the zoning laws, schools, parks, permitting process, and many other details that can impact a homeowner. They also have their finger on the pulse for what’s in the works, such as a new housing development that was recently approved to break ground.

For more first-year real estate career advice take a look at the Post-Exam, Pre-Employment To-Do List for Real Estate Agents.

How to Get a Real Estate License in Your State

Ready to start the process of getting a real estate license? Great! We’re ready to help you become a licensed real estate agent.

Check out the AceableAgent real estate course for your state to get more information on the education requirements or visit the state’s Real Estate Career Center for details on how to get a real estate license in your area.