Does the military pay for my real estate license? (Complete Guide)

Chris Heller HeadshotChris Heller,March 2, 2022

Military,Army,Soldier,Hug.,Happy,Veteran,Officer,DayReal estate is one of the most popular career choices for veterans looking to transition into civilian life after active military duty. It’s an easy career to jump into because it doesn’t require years of education. In fact, you can get started as an agent in just a few weeks if you know the right steps. First, if you want to pursue a career in real estate – you’ll need to get a state-issued real estate license. This can cost anywhere from $400 to upwards of $1,000 when you look at course costs, exams, licensing fees, and broker fees.

The good news is that the GI Bill can help. If you are a veteran or have been honorably discharged from the military, then you can use your GI Bill benefits to pay for your real estate licensing course and even your exam.

We’ll break down exactly how the GI Bill benefits can help you, step by step.

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How do I become a real estate agent?

Family,Couple,Consultations,With,A,Lawyer,Or,Insurance,Agent.,LawIf you decide becoming an agent is right for you, you will need to take pre-licensing classes and pass the state and national portion of the real estate exam. Every state has different licensing requirements in terms of how many hours of education you need to take.

For example, in Michigan, you need to take 40 class hours before taking the licensing exam. In Texas, you need 180 hours of coursework.

There are a ton of options to choose from, all in a variety of formats. You can take classes online at a ‘go at your own pace’ format, in-person, or even choose a self-study option. Decide which is best suited to your learning style and go with the school that offers your preferred method. This is where the bulk of the cost will be, but you will also encounter application and processing fees, exam fees, and in many states you will need to submit to fingerprinting and background checks.

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How the GI Bill Can Help

Happy,Couple,Holding,Home,Keys.,Real,Estate,MortgageThe GI Bill is an education benefit for members of Active Duty, Selected Reserve, and National Guard Armed Forces, as well as their families or dependents. These funds are provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and were created to help shoulder education or training costs in covered fields of study. While it’s common knowledge that the GI Bill will cover traditional college tuition, many people don’t realize that it can also be used to cover certifications, like a real estate license.

Those who qualify can also be reimbursed for the licensing exam, regardless of whether they pass or fail. The GI Bill’s maximum amount of reimbursement per test is $2,000, but the average real estate licensing exam will only cost you around $50. This varies per state, but the cost ranges anywhere from $17 to $65. The way the GI Bill benefits are setup, you can retake the real estate exam as many times as you need to. Because they are lower than the $2,000 maximum reimbursement amount, they will be completely covered each time. After each attempt, the cost of the exam will be deducted from your benefits total based on your monthly benefit rate for full-time training. This will apply each time you take the licensing test, or retake one that you previously failed.

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It is important to note that this only applies to the exam costs, and not any other licensing fees, such as application costs to your state’s real estate commission.

If you are in the following Veteran Affairs and GI Bill programs, you qualify to use those benefits towards starting a real estate career:

  • The Post-9/11 GI Bill
  • Montgomery GI Bill
  • Veteran Rehabilitation and Employment
  • Dependents’ Educational Assistance
  • The Fry Scholarship

What steps do I need to take to get GI Bill Reimbursement?

Military,Man,Holding,House,Model,,Real,EstateTo get your reimbursement for the licensing cost, simply follow these steps:

  1. Apply for your education benefits. If you haven’t done so yet, you can do so online through the VA.gov website. After processing your application, the VA will determine your eligibility for the GI Bill and other education programs.
  2. Fill out the VA Form 22-0803 or the Application for Reimbursement of Licensing and Certification Test. You will need to provide the following information:
    • Your personal information (including your social security and VA file number)
    • Your VA education information
    • The test information (date and venue of the exam taken, type of exam)
    • The licensing commission for which you are applying for a license (Ex: in Texas this is TREC)
  3. Submit the form online along with your test results (pass or fail), an authorization letter and signature, and proof of your payment. You can also mail these to the nearest VA regional processing office if you prefer. 
  4. Wait for your payment to be reimbursed. 

Processing Times

It takes about 13 days for the VA office to process first time applications, but this can vary depending on whether or not the system is backed up.

It takes around 9 days to hear back for supplemental claims. If you make changes to your application (switch real estate schools, or need to re-take any courses) then you will have to note this on your application, which can impact your benefits.

Do I need to worry about a time limit?

There may or may not be time limits, depending on which program you belong to. However, the general rule of thumb is as follows: 

  • Under the pre-9/11 Montgomery GI Bill, your funds will expire after 10 years. This time limit starts once you retire from the military, or are honorably discharged. 
  • If you are part of the post-9/11 GI Bill program, you have 15 years to take advantage of the benefits.
  • If you enlisted in a GI Bill program after January 1, 2013, there is no time limit. You can take advantage of the benefits you are qualified for at any time.  

As a refresher, the GI Bill can definitely help you cover the cost of getting a real estate license. The VA will reimburse licensing costs, and the steps to get the reimbursement are easy.

To avoid any headaches, make sure that the real estate school you choose, and the testing center where you will be taking your licensing exam meet the state requirements and are approved by the state board, and of course, the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Otherwise, you may not be able to get your money reimbursed.

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Why Real Estate is a Great Career for Veterans

Smiling,Us,Male,Soldier,And,His,Wife,Showing,Wooden,HouseRecent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that 1 in 5 veterans between the ages of 20 to 24 are unemployed – that’s three times the national average. Because of those shocking numbers, many national brokerages have created programs to actively recruit veterans and military spouses. For example, the Operation RE/MAX program aims to put an end to veteran unemployment by matching military spouses and veterans with RE/MAX mentors. The program also offers post-licensing training and support to any and all participants, and there are more companies starting similar programs each and every year.

Century 21, another national brokerage, is also actively recruiting veterans. Their “Heroes Wanted” page reads: “You’ve proven that you have the drive to succeed through service to our country. We’re looking for affiliated sales professionals that embody that relentless spirit with a drive to defy mediocrity and deliver extraordinary experiences.”

The truth is – when transitioning into the private sector, many veterans find that the valuable skills they picked up during their training don’t always get recognized in the current job market. Luckily, many of those great traits can actually help you if you decide to become a real estate agent. Here are just 6 (of many) reasons why veterans make excellent real estate agents.

Happy,Reunion,Of,Soldier,With,Family,,Son,Hug,Father1. Veterans have a can-do mindset –  As a service member, you know the importance of always having an attitude that prioritizes getting the job done. That same positive attitude can help ease a clients mind if you decide to start a career in real estate. Clients tend to worry whether an agent truly has their back, or is simply serving their own self-interests. The can-do attitude of a veteran means there’s never any doubt in their mind. You’ll also be able to provide fellow military and veteran homebuyers with the best tips and resources.

2. Veterans have cross-functional skills – The Department of Veterans Affairs states that because of their military training, veterans are often cross-trained in multiple skills and have experience in varied tasks and responsibilities. These skill sets include everything from being able to problem solve quickly and creatively to being organized and disciplined. Those are just a few examples of how those same skills can translate directly into a successful real estate career. There’s no doubt you’ll also be able to reel in those veteran and military leads better than other agents in your market.

American,Soldiers,And,Flag,Of,Usa,On,Soldiers,Arm.,Us3. Veterans have the ability to assess situations – Military training teaches you how to problem-solve by first assessing a situation, and then initiating a response. That is a huge plus when applied to the real estate industry. The housing market is constantly changing and evolving, so the ability to adapt accordingly is very beneficial. This skill can also help you with clients, because you’re able to stay calm, cool, and collected no matter what happens.

4. Veterans know how to deliver information – Being able to deliver information in a concise, easy to understand manner is crucial in combat. Those skills can also help you in real estate when you are giving a listing presentation, or trying to break down the terms of a contract. Many clients get confused about the process, so they will turn to you with questions about how it all works. Your ability to deliver information will definitely come in handy.

5. Veterans are timely and professional – In the military, you learn the importance of following rules and schedules. Timing is everything, and this is a great skill to have in the real estate industry. While it’s not a typical 9-5 office job, there are many things you’ll have to show up for. It’s important to be on time for showings, open houses, listing presentations, etc.

6. Veterans are team players – Teamwork is considered an essential part of daily life and is the foundation on which safe military operations are built. That skill is beneficial in the real estate industry as well. For example, you may choose to work in a team environment where each agent has a particular duty and the commission is split between team members.

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About the Author

Chris Heller brings 27 years of experience in real estate. Chris serves on the AgentAdvice Editorial Board and is the Chief Real Estate Officer at OJO Labs. Chris brings deep expertise having held influential industry positions including CEO of mellohome and former CEO of Keller Williams Realty International.

Last Updated: 6/27/2022

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