How to Get a Massachusetts Real Estate License

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Massachusetts, the Old Colony State, the Bay State, and if you know what you’re doing, your new cash cow. As a Massachusetts based real estate agent, you can dream about showing and selling properties to young couples hoping to start a family, old couples looking for a smaller retirement home, or exciting entrepreneurs trying to swoop up a nice investment property. From Boston to Salem, Plymouth, Middlesex, Springfield, and Worcester the land is open for you and your clients. However, before you start doing that, let’s get you a real estate license.

Turns out it’s all about the details, so put on your Bruins 🏒 or Celtics 🏀 jersey, and let’s go over the steps you’ll need to go through before you can earn your license. Some are obvious while others are a little shocking (everything involving the government is). After all, this is what permits you to show and sell properties to others.

Step 1: Understand the Prerequisites

There are some 101s to know

These are the requirements mandated by the Commonwealth Of Massachusetts’ Division of Professional Licensure’s Board of Registration of Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons (yada yada🙄).

  1. Be at least 18 years old.
  2. You must be a citizen of the country 🇺🇸.
  3. You must have a valid social security number. (Get your documentations updated)
  4. Take the Massachusetts real estate Pre Licensing Course 📚 and pass the exam.
  5. You also need to join a real estate brokerage. This is because your license only makes you a salesperson (agent).
  6. You’re going to have to pass a background check.

Although these are not explicitly stated, it’s good to have a high school diploma (GED) or an equivalent🎓. (Stay in school kids.). Being a resident of MA also helps.


Massachusetts offers reciprocal licensure with states like Rhode Island and Connecticut.

Step 2: Sign Up For And Complete 40 Hours Of The Required Pre-licensing Course 📖.

Now, the government wants you to take a pre-licensing course. It’s supposed to familiarize you with the basics of real estate law and procedures. The classes are for at least 40 hours. Not bad, you can even treat it like a work week and knock it out in no time.

The courses must be taken at an accredited college, university, or real estate school. You aren’t forced to come to physical classes like some real estate schools. Most options today are very tech-savvy and offer online courses that ease the process by bringing the class to you. With this, you won’t have to go through the stress of attending classes to get your license.

Step 3: Take the Massachusetts Real Estate Licensing Exam

You’re done with the 40 hour course. The natural next step is to pass the exam. You apply to take the real estate license test using your course completion certificate.

There are 100 questions in the exam. You have to get at least  75% to pass.

This is one of the strictest real estate exams around.

The exams are tough, but you’re smart so you’ll be just fine. All exams have a pattern. We offer prep courses that use past questions to show how you can pass.

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

Make sure you’re prepared to pay for the license on the day of the examination (upon passing the examination) as you can get your license at the examination site immediately after passing the exam for a fee of $103 to $150.

Step 4: Apply for a license from the Massachusetts Board of Registration of Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons.

Yes, that’s a long name.

Now that you’ve passed, this is where you use your results to apply to the government department that will grant you a license.  This is also where you need to pass a background check. There are fees to be paid too.

Some of the things you will need to apply are:

  • A certified letter of Good Standing issued by the reciprocity state.
  • A Surety Bond in your name as an applicant, issued by a Board-approved Real Estate Bond Company is needed. You are required to obtain this prior to submitting the application.
  • A notarized Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) Authorization Form completed and signed by the applicant.
  • A recent, color photograph of the applicant (passport-style headshot).
  • If applicable, an explanatory document detailing all prior or pending professional disciplinary actions.
  • If applicable, an explanatory document detailing all prior felony or misdemeanor convictions

You will have to be fingerprinted here 👍 especially if you are a first-timer. Don’t worry too much about this, especially if you don’t have any convictions. If you do, quickly pay your outstanding parking tickets or fees. The fingerprints will help confirm the accuracy of your records.

Step 5: Wait For Your License In The Mail. And Look For A Sponsoring Broker

Great, you’re here. You have a license and you’re good to go, however, you aren’t ready to start selling just yet.

You need to work under a broker. A broker is a senior agent who takes the new real estate agent under their wings and shows them the ropes. They will let you know the unwritten rules and give you your first clients. They are also the ones that ensure that you maintain high ethical and professional standards. Finally, they help you build a reputation.

You have to look for a firm that gives you the opportunity to grow, has a good reputation, a nice environment and that has a good commission split 💸.

Chris Heller Headshot


*This article was updated on 1/3/2022

This information was reviewed and approved by Chris Heller. 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.

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Here’s the quick take:

Massachusetts Real Estate Licensing FAQs

Brokers react as Compass gobbles up GlideThe process of becoming a real estate agent in Massachusetts is simple as the requirements are straightforward, clear, and less complicated than other states. 

You are required to complete 40 hours of prelicensing education, less than other states where this requirement can be four times higher. Besides, in a classroom, you can also take these classes online, which facilitates the whole process of becoming a real estate agent. 

Once you receive a Real Estate Educational Certificate form to be completed by a Board-approved Real Estate School, you can take the real estate licensing exam. You can receive your license on the spot after passing the exam, which is an additional facilitating condition.

In general, if you pay attention to classes, solve the prep questions, and study hard before taking the exam, you will manage to pass on the first try.

classroom setting with studentsIt takes every applicant a different amount of time to finish the whole process, but in general, the time needed in Massachusetts is shorter than some other states. This is because the prelicensing education classes can be taken online, last shorter (40 hours), and the license is issued to you immediately after passing the exam. 

The prelicensing education course can be finished within a month if you take two hours per day, five days per week. 

Getting your Application for Examination checked and approved by The Board of Registration of Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons can take up to two weeks. The exam date will be scheduled, depending on the seating availability.

pexels-karolina-grabowska-4968651Massachusetts is the second highest-paying state for real estate agents in all of the U.S., falling back only behind New York. Real estate agents here earn $84,180 per year on average, but a top agent can earn even higher than that – $128,780 or more (annual 90th percentile wage). 

Real estate agents in the Massachusetts nonmetropolitan area earn $87,780 on average per year, the highest in the state of Massachusetts. However, the highest annual 90th percentile wage in Massachusetts is in the Providence-Warwick metro area, where the top 10% paying agents can earn $151,700 or more per year. 

Massachusetts state sealThe Real Estate Board is in charge of licensing those who have completed a real estate license course and have passed the final exam.

The Board also oversees real estate schools and agent curriculum and contracts with a testing vendor to provide licensing exams. The Board also protects consumers by investigating and disciplining agents who violate licensing laws and regulations.

The board is basically the one stop shop for all things licensing, discipline, and education in the real estate industry across Massachusetts.

The Board may issue a real estate salesperson license to agents licensed in other states or without requiring any education and examination requirements. This applies to states where the laws are similar to the Commonwealth governing the practice of real estate brokering of licensed Massachusetts real estate salespersons. 

US map

coins stackedThe basic fees associated with obtaining a real estate license in Massachusetts are:

  • The initial examination fee is $54 
  • The processing fee is $31
  • License fees will be calculated and paid at the test center and can range between $103 and $150
  • A $12 PSI licensing fee 

All fees need to be paid by a credit card, personal checks, cashier’s checks, or money orders made directly to PSI. Cash payments are not accepted.

In addition to these fees required by The Board of Registration of Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons or PSI, you should also plan for prelicensing classes. Typically, these costs can range anywhere from $200 to $700, depending on the course provider.

shaking handsCurrently, the Board of Registration of Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons doesn’t require a college degree to become a real estate agent. Only a high school diploma or a GED will suffice as a requirement.

However, The Board of Registration of Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons can issue a real estate broker license to any Massachusetts-licensed attorneys holding a current law license in good standing with the Supreme Judicial Court. All applicants for an Attorney-Broker license are exempt from the Board’s examination requirements.

counting on a chalkboardYou can retake the real estate licensing exam as many times as needed until you pass both portions. If you fail one portion of the exam, you’re allowed to retake only the portion you’ve failed.

Keep in mind that the results you get on the exam the first time are valid for one year, so you have to pass both portions of the exam within one year.

The real estate license exam in Massachusetts consists of 120 questions in total. Applicants should pass both portions of the exam with 70% correct answers, or 56 from the national portion and 28 from the state portion. 

The national portion has 80 questions covering the following areas:

  • Property ownership
  • Land use controls and regulations
  • Valuation and market analysis
  • Financing
  • General principles of agency
  • Property disclosures
  • Contracts
  • Leasing and property management
  • Transfer of Title
  • Practice of real estate
  • Real estate calculations

The state portion has 40 questions covering the following areas:

  • Duties and powers of the board of registration of real estate brokers and salespersons
  • Licensing requirements
  • Requirements governing licensees
  • Contracts
  • Consumer protection laws
  • Environmental issues and hazardous materials
  • Massachusetts fair housing law
  • Landlord-tenant law
  • Additional topics

The Board of Registration of Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons doesn’t release official pass rates. Each real estate school reports its pass rates individually, which can range from 50% to as high as 95%, but the Real Estate Board doesn’t officially confirm these. 

shaking handsThere are two types of real estate licenses in Massachusetts: a real estate salesperson and a real estate broker. There are several differences between the two, mainly the following: 

  • A salesperson has to be overseen by a qualifying broker and receive commission directly through them, while the broker gets their agent fee directly from the clients. 
  • A broker is someone who has been a salesperson previously, but a salesperson can never be a broker without being a salesperson first. So, a broker can do all the real estate work a salesperson can, but not vice versa. 
  • Because the responsibilities of a real estate broker are greater than those for a salesperson, a real estate broker also has to pass additional tests to get their broker’s license. 
  • Every broker (not a salesperson) is required to file a surety bond of $5,000, with the Board for the benefit of any person harmed by the loss of funds held by the broker.

studying at coffee shopThe real estate licensing exam is split into 80 national portion questions that should be answered within 150 minutes and 40 state portion questions that should be answered within 90 minutes. 

Each section is designed to test your knowledge from different areas. The national portion tests your knowledge of the general real estate laws and principles that apply in all of the U.S., while the state portion goes into the laws and regulations that apply in Massachusetts. 

You should display knowledge of both areas of the real estate industry to be eligible for a license in Massachusetts. Accordingly, you’re required to answer 70% of the questions correctly, or 56 from the national portion and 28 from the state portion. 

small group of students studyingAccording to the Massachusetts License Law, “Whoever, without being licensed, acts as a broker or salesperson or advertises as such, shall be punished by a fine of not more than $500 by a court of law.” If the act is more severe, criminal charges may apply. 

There are, however, some real estate actions that can be done without a license, such as: 

  • People doing real estate transactions for themselves (not helping others), including the sale of multiple developments or renting in large complexes (residential or commercial).
  • Purely salaried employees of the property owner, such as apartment managers.
  • Attorneys, auctioneers, appraisers, home inspectors, mortgage brokers, insurance agents, and other licensed professionals practicing their profession in a real estate transaction.
  • Public officers or employees performing official duties, trustees, or someone acting under a court order, such as executors, administrators, or guardians.

The Board of Registration of Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons requires real estate salespersons to complete 12 hours of continuing education every two years to keep their license active.  

Candidates are required to bring two forms of valid identification to the test site.

Accepted primary forms of identification documents are: 

  • Government-issued driver’s U.S. Department of State Driver’s License
  • U.S. Learner’s Permit (plastic card only with photo and signature)
  • National/State/Country Identification Card
  • US Government Issued Passport or Passport Card
  • US Government Issued Military Identification Card
  • US Government Issued Military Identification Card for spouses and dependents
  • U.S. Government Issued Alien Registration Card (Green Card, Permanent Resident Visa)

*The primary I.D. must contain the candidate’s photo, be valid, and unexpired.

Accepted secondary forms of identification are the following documents: 

  • Credit/Debit Card (must be signed)
  • Social Security Card
  • Any form of I.D. on the Primary list

*Student ID and employment I.D. are NOT acceptable forms of identification.

No record is an automatic disqualifier from getting a real estate license in Massachusetts. Each candidate that has a criminal record will be given an opportunity for a limited appearance before The Board of Registration of Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons.