How to Become a Realtor

How to Become a Realtor: Career Path Guide

Becoming a realtor takes a combination of the ability to network, the will and ability to be on call for clients at the drop of a hat, and the will and ability to go months without earning a paycheque. 


In return for your hard work and dedication, this field offers incredible earning potential, diverse opportunities for advancement, the opportunity to work from home, and the ability to meet a lot of new people. 


If becoming a realtor sounds like a good option for you, then read on below; we’ll fill you in on the details, such as how you can get into this profession, how much you could earn, and of course, what you’d be doing once you get there.



Consider Getting a Diploma or Degree in Real Estate

Post-secondary education is not usually a formal requirement for becoming licensed as a realtor. However, having a degree related to general business or real estate can be very helpful for your career, as it will likely be considered an asset by prospective employers.


It can also cover topics that licensing coursework doesn’t; most licensing coursework is designed to ensure you are complaint to all relevant laws and industry regulations when selling real estate, but it doesn’t necessarily teach you how to actually make a living. A degree can teach you hands-on skills, such as marketing, that will help you build a sustainable career. 



Bonus: Having post-secondary education in a field related to real estate might exempt you from having to take certain, or all licensing coursework, depending on the region in which you will be seeking licensure.





The Details: Education You’ll Need

To become a realtor, you’ll need at least a high school diploma. You will also need to complete pre-licensing coursework as directed by your provincial/state real estate association.



Certification/Licensing You’ll Require

You will need to have a valid Realtor’s license (granted by the province or state in which you will be working) in order to sell real estate of any kind. 


Obtaining a license often consists of taking select courses through your local real estate association and passing an exam. In some cases, this can be quite expensive (upwards of a few thousand dollars). In addition, you may need to meet the following criteria (depending on the jurisdiction in which you work):


• Have a high school diploma

• Be at least 18 years of age

• Be able to pass a criminal record check


You can often begin working in real estate as an unlicensed assistant, either before you obtain your license, or while you are working towards it. Please contact your local real estate association for specific licensing requirements.



Who Creates Jobs for Realtors?

You could potentially find work as a realtor with the following common employers (not an inclusive list):


• Commercial, residential real estate firms and brokerages

• Property management firms

• Property developers

• Government agencies (all levels of government)

• Large organizations that purchase or lease multiple pieces of property 

• Real estate investment trusts (REITs)



Career Advancement Possibilities

If you perform your duties with competence and motivation, there will be a wide variety of career advancement opportunities available to you, including (not an inclusive list):


• An increase in the size of your client base

• An increase in pay or commissions 

• Moving into a senior sales associate role, or starting your own sales team

• Becoming the office manager or broker

• Becoming a partner in the firm or brokerage, or moving into a firm with better advancement possibilities

• Opening your own brokerage

• Moving into different areas of sales, such as becoming a specialist in residential, industrial or commercial real estate

• Moving into tangential areas, such as teaching real estate licensing courses

• Moving into an administrative role with your local, regional or national Real Estate Association or Board

• Using your experience to move into a related field, such as property development, or to make real estate investments of other kinds




Is This Career Right for You?

You should have the following attributes if you hope to succeed as a realtor, and enjoy what you do:


• You aren't afraid to pick up the phone and cold call

• You’re willing to be on-call for clients on evenings, weekends, and holidays

• You aren’t afraid of long hours and paperwork, including preparing contracts

• You’re interested in a career with exceptional income potential 

• You’re willing to devote a few years and a decent amount of money to getting established in your field

• You're willing and able to endure periods where you don't have money coming in

• You don’t expect to succeed right away

• You’re willing to represent the interests of clients and negotiate on their behalf

• You have a keen interest in the property market, local economic trends, current income tax regulations and purchasing arrangements 



Putting it all Together: Steps for Becoming a Realtor

To sum all of this up, here are the essential steps you’ll need to take to become a realtor:



Step 1. Make sure you're well suited: Determine if you have the right personality.


Step 2. Talk to realtors: Contact realtors You know (even those you don’t) to find out how they got in, what they like/don’t like about the career, and other tips.


Step 3. Budget for it: Make sure you have a spouse, savings, or a second job to help you through your first few months of trying to get established


Step 4. Make sure you meet the basic licensing criteria: Contact your local real estate association for exact licensing requirements.


Step 5. Get schooled: Get an education in real estate (optional, but recommended)


Step 6. Get licensed: Attend and pass the training to get your license


Step 7. Get a job: Sign on with an established brokerage, which will involve starting at the bottom.


Step 8. Establish yourself: Work long hours, network, and learn from successful realtors.







Details of the Work Itself: Job Description

As a realtor, you would be responsible for assisting clients in finding, renting, buying and selling property. You would act as your client’s representative in order to assist them in navigating the murky waters of property transactions.



General Job Duties

Although your duties from job to job (and from transaction to transaction) could vary, you would generally be responsible for the following:


• Meeting with clients in order to gain understanding of needs and wants

• Providing potential clients with information regarding what they can expect from the you and the brokerage you represent

• Search for properties that match the client’s needs and wants, such as size, price range location, and other features

• Provide client with suggested sales price for their home based on comparable properties which have recently sold in the area

• Negotiate pricing on behalf of client

• Advertise client's property for sale on the open market

• Facilitate completion of paperwork related to transaction

• Recommend to the client to seek client legal advice when appropriate

• Provide names and contact information of local home inspectors, lawyers, and other service providers

• Market services in community in order to expand client base



Typical Salary for Realtors

The salary level you could earn as a realtor can vary substantially, typically depending on the following factors:


• The region in which you work

• The scope of your job duties and functions

• The amount of deals you close

• The size of your client base, and how well you market yourself 

• Whether you earn a salary or commission

• Your monthly expenses (such as ‘desk fees’, gas for driving clients around, etc.)


Commercial Realtor Salary in Alberta: According to the 2015 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, the average salary level of Albertans working in the Real Estate Agents and Salespersons occupational group is $106,351 per year.


Salary in Canada: According to Service Canada, the average salary level of Canadians working in the Real Estate Agents and Salespersons occupational group is $52,800 per year.


Salary in the United States: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of Americans working in the Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents occupational group is $45,610 is per year. 



Some Notes on Income

Successful realtors can earn upwards of $1,000,000 per year (almost every major city has several who earn 7 figures per year).


It’s also important to realize that this career involves a lot of out-of-pocket expenses, such as marketing, gas for driving clients around, and ‘desk fees’ to be associated with your brokerage, which can cost between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars per month. In fact, you might actually earn a negative income when trying to market your services and establish yourself (similar to starting any business). 



Tips for Succeeding as a Realtor

It’s important to keep certain things in mind when you’re starting off as a realtor; your licensing coursework may or may not make mention of the following points, but they are crucial to have in mind to set yourself up for success.


• Be patient; count on not making any money for at least 6 months

• Have a spouse, saving or second income to get through the first few months of not making an income

• Like starting any business, it will take time to establish yourself as an expert and gain a large client base

• Re-invest money from every commission into marketing yourself

• Consider starting a website or blog to market your services, complete with testimonials from clients for whom you’ve successfully closed deals

• Determine a niche, whether it’s a neighbourhood, a type of property, or a price range for properties (such as starter homes or million dollar listings)



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Typical Work Environment

Working Hours: Your hours would be all over the place; your daytimes, evenings and weekends could all involve doing administrative work (such as scouting properties and preparing offers) and your evenings and weekends could involve showing properties to clients, as well as presenting or accepting offers. You would essentially be ‘on call’ 24-7 to answer client questions, prepare or receive offers, or deal with other time-sensitive situations. To become successful in this field, you almost certainly have to put in more than 40 hours per week.


Work Setting: Your work would be based out of an office, possibly a home office. You would have to travel often locally, in order to meet clients and show them properties.


Working Conditions: Working as a realtor would involve a wide variety of tasks including paperwork; cold calling; negotiating; showing properties; liaising with lawyers, conveyancing personnel, other realtors, and many other stakeholders. This career could have very stressful moments, such as when sales are slow, or a client or competing realtor files a complaint against you. Although it can be highly satisfying, such as when a client is pleased with your work, or a big deal comes through.



Careers Similar to ‘Realtor’

Listed below are occupations in our database that have similar responsibilities, and/or require similar skills, or are in the same sector of industry, as Realtor:


• Commercial Realtor

• Entrepreneur

• Insurance Agent

• Land Agent

• Real Estate Appraiser

• Real Estate Developer

• Sales Representative 



References for this Career Guide

The following resources were drawn from in the preparation of this How to Become a Realtor career guide:



Occupations in Alberta:Real Estate Associate.” (March 1, 2012). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 11, 2020.

Sales:Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents.” (September 4, 2019). Bureau of Labor Statistics - United States Government website. Retrieved January 11, 2020.

Realtor Members:Become a Realtor.” Sampson Quain (n.d.). Canadian Real Estate Association website. Retrieved January 11, 2020.



Scholarships for Becoming a Realtor

The Applicable Majors section below shows fields of study relevant to a career as a realtor. You can search for scholarships matched to that/those fields of study on our All Scholarships by Major page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Becoming a Realtor: Applicable Majors

The following majors in our database are relevant for becoming a realtor. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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