How to get a California Real Estate License

Thinking about getting your real estate license? Former students have rated the top real estate schools in California below - and we've also included all the information you need to become a real estate agent. Good luck!

Real Estate Express

Real Estate Express
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4.06/5

based on 53 reviews

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T.S.

The layout content and questions were very good. It pretty much covered the whole class, and it was closely similar to the actual exams. If it weren't for the test prep, I think it would've been very difficult having to refer back to the whole curriculum to study for the exams.

RealEstateU

RealEstateU
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4.19/5

based on 47 reviews

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Bailey

It was convenient while going to school and working a real estate side job. With the schedule I had, I could not go to an in-person class with working and going to college. You do need to pay attention to the state material because the state portion seems to be a lot harder than the national exam. It was a great class, and I would recommend to people who have a busy schedule as I did.

Allied Real Estate Schools

Allied Real Estate Schools
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4.11/5

based on 37 reviews

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Allied Real Estate Schools Customer

The convenience of doing it online was best. I thought the curriculum was good, but the only frustrating things were the grammatical errors it had in the material and also the tests. It made it difficult to understand the questions in the tests, and there was a lot of unnecessary in there, compared to the material my husband had from his licensing courses. Apart from those issues, I thought it prepared me well, and I passed my first time around.

AceableAgent

AceableAgent
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4.17/5

based on 29 reviews

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AceableAgent Customer

For the most part, I did feel prepared for the state exam. It does need a little bit of improvement, only because there was some information in the exams that were not covered in the courses. I did pass on my first attempts, so there is only a little improvement needed.

The CE Shop

The CE Shop
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4.16/5

based on 37 reviews

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CK

I thought the test prep was really good. I felt like it portrayed the actual exams as best as they could without violating the state restrictions. I had failed my first time thinking I was prepared, but for the second time, I was able to see the questions I got wrong and study those sections. I did pass my second time around, thanks to the test prep. I highly recommend it.

360 Training

360 Training
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3.64/5

based on 28 reviews

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360 Training Customer

I thought the test prep was very helpful. It basically was a summary of the longer course, so it made it a lot easier to study than having to go back and look for certain parts. It was very well structured.

Kaplan Real Estate Education

Kaplan Real Estate Education
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4.43/5

based on 28 reviews

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Could stand for improvement

Kaitie

I opted for Kaplan’s online real estate education. I want to start by saying I loved Rolfe Kurtyka in the online lectures--I found him to be invaluable and a great educator. However, I experienced bad communication from the more local course contacts right off the bat, that got me off to an unfortunate start--I read 1.5 textbooks I shouldn't have before being guided to the right one to start with, due to a misspelling of my email address and confusing syllabus instructions. The videos and questions asked thereafter do not always match up. The course outlines you are asked to fill out and chapters also do not match up, which is counterintuitive to the learning process and frustrating. Workbook reference figures sometimes don't exist. Random question boxes popped up in the courses unannounced that don't apply. The final exams I took have variations of questions that I had not seen before, which I feel shouldn’t have been the case--they should have come up in some variation in quizzes before. As someone else mentioned, 5%(-8%) of the “correct” quiz and test answers are actually incorrect. One example: "The timeline is July 1 through September 30--with THIRTY days in each month [...]." In another example, Net Loan Proceeds are a debit to the broker, but in a T/F question in a Unit Review Test, the "correct" answer is that it's a credit to the broker. It makes you wonder to what degree you’re learning things as wrong or right. You're also only given a limited amount of chances to pass practice final tests OR there is a limited amount of questions in the bank-- this could stand for improvement to really increase our chances on the big exam day. If I hadn't been collecting previous test questions diligently on the side, I might not have been as poised for later success. Also, I believe if I had not taken free real estate exams found online after completing my Kaplan coursework, I wouldn’t have been properly prepared—especially as relates to the National Portion math I was met with on exam day. Overall, I wish I had researched courses to see which were better rated, because $1,115 is a big commitment of funds. I am not satisfied with my investment, though I did pass my licensing exam with 134/154 correct the first time (which I suppose is the point after all). This is by a big effort of my own, however. I would encourage others to shop around before investing in Kaplan for this course. They are great for other subject matter, I have heard. This course could stand for improvement, in my opinion—some updating, as others have said. I would advise others to be wary.

CA Realty Training

CA Realty Training
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4.86/5

based on 14 reviews

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Repetitive

CA Realty Training Customer

It was pretty straight forward, if not repetitive. More variety would have been nice. I will be taking the real estate exam soon.

Rockwell Institute

Rockwell Institute
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3.00/5

based on 6 reviews

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The online courses would not let me purc...

Cesar Castaneda

The online courses would not let me purchase an extension through the website, which forces students to rely on office hours for an extension. This resulted in me finding out my course would expire but I when I found out this information the office was closed, thus I lost all my progress and the money I put in.

McKissock Learning

McKissock Learning
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3.80/5

based on 5 reviews

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Go somewhere else for learning

Lindsey Haas

I signed up for the appraisal school in Jan 2020. I was starting to do the school but then COVID hit and I went from working to being a teacher and a stay at home working mom. Times have been tough. Then the market went crazy and homes sales went through the roof. So, we grabbed on to coat tails not sure where things would be in the coming months or year and tried to close all that we could over the summer to bank what we could. In the meantime the school had to go on the back burner. Now we are having to possibly school our kids again and so I called to ask for an extension. They want to charge me $50 for a 30 day extension. I had asked for 6 more months to complete this. Why on earth could they not allow me more time considering all that has changed in our worlds. I asked for some grace and they denied me. So, I had them cancel the entire program and I will not be going back here for anything in the future. You only have 10 days to get a refund and you have 6 months to complete it so BUYER BEWARE if you are a working mom and things in your world get turned upside down they will not work with you.

Hondros

Hondros
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5.00/5

based on 3 reviews

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Compucram

Hondros Customer

The Compucram questions are majorly helpful. Some of the questions are word for word what you see on the exam...

California Real Estate School FAQs

For starting a brand new career, it’s not that hard.

California has one of the most rigorous requirements to become a real estate agent in the country. Depending on how fast of a learner you are, the 135 hours of courses can be taxing.  That said – you can complete the courses on your own schedule, which helps make it a bit easier than being on someone else’s course schedule.

The state real estate exam is relatively difficult if you don’t take a test prep course first, but if you’re prepared, it isn’t too bad. One requirement of becoming an agent is finding a brokerage – but it’s not too hard to find one willing to take on new licensees isn’t particularly difficult.  In general, students who take a prep course before the final exam have a higher chance of passing on the first try.

According to statistics issued by the California Department of Real Estate, there’s currently more than 425,000 brokers and sales agents in the state. Real estate in California can be tricky, but it’s also a very lucrative career path. It’s been estimated that the average annual salary for real estate agents in California is over $70,000, which is substantially more than the national median of $61,720 reported by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. And of course, if you’re a top agent, you could earn a lot more.

California is considered one of the top five states in the country for the real estate industry, with an average of over $70,000 annually. By comparison, Florida, Georgia, and Washington report an average between $50,000 and $65,000.

To get your real estate license, you need to take a pre-licensing course, and pass the California real estate exam.

All courses must be completed through a “regionally accredited college or university” or an approved real estate school.  The good news is you going to physical classrooms isn’t required – you can take the course online through an approved real estate school.

Most real estate schools allow you to buy a single package with everything you need to become an agent.  As far as the official state 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:
    • 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

All applicants for a California real estate license must be 18 years of age and submit to mandatory electronic fingerprint identification.

No, a college degree is not required to become a California real estate agent – you just need to make sure you’ve met all of the other requirements described on this page.

The California Department of Real Estate requires at least three college-level courses as part of your preliminary training for a real estate license. However, they do not need to be from an accredited college or university. Any of the schools listed on this page will be able to help you fulfill this requirement.

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.

California 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.

Acceptable forms of ID for the real estate examination in California include a driver’s license or DMV identification card, a government-issued passport (including your country of birth), or a U.S. military-issued identification card.

It depends. California state law requires you to disclose any previous criminal conviction to the Department of Real Estate including, both misdemeanors and felonies. Failure to do so may result in the forfeiture of your real estate license. That said – a previous criminal conviction is not necessarily a bar to obtaining your real estate license. The California Department of Real Estate is your best resource to let you know if you’re eligible or not.

Thankfully, there’s no hard limit on the number of times you can take the California real estate license exam during a two year period, but a good recommendation is to wait at least 18 days between each exam. Each attempt must be accompanied by a new application and a non-refundable fee of $60. 

While some agents indicate that it can take up to four times to pass the sales agent exam on average, much of it will depend on how prepared you are and how thorough your understanding is of the required preliminary courses. It’s certainly not unheard of for agents to have passed after having taken the exam only once.

There are seven areas covered during the exam. Your pre-licensing course, along with a simple test prep course, should prepare you to succeed on the state real state exam. The seven pieces of the real estate exam are:

  • Property Ownership and Land Use Controls and Regulations,
  • Laws of Agency and Fiduciary Duties
  • Property Valuation and Financial Analysis
  • Financing
  • Transfer of Property
  • Real Estate Practice and Disclosure
  • Contracts

Roughly fifty percent of all people who take the California real estate examination complete it with a passing grade of 70 percent or more. That said, don’t let the state pass rate dissuade you. Many people don’t even prepare with a prep course – which of course, is highly recommended. If you’re prepared through a prep course, you’ll be in much better shape to pass the state exam.

Yes – and the difference is very important to understand.  A real estate agent is someone who is licensed to help people buy, sell, or rent properties, both commercial and residential. A broker, on the other hand, is as much responsible for the oversight for the day to day operations of an agency as they are for sales. It requires more of an understanding and experience of the real estate industry than just a standard real estate sales license.

However, becoming a real estate broker associate with a qualified brokerage firm is generally considered to be one of the most thorough and quickest ways to gain experience in property sales. This doesn’t necessarily mean it will be easy.  But it will give you the confidence, knowledge, and tools necessary for success in real estate.

Finding a real estate brokerage to sponsor you as a recent licensee isn’t very difficult. In other words – most brokerages are “qualified” to sponsor you. 

Think of this process of one where you are interviewing the broker to decide if you want to work there – not the other way around.  Use third-party informational resources like those available on AgentAdvice.com to help you make the right decision.

As you’re selecting a qualified real estate brokerage, make sure you choose one who excels in training new agents, and who will be happy to show you the ropes of real estate sales.

It’s a common misconception that a real estate agent is the same as a licensed Realtor. They aren’t. Only an official membership in the National Association of Realtors gives you the right to call yourself a Realtor. Why is this designation so prestigious? It’s simple.

An agent is 100% licensed to sell properties – and if you earn a real estate license, this is entirely your right.  That said, most brokerages in California insist on the Realtor designation. A licensed Realtor has sworn a professional oath to put their clients’ interests first. This doesn’t mean a licensed real estate agent is unqualified or not professional– far from it. But the official license of a Realtor grants an agent the added qualification that home buyers actively look for. 

There are portions of the exam you’ll need to take that are more broad national questions, as well as testing your state-specific knowledge of California real estate.  Real estate law is particularly stringent in California and requires that a successful agent will have a fair understanding of California-specific obligations, including conveyance, contracts, transactions, and deeds.

No. Only an official license in the state of California grants you the right to act as either an agent or broker in the real estate industry.

The only exception: If you’re an attorney who is barred in California, you may be able to just sit directly for the exam – no pre-licensing course needed.  However, to be sure – it’s a good idea to double-check with the California Department of Real Estate.

Being licensed as an employing broker in California indicates that you can choose to work independently or for a full-scale brokerage firm. Employing brokers typically don’t tend to be salaried. Instead, each successful close will result in a commission-based fee—sometimes more than thirty percent of closing costs.  If you don’t have your license yet, you should be focusing on becoming a sales agent first.