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What’s the Difference Between a Real Estate Agent and a Broker?

By Kaplan Real Estate Education

When thinking about your long-term career goals in real estate, it’s important to take some time to explore every option. Once you have a vision for your future in real estate, you can start planning how you will accomplish your goals.

A popular goal for many real estate agents is to become a real estate broker. You may already be aware that once you get your real estate license, you can’t work as an independent agent. You will need to join a brokerage in order to sell property. But what if your long-term goal is to work independently or to supervise other real estate agents? Maybe you would like to own a brokerage one day. In order to do that, you will need to become a real estate broker. In this article, we’ll take a look at what a real estate broker does and how to plan to become a real estate broker in the future.

How are Real Estate Agents and Real Estate Brokers Different?

A real estate agent is an individual who has fulfilled all of their state’s salesperson licensing requirements and has earned his or her real estate license. States have different requirements, but all require completing a certain amount of prelicensing education and passing an exam. After earning licensure, a real estate agent must be hired by a brokerage in order to perform real estate work. The brokerage provides the agent with the support, guidance, and sometimes the resources necessary to do their work. In return, the brokerage takes a split from the real estate agent’s sales commission.

Real estate brokers earn not only their agent license but their state’s broker license, as well. The additional licensure allows brokers more freedom and possibilities than real estate agents. Brokers can work under a brokerage while supervising other agents (usually called a Broker Associate) or work independently while owning their own business (Broker Owner). While operating independently, they might decide to hire real estate agents to work under them in order to become more profitable. Ultimately, brokers have the opportunity to shape their own career path, with or without oversight from a brokerage.

This freedom is ideal for many prospective real estate agents. The career path of a real estate broker offers control, flexibility, and the potential to earn much more money. If you’ve made the decision to pursue your broker’s license one day, take a look at what you’ll need to do in order to accomplish this goal.

Thinking about starting a real estate career? Download the Launching Your Real Estate Career eBook.

How to Become a Real Estate Broker

All states have different requirements for broker licensure, but in general, you will need to complete the following:

1. Learn your state’s requirements for broker licensure.

Just like with real estate licensure, the requirements to earn your broker license vary by state. Finding out what your state requires can save you a lot of time in the long run, and can give you a solid roadmap for your initial years as a real estate agent. You can find the requirements you will need to fulfill on your state’s real estate commission website. For example, in California, prospective brokers will need a minimum of two years of full-time experience as an agent in addition to 8 college-level real estate courses. Knowing what you will need to accomplish in order to get your broker license can help you map out your schedule as early as possible.

2. Complete the required years of experience as an agent.
On average, most states require 2-3 years of experience working full-time as a real estate agent. You could potentially take your broker exam 2-3 years after joining your first real estate brokerage. This may seem like a long time, but it will go fast. You will be busy learning on the job and from your fellow real estate agents, in addition to taking the required coursework to qualify for the broker exam.

3. Take the coursework that your state requires.
In addition to experience, you will need to complete further coursework that elaborates and expands on the basis of knowledge you built during your prelicensing education. Real estate brokers are expected to be experts in their field, so becoming fluent in necessary subject areas is essential. Many states offer the option of taking real estate courses online so that you can balance your work life with studying.

4. Pass your state’s broker licensing exam.
The broker licensing exam is different in every state. Check with your state’s real estate commission website to determine what you should be prepared to be tested on and what to expect in terms of the number of questions and exam duration. You may find it helpful to take an exam prep course, so you’re fully prepared.

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