How to Get a Pennsylvania Real Estate License

Considering becoming a real estate agent? We’re not surprised, it’s a red hot market in Pennsylvania right now. Even the smart folks at the National Association of Realtors (NAR) said that the United States real estate industry will bring in no less than 35 billion dollars this year. 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. So, strap yourself in and let’s take a ride detailing the journey of becoming a licensed agent in five simple steps.

Step 1: Know The Requirements

Real,Estate,Written,On,Notepad,With,Calculator,And,Pen,OnGetting a real estate license is pretty easy in Pennsylvania. You just need to know and understand the prerequisites set by the state’s Real Estate Commission. This is just the regular round of documentation and confirmations that all government organizations put you through in order to identify you and process your information. So, it’s all good. 

  1. You must be a citizen. (There are special procedures for approved immigrants)
  2. You must be 18 or older
  3. You need to have at least a high school diploma or an equivalent
  4. You must pass the background check 

Step 2: Complete Your Real Estate Classes

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

First, you should Successfully complete 75 clock-hours of approved pre-licensing courses that the fancy folks at the Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission regulate. You must complete the pre-licensing course through a state or federally approved school, which isn’t difficult to find. 

This course includes the 30 hours of real estate license fundamentals course and another 45 hours of real estate license practice course. The nice thing about the course is that you can choose to do it in a physical classroom or online. 

Your coursework will teach you how to sell real estate legally and ethically. It will also go over state specific terms that may be important to take note of. 


Not everyone will have to slug out the 75 hours of pre-licensing courses and exam. There are some people who will be exempt:

  • If you are a licensed attorney
  • If you have received a degree from a university with a major course of study in real estate
  • If you have a current license in another state and are seeking to try to expand your territory into Pennsylvania

Whatever your case is, you can easily find out what path you need to take before you can legally start buying or selling real estate in Pennsylvania. 

Step 3: Pass the Pennsylvania real estate licensing exam, it’s time to unleash your brainpower 🧠 💪

man studying for licensing examOnce you’ve completed your coursework, it’s time to take the exam. The Pennsylvania real estate salesperson licensing exam has 110 questions in 2 different parts, that include both state and national requirements. You will get 3 hours for 80 national questions and 30 state questions. Don’t worry though, it goes by faster than you’d think. 

You must have a passing score of at least 77 percent on the PRAE (Pennsylvania Real Estate Exam) 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 4. Complete a background check

women studying for licensing examTo ensure that you are not a criminal or have been convicted of a major crime, the 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 cannot be older than 90 days from the date the application has been submitted.

If you have ever had a mugshot or fingerprints taken, you can calm down, especially if you only have misdemeanors, citations and fines, you have very little to worry about. Just ensure that you quickly pay those fines. 

Step 5: Apply for your Pennsylvania real estate license

studying at coffee shopWe are getting close baby!

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 full of suit-wearing, briefcase-totting fancy pants.

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

At this time you will also have to pay $107.00 total which includes $72.00 licensure fee, $25.00 application fee and $10.00 recovery fund fee.

Step 6: Join a brokerage of your choosing

woman studyingThis is a lot more straightforward than it sounds. Simply put, you cannot practice real estate in Pennsylvania without being under a broker. You must understudy with a supervising broker. Brokers are licensed to help you on your journey and to monitor the required legal and ethical standards set by the Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission. 

If you choose a good company, your broker will serve as a sort of mentor that will show you the ropes, introduce you to some potential first clients and they will also teach you the unwritten rules and tricks of the business.

After a few years of working as an agent, you can also become a real estate broker yourself if you want to reach the upper echelons of the real estate career ladder.

What To Look For When Choosing A Real Estate Broker 

Happy,Property,Owners,Shaking,Hands,With,Real,Estate,Broker,AfterEven if you’ve not asked, we know that this is the next logical step in your journey. So, let’s talk.

Ultimately, the most important thing is finding a broker that has similar goals and beliefs as yourself. This is why we suggest you spend time researching your broker to find out as much as you can about their values.

The most important thing you should look for is the broker’s integrity. While it can be difficult to tell if a brokerage firm has an ethical mindset just by looking at them, if they have been linked to any scandals or are operating in an unethical manner, this will definitely be evident.

You also want to ask about the commission splits and fees. After all, you’re here to make money. 

Other things to look out for are:

Has there been room to grow in that brokerage before? Is it easy to build a team? 

Do they offer education or training?

Do they provide their agents with leads and promotional material?

Do they have the latest technology and tools? 

In general, do your research on your chosen broker – talk to others who have worked with them, read testimonials if you can find them online or speak with local real estate agents who know them – and figure out if they are truly right for you from a financial standpoint. 

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.

Pennsylvania Real Estate Licensing FAQs

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.

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.

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 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. 

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. 

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.