How to Get a Illinois Real Estate License

Ashley York headshotAshley York, Licensed Illinois Managing Broker10/23/2023
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Step 1: Take Pre-Licensing Real Estate Classes in Illinois

In Illinois, you must take 75-hours of a pre-licensing course. Don't worry though, there are lots of offline and online real estate courses in Illinois.

Step 2: Pass the Illinois Real Estate License Exam

The IL Real Estate exam has 140 multiple-choice questions, 100 of which are national real estate questions, and the remaining 40 being state related.

Step 3: Select a Sponsoring IL Real Estate Broker

Find out how their commission structure is built. A good sponsoring broker should have a commission structure that benefits everyone.

Step 4: Submit Your Application for a Broker License in Illinois

You can only apply for an Illinois realtor's license through the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation, so submit your application after passing your exam and choosing a managing broker.
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4 Steps to Get Your Illinois Realtor License

Step-By-Step Guide to Become a Licensed Illinois Real Estate Broker

Are you interested in becoming a real estate agent in the great state of Illinois? Of course you are, real estate is booming here! Well, hold on tight  cause we’re gonna fire off the four steps you need to get your hands on an Illinois real estate license.

You ready? Let’s break it down, step by step.

Step 1: Start by Taking a Course to Become a Realtor in Illinois

man studying for licensing examSchool’s Back in Session

You’re required to take a “pre-licensing” education class where you’ll study the principles of real estate, contracts, and finance. Not a fan of school? Well, these classes just might change how you feel about school. You have so many options! Some of them are even entirely online which has huge advantages! Online classes means you can do them at your own pace and work them in around your own schedule even if you have a full-time job. Also, the classes are only a total of 75 hours! That may seem like a big number, but to get started in a new career, that number is just a speck in time.

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There are plenty of options for completing the course including all in-person, all-online webinar with a live instructor, a combination of both or all-online self-paced study modules. There are also accelerated options that are in-person or online live webinar where you can complete the pre-licensing course in just 3 weeks.

But what’s included in those 75 hours? Take a look at the curriculum and see for yourself:

  • 60-Hour Broker Pre-License Topics course
  • 15-Hour Applied Real Estate Principles course

Don’t be scared off by the vocabulary. This is what the classes are designed for. They’ll defang any confusing topics by breaking them down. Still scared? Trust me, you can do this. The pass rates after taking these classes are sky-high, typically over a 90% pass rate and the support these classes offer is amazing.

Students are always surprised how affordable these classes are. Take a look at the best real estate schools in Illinois and see for yourself. If you’re still looking for a way to save some dough, AgentAdvice offers a way to get yours for free.

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Step 2: Pass the Illinois Real Estate License Exam

man studying for licensing examIt’s not enough to finish the course to get your IL realtor’s license; you also need to pass the licensing exam. You must be aware that you must pass the exam in order to move on to the next step. If you don’t pass on your first try, you can take it again. 

The test has 140 multiple-choice questions, 100 of which are national real estate questions, and the remaining 40 being state related. You’ll have 2 ½ hours to complete the national portion of the test, and a score of 70% is required to pass. Then, you’ll have 90 minutes to complete the state portion of the test, and a score of 75% is required to pass.

Don’t worry – results will be provided immediately upon completion.

It’s important to make studying for these exams a point, so you don’t have to keep paying money to retake them. You should enroll in a real estate school that will teach you all you need to know to pass the exams on the first try.

Once you pass the exam, you will be required to submit your licensing application to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR). And you are meant to do that via a sponsoring broker which brings us to our next point. 

You have two years to take the licensing exam after finishing your education requirements to get your realtor’s license in Illinois. After that you’ll need to retake the course. Once you finish the real estate course you can take your exam in as quickly as two days. Good luck – even though we know you don’t need it!

The nice part about the IL licensing test is that if you pass one portion and fail the other, you don’t have to retake the entire test. You only have to retake the portion you failed – national or state.

Step 3: Select a Sponsoring IL Real Estate Broker

studying at coffee shopIn Illinois, you cannot be given a real estate license if you are not associated with an active sponsoring broker. Selecting the right sponsoring broker for you is something you should carefully do because whoever you choose will be a mentor to you when you begin your real estate career. Don’t be in too big of a hurry to choose a sponsoring broker, and before you choose one, look out for the following:

  • Check if there are possibilities for you to grow within that brokerage. If there are no structures in place that will ensure that you grow, you shouldn’t choose that sponsoring broker.
  • Ask if they give their real estate agents marketing materials and leads. You need a sponsoring broker that will provide you with the right resources that will aid your growth in the real estate industry.
  • Inquire to see if your intending sponsoring broker will provide you with benefits.  You should only be associated with a sponsoring broker that has tons of benefits to offer you–it’s important. 
  • Find out how their commission structure is built. A good sponsoring broker should have a commission structure that benefits everyone. 
  • Find out if they support their real estate agents with training and educational opportunities. You need these training sessions to stay updated and relevant in the real estate industry. 
  • Find out if they are passionate about staying up-to-date with technological systems. You should not be associated with a sponsoring broker that is not open to better ways of getting things done. 
  • Find out the type of real estate agent that the sponsoring broker is searching for. Then, check if you fit into what the broker is looking for. 
  • Do thorough research on their local and national reputation. Get reviews from people that have used them in the past or are currently using them. If their reputation is not satisfactory, then you shouldn’t be associated with them.

Tip: Interview with a small, mid-sized, and large brokerage. Boutique brokerages are growing rapidly in popularity and every agent would have an ideal fit somewhere in this mix. Some want a larger national franchise. Also know that you are interviewing the brokerage and not the other way around. Pay close attention to monthly fees and other fees (marketing, franchise, etc) in addition to “commission structure”. Administrative support is also very important at a real estate brokerage.

Step 4: Apply for Your Real Estate License in Illinois

woman studyingYou can only apply for your IL broker license through the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation, so submit your application after passing your exam and choosing a managing broker. Once that is done, the state will then run a background check to verify that the information you provided is accurate. 

Mission Complete

sold signThose are the steps you need to get your Illinois real estate license. Yes, you might have to trudge through paperwork, check boxes, file forms, burn the midnight oil, chug coffee … but after all that … you’ll have your license. We recommend printing it out on super-gloss and framing it. Leave some room next to it for your first commission check; A LOT of room!

That’s all folks! Once you make it through these steps you’ll have a brand new career ahead of you. If there’s anything we can do to help you make it through these steps please let us know. We’ve got pre-licensing classes, cram courses, and all sorts of resources to help.

What are the real estate license requirements as per the Illinois DRE?

Hello criteria, pleasure to meet you!

Let’s answer the most obvious question straight out of the gate. “What the heck is DRE and why do I need to impress them?!” Well, DRE is short for the Division of Real Estate and it’s their job to make sure all agents in Illinois are capable, qualified, and can lawfully work in the state. To do so, they have some basic criteria you must meet. Luckily, most of the requirements are pretty straightforward.

Let’s meet the criteria:

  1. You must be at least 18 years old.
  2. You must be a U.S. citizen or a lawfully admitted alien.
  3. You must have a high school diploma or GED equivalent.

The good news is that most of our visitors/users don’t need to worry about it. The only time you’d need to be concerned is if you have any criminal offenses, unpaid judgments, disciplinary actions taken against a professional or occupational license, or have performed unlicensed real estate activity.

In IL, unpaid child support is also an issue when obtaining your real estate license.


How much does it cost to get a real estate license in Illinois?

counting moneyThe overall cost depends on the pre-licensing course you choose, as this takes up the biggest portion of the costs. A lot of companies offer different packages, so make sure you analyze your options and choose the one most fit for your needs.  Illinois agents have rated and reviewed the best real estate schools here on, in order to make this easy for you.

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As for the other costs, you can plan the following ones: 

  • Exam fee of $58
  • License application fee of $125

There will surely be other expenses as well, so when you’re planning the overall cost of your real estate license, make sure you plan for membership fees, operating expenses, and other potential costs that may arise. 

In total, it costs around $1,000 to become a real estate agent in Illinois.


How long does it take to get your real estate license in Illinois?

The time it takes to become a real estate agent in Illinois depends on the individual. It usually takes people 2 to 6 months to complete everything. If you finish the licensing coursework faster and manage to pass everything on the first try, it will take about two months. However, if you take the course at a slower pace, and fail the exam one or multiple times, it will take longer for you to be licensed as a real estate agent.  That said, if you’re in a hurry, you should probably go with a self-paced class rather than an in-person course that is bound to a specific deadline.

Remember that you have two years to register to take the real estate licensing exam once you pass the real estate licensing exam. 

One of the major advantages Illinois offers that other states don’t is the ability to work under a managing broker for 45 days while your license is being processed. This way, you won’t lose any time building your real estate career and will be able to work as soon as you pass the exam. 

What’s the real estate agent salary in Illinois?

money and calculator image

An Illinois realtor makes $44,840 per year on average. This breaks down to $33.24 per hour. 

Here’s an idea of what Illinois agents can make in some of the state’s highest paying cities:

  • Chicago: $106,447
  • Peoria: $93,801
  • Orland Park: $88,547
  • Northbrook: $99,974
  • Rockford: $92,198
  • Dolton: $87,237
  • Naperville: $96,948
  • Tinley Park: $88,646
  • Homer Glen: $86,027

How Much Do Homes Cost in Illinois?

Illinois homes cost $265,377 on average. Prices have gone up 9.3% over the past year. Here is a breakdown according to city. 

  • Naperville: $500,465
  • Deerfield: $547,111
  • Northbrook: $632,755
  • Wayne: $678,497
  • Glencoe: $1,387,215
  • Chicago: $339,900
  • Springfield: $156,796
  • Peoria: $120,000
  • Champagne: $198,000
  • Rockford: $135,474

What are Commission Splits Like in Illinois? 

Like most states, commission splits in Illinois are between 5-6%. The average split is 5.24% per sale. 

Here’s what you can expect as far as commission splits in the state. 

  • Keller Williams: 70/30
  • Coldwell Banker: With different offices asking for different commissions, agents can expect either a 55/45 split or a 60/40 split.
  • eXp Realty: 80/20
  • Compass: 80/20
  • JLL: 50/50

Illinois Real Estate License FAQs

Getting a real estate license takes a lot less time than it does in other states, but as in any other state, it takes dedication and attention. There are certain eligibility and qualification requirements, such as the 75-hour pre-licensing course, age requirements, and education requirements. These are all in place to help you prepare for the exam better and pass it easier.  Read on for more information. 

illinois licensing logoThe mission of the Division of Real Estate is to act as a safeguard for licensees across the state of Illinois. They keep an eye on qualifications and standards for licensed real estate agents. They are the one stop shop for regulation of licensees, making sure agents are properly evaluated, and that rules are enforced to protect agents and the public.

DRE “strives to provide efficient service through effective communication and transparency in operations, while maintaining a commitment to excellence with both consumers and the industry.”

Higher education is not required to be eligible to take the exam for your broker license in Illinois. However, you need a high school education or GED at a minimum.

The real estate licensing course lasts for 75-hours and should be administered by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. It covers topics from the following areas: 

  • 60 hours covering the following topics: 
    • License Law
    • Real Property
    • Structure of Agency
    • Seller Relationships and Counseling
    • Buyer Relationships and Counseling
    • Illinois Law
    • Federal Laws
    • Marketing and Advertising
    • Real Estate Transactions
    • Financing
    • Contract Knowledge
    • Independent Contractor/Employee Agreements
    • Property Management
  • 15 hours covering applied real estate principles that cover:
    • Listing Preparation
    • Buyer Representation
    • Agency Types
    • Presenting and Negotiating Offers
    • How to Deal With Multiple Offers
    • How to Manage Assistants
    • How to Perform CMS and Pricing
    • How to Minimize Risk
    • How to Handle Escrow Accounts
    • How to Handle Distressed Properties
    • Anti-trust Topics
    • Inspection Repairs

To pass the real estate licensing exam, you need to answer 70% of the questions from both portions correctly. The results of the exam will be given to you immediately after completion. 

You should bring two valid forms of ID. At least one of these two IDs needs to be government-issued with your photo ID, name, and signature. It could be a state ID card, a driver’s license, a passport, or a military ID. 

While it won’t necessarily disqualify you from obtaining a license, having a criminal record may make it harder for you to get a real estate license. 

When you apply for a real estate license, the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation will go through any conviction you may have in Illinois or any other state. They will not, however, consider the following: 

  • Juvenile arrests and adjudications,
  • Charges that were dismissed (except those related to real estate)
  • Arrests that were not followed by a charge
  • Convictions that have been overturned, or
  • Convictions or arrests that have been sealed or expunged.

You can also apply for a real estate license a certain period after your conviction. When you submit your application, make sure you disclose information about any convictions and charges along with any changes, paroles, and dismissals. 

Brokers react as Compass gobbles up GlideTo pass the real estate licensing exam in Illinois, you need to pass both the national and state-specific portion with at least 75% correct answers. 

If you fail the real estate license exam in Illinois on your first try, you can retake it three more times. If you fail these three additional attempts, you will have to restart the process all over again. This means retaking the full, 75-hour pre-licensing course and reapplying for the licensing exam. 

If you fail only one portion of the exam, you can retake only the one you failed. 

To maximize your chances of passing the licensing exam on your first try, you need to prepare well and study hard. A prep course is always helpful and will give you a hand in passing the exam and getting a higher passing score as well. 

The Illinois real estate license exam will help you get familiar with the basic fundamentals of real estate and prepare you to enter the real estate market in Illinois. There are 140 questions in total, 100 from the national portion, and 40 questions of Illinois-specific real estate areas. 

To be more specific, the real estate license exam in Illinois covers the following areas of the national portion: 

  • Agency Relationships and Contracts 
  • Real Property Ownership/Interest 
  • Finance 
  • Real Property 
  • Marketing Regulations 
  • Property Management 
  • Real Estate Calculations

State-specific questions:

  • Licensing Requirements
  • Laws and Rules Regulating Real Estate Practice
  • Disclosures

You have three and a half hours to complete the exam and answer 75% of each portion correctly. 

Only around 45% of students pass the real estate exam on the first try. This goes to show that it is something you should take seriously and dedicate time to learn and understand. 

However, this percentage shouldn’t discourage you! If you prepare well, pay attention during the pre-licensing course, and study hard, passing the exam won’t be a challenge.  

Taking a prep course before applying to take the licensing exam has proven to be beneficial for students. It not only helps you prepare better and manage your time more efficiently, but it also gives you insights from people who have already taken the exam.

Currently, Illinois has reciprocity with eight other states: Florida, Georgia, Colorado, Connecticut, Iowa, Nebraska, Indiana, and Wisconsin. If you already obtained your real estate license in any of these states, it will also be valid in Illinois and vice versa.

US map

The terminology in Illinois is a little different. Years back, everyone was considered “salespeople” and then everyone had to test up to become a “broker” so technically speaking, someone just getting licensed for the first time is a real estate broker in IL. Then, there is a managing broker who oversees the other “brokers”.

Being a real estate managing broker in Illinois means taking on more responsibility. A regular “broker” is someone who has passed the licensing exam and obtained a real estate license. A managing broker, on the other hand, is an agent that has worked in the industry for several years and has obtained additional licensing.

The main difference between the two is their responsibilities. Managing brokers manage brokers and can own real estate companies, while regular brokers cannot.

Finding a sponsoring broker in Illinois is not as difficult because most brokerages are qualified to supervise real estate agents. However, picking just any random brokerage won’t do. You should make sure that the sponsoring broker you’re choosing is experienced, reliable, and has shown a pattern of preparing successful real estate agents.

Try to view the process as job recruitment, but with you being on the hiring side. Ask the broker questions to find out what they think, what their experience is, and see if they are passionate about their work and will dedicate enough time to you. 

Every state has a mandatory national portion included in their real estate licensing exam. It’s designed and implemented so that real estate agents are familiar with the basic fundamentals and principles of the US real estate market. In fact, the national part is the largest portion of the exam in every state. This includes:

  • Agency Relationships and Contracts 
  • Real Property Ownership/Interest 
  • Finance 
  • Real Property 
  • Marketing Regulations 
  • Property Management 
  • Real Estate Calculations

The state-specific portion, on the other hand, covers real estate facts and principles relevant to the state of Illinois, such as:

  • Licensing Requirements
  • Laws and Rules Regulating Real Estate Practice
  • Disclosures

No. Offering, attempting to, or practicing real estate actions without holding a valid real estate license as a broker, managing broker, or residential leasing agent is not allowed. Anyone who does this will have to pay a penalty to the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation in addition to any other penalty required by civil law. 

An employing broker in Illinois is a licensed broker under which an agent/salesperson practices real estate. As an agent, you will act on behalf of an employing broker and receive commissions only through them. 

money and calculator imageBesides two forms of ID (which are mandatory), you can bring a non-programmable calculator that doesn’t have an alphabetic keyboard or programming features. You can also bring your wallet and your key, but other than that, you cannot bring anything else. This includes your phone and your watch. 

You are not allowed to have anything in your pockets either and will be asked to turn them outwards to ensure that they are empty.

Any violation of these rules and possessions of items outside what is allowed may result in your disqualification from the exam.

Ashley York headshot

About the Author

Ashley York is an Illinois Real Estate Managing Broker and has been licensed and full time since 2009. She has millions in personal & team  production and 5 years ago opened her own firm where she oversees the 55+ agents who work there. She lives in the Southwest suburbs of Chicago and has grown the independent brokerage from the ground up to over $270mil. Ashley was also awarded Mainstreet Organization of Realtors 20 Under 40 for 2022.

Last Updated: 10/23/2023