How to Get a Pennsylvania Real Estate License

Elizabeth Convery, Licensed Pennsylvania Agent10/23/2023
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Step 1: Take a Pennsylvania Real Estate Course

In Pennsylvania, you must take 75-hours of a pre-licensing course. Don't worry though, there are lots of options, including many that are online.

Step 2: Pass the Pennsylvania Real Estate Licensing Exam

You must have a passing score of at least 77% within three years of the date of your licensing application. That means you must correctly answer at least 60 of the national questions and 23 of the state-specific questions.

Step 3: Complete a Background Check

Take note because all background check documents must be pulled within 90 days of of submitting your application.

Step 4: Apply for Your License

At this time you will also have to pay $107 total which includes the $72 license fee, $25 application fee and $10 recovery fund fee.

Step 5: Find a Brokerage

Consider the commission split and fee structure, the company's culture, and their reputation in your community before joining the brokerage.
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5 Steps to Get Your Pennsylvania Real Estate License

Step-By-Step Guide to Become a Licensed Real Estate Agent

Considering becoming a real estate agent? We’re not surprised, it’s a red hot market in Pennsylvania right now. Low interest rates and the woes of the pandemic have more people looking to change things up, so it’s definitely a good time for you to get your real estate license. 

Pennsylvania real estate is some of the most lucrative in the industry. Don’t worry though, we will go in depth about what paperwork needs to be filled out and the physical steps that need to be taken. You, my friend, have come to the right place.

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

Step 1: Complete Your Real Estate Course

Wooden,Classroom,Interior,With,Empty,Chalkboard,,Furniture,And,Daylight.,EducationJust throwing it out there now, there will be a little studying involved.

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

  • Real property ownership
  • Land use controls and restrictions
  • Property valuation
  • Real estate financing
  • Agency law and agreements
  • Disclosure of property conditions
  • Contract law and common contracts used in real estate
  • Deeds and transfer of title

Don’t be scared off by that long list, the courses are designed to 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 91% 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 Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania Licensing Exam

man studying for licensing examOnce you’ve completed your coursework, it’s time to take the exam. The Pennsylvania real estate salesperson exam has 110 questions in 2 different parts, that include both state and national requirements. Don’t worry though, it goes by faster than you’d think. 

You must have a passing score of at least 77% within three years of the date of your licensing application. That means you must correctly answer at least 60 of the national questions and 23 of the state-specific questions. 

There is also a time limit on the exam. You will have 120 minutes to finish the national portion, and only 60 minutes for the state portion. So make sure you are fueled up and ready to go when you enter. The exam alone will cost you $49, so make sure you have that set aside.

It is important that you study for the exam and do well on it so you don’t have to take it a second time. There is no limit on the number of times you can take the exam though. 

You can take your state exam online or in person at any one of testing centers approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

 There are lots of benefits available like test prep classes and mock exams that are based on relevant questions that have been known to pop up on previous exams. 

Step 3: Complete a Background Check

women studying for licensing examThe state of Pennsylvania wants to verify your criminal history. You can obtain your criminal background report online or from the Pennsylvania State Police Central Repository. Take note because all background check documents must be pulled within 90 days of of submitting your application. 

This task is a little tedious but still an easy one to knock out.

Step 4: Apply for Your License

studying at coffee shopWe are getting so close!

Let’s just go over the checkboxes again. To become a realtor in Pennsylvania, you must have your Pennsylvania real estate license administered by the Pennsylvania Department of State and the Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission. Yup, your license comes from two organizations.

You have to log in to the Pennsylvania Licensing System (PALS), create a profile, then upload all your documentation to submit your application for a real estate license. 

At this time you will also have to pay $107 total which includes the $72 license fee, $25 application fee and $10 recovery fund fee.

Step 5: Join a Brokerage

woman studyingThis is a lot more straightforward than it sounds. Simply put, you cannot practice real estate in Pennsylvania without working under a broker.

You’ll get to choose a brokerage you like, that focuses on a niche you love, that has a company culture you love, and most importantly … has a good commission rate, so your paycheck is XL. Worried about finding a brokerage yourself? AgentAdvice helps with warm introductions to hiring brokerages if you sign-up for a class through us. Phew!

You have total freedom to choose your sponsoring broker. Here’s some things agents look at when choosing a brokerage:

  • Commission Rate
    • Look at each brokerage’s commission rate when you’re shopping around. If they’ve got a good rate, your commission checks will be larger than life. 💸
  • Niche
    • Maybe you want a brokerage that focuses on a niche on a location or a specific category of real estate like commercial retail, single family homes, or fixer-uppers. So if you have a specific interest you can find a broker who shares that interest.
  • Culture
    • Maybe the company’s culture is important to you. If so, get to know what they’re all about, how they work, and what’s important to them.

That’s all just to say that you have the freedom to choose a brokerage that fits you.


Mission Complete

sold signThose are the steps you need to get your Pennsylvania 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.

PREC Criteria to get a real estate license


Let’s answer the most obvious question straight out of the gate. “What the heck is PREC and why do I need to impress them?!” Well, PREC is short for the Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission and it’s their job to make sure all agents in Pennsylvania 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 a citizen
  2. You must be 18 or older
  3. You need to have at least a high school diploma or an equivalent


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

The size and type of costs associated with getting your Pennsylvania real estate license can vary depending on your choices. With that in mind, the following costs apply to all students:

  • $250 to $700 for pre-license coursework
  • $49 examination fee
  • $107 initial licensing application
  • $20 background check

Other than these mandatory costs, there will be other costs for books, tuition, continuing education classes, and membership fees after you obtain your license. 

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How long does it take to get a real estate license in Pennsylvania?

The exact length of the time when you start the prelicensing course to obtaining a license depends on how fast you finish the course, how quickly you apply, your qualifications and characteristics, as well as how soon you pass the exam. In general, it takes a minimum of 3 months, and these are the time frames you could expect within that period:

  • The prelicensing course lasts for 75 hours and can be taken as quickly as 2 or 3 weeks.
  • After you submit your Registration Form to PSI, wait two weeks for the registration to be processed. After this, you can contact them to check if you’ve been approved and schedule a date to take the exam (schedules depend on seating availability). It can be within a day or two, or a week or two, it all depends on the number of applicants applying at the same time as you. 
  • Getting your background checked for any misdemeanors or convictions usually takes around two weeks. 
  • If you’re applying with a previous criminal record, there will be an additional 2 or 3 weeks required to process your application.


How much do real estate agents make in Pennsylvania?

The mean annual wage of a real estate agent in Pennsylvania is $62,430, slightly higher than the national average of $60,087. Top performers are rewarded handsomely though – the highest 10% of agents, can earn nearly double that amount, or $100,460. The Northern Pennsylvania metro area has the highest annual mean wage in the state ($67,230).   

Pennsylvania Real Estate License FAQs

To become a real estate agent in Pennsylvania, you should be at least 18 years of age, a resident of the US, pass a prelicensing course, a background check, and pass the final real estate licensing exam.  

How difficult it will be to become a real estate agent in Pennsylvania depends on you. If you pay attention during the prelicensing classes and study, you will enter the licensing exam better prepared and pass it more easily. Test prep goes a long way as well.

pennsylvania real estate commission logoThe Real Estate Commission grants and renews licenses to those who have completed the required number of education hours and have successfully passed the real estate exam. In order to maintain a license, agents much show they have honesty, trustworthiness, integrity and competence to buy or sell real estate as a broker or salesperson.
The Commission establishes requirements for continuing education to be met by licensed real estate brokers and real estate salespersons as a condition of license renewal.  Also, any school which offers instructions in real estate must obtain the Commission’s approval and follow the rules and regulations of the Commission in order to remain operational.

Pennsylvania has real estate license reciprocity with Arkansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Georgia, Maryland, and New York. If you obtained a license in some of these six states, you can apply for a Pennsylvania real estate license and only take the state portion of the exam to be licensed in the state. 

sold signA college degree is not necessary to become a real estate agent in Pennsylvania, only a high school degree or an equivalent of it. 

Moreover, if you have a university degree with a real estate major or you are a licensed attorney or a real estate agent in another state, you may be exempt from taking some of the prelicensing coursework or part of the exam. 

If you’ve been licensed in another state for the past five years, you won’t have to take the national portion of the exam, only the state one. 

Contact the Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission to find out more about these exemptions

Currently, the Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission offers two types of real estate licenses:

  • Real Estate Broker
  • Real Estate Salesperson
    • Cemetery Broker
    • Rental Listing Referral Agent
    • Builder/Owner Salesperson

classroom setting with studentsPSI administers the official licensure examination in Pennsylvania. They oversee, proctor, and grade the real estate license exam, while the Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission approves and issues the real estate licenses.

To take the real estate exam, you need to submit a PSI Registration Form along with the $49 examination fee and one of the following:

If you’re obtaining the license through education, you need to submit a Certificate of Completion or transcript of the real estate school where you took the prelicensing course.

If you’re applying for a real estate license through reciprocity, you need to submit a Certificate of Licensure from the jurisdiction that issued your license and proof of completing 75 hours of education.

Once you’ve submitted your application, allow two weeks for PSI to process it. Once two weeks have passed, you can schedule the exam online at the PSI website, through their phone, fax, or email. The exam is taken at different PSI centers in Pennsylvania – check PSI’s site to see the different locations.

man studying for licensing examIf you fail one or both on the Pennsylvania real estate license exam, you cannot schedule or retake it the same day. You will have to wait to schedule it 24 hours after failing and retake it 24 hours after scheduling. If you fail only one portion of the exam, you can retake only that portion. However, the same $49 fee will apply regardless if you’re retaking only one or both portions. 

Also, note that you have to pass both portions of the exam and obtain your license within three years of passing the first exam.

real estate instructor teaching studentsThe Pennsylvania real estate licensing exam consists of 2 portions: the national portion and the state portion. There are 80 questions in the national portion and 30 questions in the state portion. You have 3 hours to complete both portions of the exam, and you’ll have two hours for the national portion, and one hour for the state portion. You need to answer 75% of the questions in each portion correctly: 60 from the national and 23 from the state portion. 

The national portion covers the following 11 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 tests your knowledge in the following areas: 

  • Real Estate Commission
  • Licensure
  • Regulation of Conduct of Licensees

You need to pass both parts of the exam within a period of 3 years after taking the real estate course.

shaking handsOnly around half of real estate applicants pass the Pennsylvania real estate exam on the first try. This number is an indicator of how many people underestimate the exam and the attention it requires. 

It’s a knowledge test, and as such, requires time to overcome and learn. The prelicensing coursework is designed to help you master the topics in the exam the fastest, so it’s important to pay attention to the classes it offers.

In the end, even if you don’t pass the exam on the first try, you can always give it another try. Becoming a successful real estate agent is not determined by how fast you pass the exam or on which try. 

Finding a good real estate brokerage is important for your real estate career. You should find a real estate brokerage that will be able to prepare you for the real estate market and guide you through the first years of your real estate journey. Some of the things you need to consider when choosing a real estate brokerage are:

  • The reputation of the brokerage and personalities of the brokers working in it
  • How much time do they dedicate to educating real estate agents?
  • How many successful agents have come out of it?
  • Do they offer commissions and benefits for new agents?

Don’t feel intimidated to ask these questions and more if needed when scouting for a brokerage. It’s your career after all, and settling for anything just won’t do.  

man with for sale signPracticing real estate as a broker or a salesperson without a license in Pennsylvania can result in a penalty by the Commission. If a salesperson has done any real estate work contradictory to the regulations, both the salesperson and their supervising broker will be penalized. 

The Bureau for Professional and Occupational Affairs has penalties as high as $10,000 for people who violate license laws. 

However, there are some real estate jobs you can do without a license:

  • Real Estate Courier
  • Real Estate Assistant
  • Marketing Assistant for a brokerage
  • Leasing Agent/Consultant
  • Real Estate Investor

Every license in Pennsylvania is issued for a 2-year period and should be renewed by May 31st in the expiry year. To renew it, a real estate agent should present proof of 14 hours of continuing education. 

When you come to the PSI examination center, you will be asked to provide two forms of identification, one of which has to be government-issued and contain your photograph and your signature. It can be a driver’s license, state ID, passport, or military ID.

The second ID should have your signature and legal name, the same name you’ve entered in the Registration Form.

entryway of homeIf you’ve been previously convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, your application to become a real estate agent may be denied by the Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean so. The Commission will go over all applications and make their judgment based on the circumstances, date, and type of conviction of the applicant.

If you have a criminal record, you will be asked to provide the following documentation: 

  • A conviction summary information provided by the State Police
  • Certified copies of court documents;
  • Letter from Probation Officer, dated within 90 days, indicating current probationary status/completion date;
  • Police incident reports;
  • Employment History (resume);
  • Detailed description (in the applicant’s words) of the circumstances surrounding the conviction, the basis for the conviction and the disposition of the conviction;
  • A reference letter from the employing broker, on the company letterhead, indicating that they are aware of all conviction(s) and is willing to hire the applicant;
  • Two copies of signed and dated character references from people not related to or residing with the applicant.

After you submit these documents and the Application Form, allow up to three weeks for your application to be processed. 

About the Author

Elizabeth Convery got her license back in 2002, and is now the founder of VERY Real Estate, a boutique residential real estate firm specializing in sales and advisory based in Philadelphia, that she partnered with Compass RE in 2019. She has valued, financed, acquired or sold over $2 billion worth of properties in a career spanning nearly 20 years. She believes homebuyers deserve a commitment to transparency and trust from their real estate agent and that home ownership is a path to building wealth over time. Elizabeth has particular expertise in working with first time home buyers and is passionate about raising the homeownership rate among her Millennial peers.

Last Updated: 10/23/2023