California Real Estate License Guide

Quick Facts

california department of real estate logo

California Real Estate Governing Body:

California Department of Real Estate

PreLicensing Requirements:

135 Hours

СЕ Requirements:

45 Hours

Read more below

How to Get a California Real Estate License

Thinking about becoming a real agent in the state of California? We don’t blame you, the real estate out here is unmatched! You could make someone’s dream come true if you help them settle into their perfect home in the Hollywood hills. However, before you start running open houses or calling clients, you need to be a certified real estate agent. Well get ready because we are going to rattle off the steps you need to take to ensure that getting your license doesn’t become a burden.

Licensing for real estate is overseen by the California Department of Real Estate (DRE). They make sure all real estate agents in the state hold active licenses, know what they are doing, and that they can be trusted to follow rules and regulation. They are also the suit-wearing folks that determine the criteria for real estate agents in California. You don’t want to get on their bad side. 

Step 1: Know The Requirements

First, you need to understand what you’re getting into.

These are just the normal, everyday requirements that DRE sets. They are pretty simple and straightforward, so don’t fret you’ll fly through this easily. 

To apply for a California Real Estate License:

  1. You must be at least 18 years of age 
  2. You must be a US citizen 
  3. You must reside in California (You should know that there are special procedures for non-California residents to get licensed)
  4. You must ensure that your application is accurate and truthful. This means all information provided must be correct and up to date. If you have a criminal record of any kind or felony no matter how trivial, you must reveal it. If not, this may get your license denied and damage your future opportunity to get a license.

If you don’t have a criminal record, an arrest warrant, or unpaid fines then this process will move very quickly. 

If you have a record, there are still some circumstances where you can get a real estate license. 

Step 2: Sign Up For And Complete 135 Hours Of The Required Pre-licensing Course 

woman studying on computerNext, you have to take a pre-licensing course that will go over all things real estate. The courses will teach you about real estate transactions, state specific laws you must keep in mind, and will even go over real estate math in a nutshell. 

The courses are to be done via a regionally accredited real estate school. The good news is you don’t have to go through the pain of sitting in a physical classroom if you don’t want to.  There are tons of online courses that allow you to listen to your courses on the go, or whenever you have free time. With this option, you won’t have to go through the stress of attending classes to get your license.

In order to satisfy the requirements, you’ll need to take these courses:

  1. Real Estate Principles (mandatory)
  2. Real Estate Practice (mandatory)
  3. And one elective of the following courses:
    • General Accounting
    • Business Law
    • Common Interest Developments
    • Escrows
    • Legal Aspects of Real Estate
    • Mortgage Loan Brokering & Lending
    • Property Management
    • Real Estate Appraisal
    • Real Estate Economics
    • Real Estate Finance
    • Real Estate Office Administration

small group of students studyingPre-licensing Course Exemptions

Some folks don’t have to go take prelicensing courses. It’s rare, but if you qualify for any of the following, you are not required to do the coursework:

  • Members of the California State Bar are exempt from the real estate course requirements. Simply show proof that you are able to practice law in the state.
  • Applicants who can submit evidence of completing the eight statutory college-level courses required for the broker examination can skip this part.

Step 3: Apply For Your Salesperson Exam/License Application

man with for sale signThis is when you’ll have to submit your fingerprints for a background check. 

Once you have completed your required education, you can apply for your license exam. Beware – you will still have to sign a few forms and there may be a couple of extra fees you’ll have to pay as well. 

You also have to submit your fingerprints, especially if you are a first-timer. Don’t worry, the fingerprints are just for DRE to confirm that your records are accurate. 

To save time and hard-earned cash, you can apply for a combined exam and licensing application 📝. This will make sure that you have specific dates on what steps you need to take next. 

Step 4: Take the California Salesperson License Exam

shaking handsThis is the actual exam part. You’ve read, listened, and studied. This is where you show DRE that you actually understand the nitty-gritty details of how real estate transactions work in the state of California. 

There is one thing to note though: You must score at least a 70%. The good news is that your licensing fee will last for two years. That means you don’t have to take the exam right away. Once you apply, you’ll have two years to take the exam before your fee will expire.

The exams can be tough, but most exams have a pattern. With just a little bit of studying, and some practice exams under your belt, no doubt you’ll breeze through this. 

Just remember to bring a valid photo ID and exam admittance form to your exam location.

Step 5: Wait For Your License In The Mail

signing contractYou’ve passed, now crack open a cold one, or take your friends out for a nice little celebration because you deserve it.

In the meantime, you must start looking into where you want to work. DRE doesn’t permit independent brokers. This is because they want real estate agents to be held to high ethical and professional standards. So, you’ll want to start asking questions and looking into what kind of brokerage will best suit your needs.

Because sponsoring brokers have built up needed experience, they will help walk you through the local market, show you how to make your first transaction, and let you know important business secrets. If you choose wisely, they can help you along the way to make sure you’re building a formidable portfolio 💼.

You can begin looking for brokerages you like, whose goals align with yours, and whose work environment matches your energy.  

How To Choose A Broker

pexels-karolina-grabowska-4968651You know you can choose any broker. They can be a digital brokerage or a brick and mortar, but there are several things to consider when trying to decide which is the right fit for you. 

  • Training – Since you are just starting out, you will want to look into what training opportunities are available. Some companies put more emphasis on training and can provide a mentor program, or have a video library that you can gain access to. Others, however, have more of a sink or swim mentality. It’s best to look into what each company offers and decide how much hands on training you’d like to get from your brokerage. 
  • Comp PlanIt’s simple, you want to make money. Look into the commission splits each brokerage provides. A 60/40 split is common, and so is a 70/30 split. However, each company is setup in a different way. Some will give you more in commission, but you may have to pay more in fees. Ask questions to see what is included. For example, certain brokerages make you pay to have access to a CRM, while others include access to those tools in the commission splits.
  • Company’s History, Reputation and Work EnvironmentA good company will have a reputation for being fair and honest to their agents. Look at retention rates, and see if there seems to be a mass exodus before committing to a brokerage. Also, ask around in your community. A good company will also employ agents who make their clients happy.

Check out our guide below to see how we’ve rated the top real estate schools in California. We’ve looked at each school in detail, and have the most accurate and up to date rankings for you to get started. Don’t forget to have the best career ever 📈.

Compare California Real Estate Schools

aa-trophy-smallWant to see the full, in depth editor reviews for each school? Check out our 100% free guide to the best real estate schools in California (includes the latest 2021 pricing, reviews, pass rates, and more).


Here’s the quick take:

SchoolReviewsEditor's ScorePricing
  • full star
  • full star
  • full star
  • full star
  • full star

based on 54 reviews

A $
The CE Shop
  • full star
  • full star
  • full star
  • full star
  • full star

based on 56 reviews

A $$
aceableagent logo
  • full star
  • full star
  • full star
  • full star
  • full star

based on 47 reviews

B+ $$$
ca realty training logo
CA Realty Training
  • full star
  • full star
  • full star
  • full star
  • half star

based on 14 reviews

B $$$
kaplan logo
Kaplan Real Estate Education
  • full star
  • full star
  • full star
  • full star
  • full star

based on 36 reviews

B- $$$
Real Estate Express
  • full star
  • full star
  • full star
  • half star
  • full star

based on 81 reviews

B- $$

California Real Estate Licensing FAQs

man studying for licensing examCalifornia pre-licensing courses are required by the state real estate commission to be 135 hours of “credit.”  The preliminary three-semester units should take approximately 135 hours. The exam itself is made up of 150 multiple choice questions given over three hours.

Keep in mind that the length of time is entirely contingent on passing a minimum 70 percent of the examination itself – so it’d be wise to pay attention to the course content to make sure you’ll pass.

The cost per license for a real estate agent in California is $245 annually, as well as a $60 examination fee in addition to the cost of the preliminary course requirements as listed above.  The pre-licensing courses range wildly in price – from $99 to $500 if you’re taking the course online. When you’re budgeting for the new career, be sure to include the cost of a test prep course – it can significantly improve your chance of passing the state real estate exam.