How to earn your real estate license

If you’re considering getting a license in the US, you generally first need to take a class and pass the real estate exam.

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There is no Real Estate Agent license that is valid in the whole US, so every state has different legal requirements to be able to obtain a Real Estate Agent License. However, most regulations include the following:

  • You must be at least 18 or 19 years old (state regulations vary)
  • You must have official residency in the United States
  • You’ve graduated from high school or obtained the equivalent of a high school degree (GED).
  • Passed a criminal background check.
  • Successfully completed a Pre-license course.
  • Successfully passed both the State and National portions of the Salesperson Real Estate Exam.
  • Have submitted the licensing application provided by your country’s Real Estate Commission

To find your state’s specific requirements, you can check with the state’s Real Estate Commission/Department, or select a state from the menu on this page to get a summary.

To become eligible to take the real estate licensing exam in the USA, first, you must complete a  pre-licensing course. Every state has specific requirements about the format of the course and the minimum number of hours required before you can schedule an exam. 

After completing the pre-licensing course, the next step is applying for the exam. Before you take the exam, note that some states require you to complete a fingerprint scan and pass a background check. The exam generally contains 2 parts – the national portion and the state portion – and you must pass both to receive a license. If you fail either portion, most states allow you to retake only that part within a specified period. Once you’ve passed both parts of the exam, you should then submit your application for a real estate agent license. 

After you’ve completed all these steps and earned your license, you will need a supporting broker to “sponsor” you while you’re learning.  If you don’t, most states allow you to apply for an inactive one and activate it once you’ve found a supporting broker.

How much time it will take you to acquire a real estate license in the USA depends on yourself and your state’s education requirements. The sooner you pass the pre-licensing coursework, do the background check, and pass the licensing examination, the sooner you’ll be selling homes!

Depending on the state, pre-licensing courses can take anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks to complete if you’re dedicated to the courses full time. Scheduling and passing the exam can take anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks. So, all in all, the entire process from starting the course to obtaining your license can take from 3 weeks to 12 weeks to complete.  If you’ve identified which state you want to get licensed in, feel free to select it from the menu above to get more specific guidance. Or, if your state isn’t represented, check with your state’s Real Estate Commission.

The exact cost of getting a Real Estate Agent License in the USA will depend on your state, but in general, you will incur with the following costs:

  • The pre-licensing course will cost anywhere between $150 and $1,500 depending on the provider you select and the number of course hours your state requires.
  • The exam fee itself varies from state to state but is usually less than $50 
  • Background check and fingerprint scan cost around $100 in total
  • Errors and Omissions Insurance is about $600, but it’s mandatory only in 13 states: Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
  • The cost of submitting your Real Estate application is generally around $25

All in all, the fees for obtaining a Real Estate License in the USA are anywhere between $250 – $1,600, but in some cases, it can be higher due to the Errors and Omissions Insurance explained above. 

Generally, yes! Many states allow you to take your real estate class online. An increasing number of people choose this type of studying as it’s more time-efficient, allows students to organize their time more efficiently, and lets them study at their own pace.

As a reminder, all real estate courses taken must be approved by the relevant state – so be sure to check the state-specific page on this site before buying your course. 

In most states, the licensing test itself has multiple-choice questions divided into two portions:

  1. The National Real Estate portion tests you on general real estate principles and practices.
  2. The State portion has questions related to the specific real estate regulations in the state where you’re applying for a license. 

All questions on the exam are specifically designed to test your understanding and knowledge in two areas: general knowledge about real estate and the ability to apply fundamental principles of real estate laws to solve new or existing problems.

Again, this depends on the state.  In general, to be eligible to apply to take the state real estate exam, first, you have to complete a state-approved pre-licensing course, which can also be taken online in many states. After finishing this course, you can apply to take the test in an officially approved location.

In most states, even if you don’t have a sponsoring broker, you can still take the licensing exam. However, in order for your license to be officially active, you have to work under a sponsoring broker. If you don’t have one after passing the exam, some states allow you to apply for an inactive license, but even so, you can’t practice as an agent until you get sponsored.

This one varies widely by state – so find your relevant state through the menu above to be sure.

Most states require you to apply for and pick up your real estate license within a year of passing the exam. If this period expires, you will have to retake the exam all over again. 

If you don’t get a passing score, your score report will indicate your results along with reapplication instructions. Most states will give you more than one try – so don’t stress out.

If you want to retake the exam, you will need to schedule another appointment. Do note that failing one portion (national or state-specific) of the exam doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve failed the whole exam. Most states allow you to retake only the piece you’ve been unable to pass within a specified period after failing.

In most states, if you fail the real estate license exam three times in 1 year, you need to take additional education hours. Most states require an additional 20 to 40 hours of education for every failed portion. After you’ve completed the additional courses, you can then apply to retake the exam.

Licensed individuals working under a sponsored broker have an active license, which means they can engage in real estate brokerage activities, while an inactive real estate license means the opposite. The person doesn’t have a sponsoring broker, and because of that, is not eligible to engage in any type of real estate brokerage activities. 

The simplest and fastest way is to research brokerages in your city and contact them via email or phone. Schedule a meeting with a broker, offer them your services and discuss their requirements as a sponsoring broker and if they would be willing to take you under their wing.

There is no such thing as a general US Real Estate license. Every state has different regulations about obtaining and maintaining a Real Estate license. 

However, some states have what is called reciprocity between them. Reciprocity means that obtaining a Real Estate License in one state will make the same license valid in another state. In most cases, the reciprocity allows the Real Estate Agent to skip through all the pre-licensing work and take only the state-specific portion of the exam. The process varies by state, but in many states, you simply need to complete a reciprocal license application with the state in which you are seeking your license.

You should check for your state’s reciprocity agreement if you’re moving from one state to another – it may save you having to start entirely from scratch in your education and testing requirements. These details are included on the state specific page on this website.

Generally, real estate agents in the US are required to complete a certain number of continuing education hours, which vary from one state to another. Most states have requirements about the number of hours you need to complete and which topics and areas the continuing education courses have to cover. 

Every state has specific rules about how long a Real Estate License lasts and how to maintain it, but usually, the period is between 2 to 4 years. During this period, the licensed agent is required to complete a certain number of continuing education hours and provide proof for it to the real estate regulatory board to maintain their Real Estate License active. 

To be able to participate in real estate transactions, a license is mandatory. But to obtain one, you must prove your knowledge, professionalism, and expertise in different fields.

We hope these questions will help you on your journey of becoming a licensed real estate agent. If you want to find out more about becoming a real estate agent in some of the states, check out our state-specific real estate licensing articles.