Real Estate Agent

Which Real Estate License Should I Get?

Realtors, agents, brokers, affiliate brokers! Which is which? Are they the same thing? Which license is the best choice for you?

Starting with a real estate license is common and recommended, but those wanting to broaden their horizons opt to become a broker. A real estate sales (agent) license and a real estate broker license both sell real estate. Brokers make more money. They own or manage real estate agents. 

However, even though people generally seek to be a broker, there are more options than just becoming a broker. Not everyone is meant to be a broker, some find they are more suited to remaining a real estate agent.

Different Types of Real Estate Licenses?

The most distinct difference, as mentioned earlier, is that a real estate broker is the more experienced employer, and the agent is the less experienced employee. Agents have to work for someone else to sell real estate while brokers don’t.

A broker can own and manage a real estate business and employ several real estate agents (or salespersons) while the agent cannot work independently.

Real Estate Agent License

Real estate agents are authorized to be the mediator between buyer and seller, and that is generally what people are interested in when it comes to real estate. This is the entry-level position, and your success is mostly determined by you and how hard you work at it. This level of the real estate game is great if you are looking to bolster your main income or get started in the field of real estate.

Most seeking to obtain their real estate agent license has the ultimate goal of getting their broker’s license. We all know that it isn’t easy to be an employee because you can’t set the terms of your work which is why we educate ourselves and seek to climb just a little higher.

Those familiar with sales become acquainted with the work necessary to work “in the field” and “under a boss” and then they move on to something more. The upside to agents is they are able to gain experience.

The downside to becoming an agent is the lack of trust people will have in you. To those on the outside, your experience level is uncertain as an agent, and people get nervous around things like that. You also lack the education and know-how a broker will have.

Most people seeking real estate assistance go for a real estate broker or a realtor over an agent because agents lack the experience necessary for customers to feel comfortable.

Real Estate Broker License

Real estate brokers manage agents and have access to information and tools which often bring about more success. To become a broker, it is necessary to first be an agent to gain field experience. There isn’t a way to go straight to becoming a broker.

Because of this, some choose to settle with being an agent, however, it’s advisable to become a broker.

The cost of becoming an agent, and then a broker will be more, but in the long run, most choose to work towards being a broker because you’re more certifiable. People trust brokers because they have more experience.

Note: In some states, prospective real estate brokers must spend at least 1-3 years as an agent before becoming a broker. Broker pricing is in addition to the course prices for agents.

A broker is more informed about real estate law which could be helpful in complicated transactions. Besides, they also make more money because they are more trustworthy in general.

Not all brokers are trustworthy, but there’s a higher chance of finding a trustworthy agent if they have their broker’s license.


One way to tell whether an agent/broker is trustworthy is to ask if they are a part of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Those who are a part of NAR abide by a code of ethics.

What is a Realtor? A realtor does the same thing as an agent or broker, but they have membership in the National Association of Realtors.


One thing is for sure, whatever you do, become a member of the NAR. You can be a member whether you are an agent or a broker. People will trust you. Your level of credibility will high even if you don’t have a ton of experience.

An extensive description and outline of the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the National Association of REALTORS® can be found here.

Affiliate Broker

An affiliate broker is a broker, but they work underneath an existing company or broker. They aren’t usually over other agents, but they are the same as a regular broker.

Which One Is Best For Me?

Knowing which one is best for you comes down to knowing what you want to do with your real estate career. If you are interested in flipping homes, it might be a good idea to just get a real estate license and stay there. If you are looking to own your own real estate firm, then getting a brokerage license is going to be your best bet.

For most people, a real estate license is more than enough to get started. Generally, a normal state-issued real estate license is the best choice.

Educational Requirements

All licensing requires education. If you want the benefits of working as a real estate agent or broker, you need to take courses and then pay for the license. It’s an investment.

The first thing to do is go to your state’s website Department of Real Estate or Bureau of Real Estate. Once you’re there, the costs and trusted/accepted courses will be available for you to review and choose from.

Every state is different in their requirements and the costs for real estate courses and licenses. Some states require you to be at least 18, some 19, or even 20 years old.

There is a lot of prep work that needs to happen when you are preparing to take your states licensing exams, which is why our site exists!

Real Estate Licensing Costs

Depending on the state, the test and license (together) can cost up to $1000 in some states. Here are a few states with their licensing costs, (these are the most profitable states for licenses in 2019)

There is different regulations in each state, so it is important to know and understand what the specific requirements are. Click here to be taken to our list of requirements for each state.*Rhode Island has a tuition-free sponsorship program. Click here to learn more.

These prices do not include post-licensing classes (which can sometimes be up to $400), nor are they an exact price. Post licensing classes are often required for all licensing.

This is how much you can make in each state after licensing:

State Average Annual Salary Lowest 10% Earn Highest 10% Earn Total Jobs
New York $154,696 $94,000 $254, 000 465
Alabama $100,000 $79,000 $125,000 285
Tennessee $100,000 $87,000 $114,000 376
Alaska $117,499 $71,000 $192,000 9
Indiana $100,000 $87,000 $114,000 208
California $100,000 $80,000 $100,000 1088
Washington $84,882 $51,000 $139,000 382
Ohio $100,000 $80,000 $124,000 200
Rhode Island $102,540 $62,000 $167,000 18
Pennsylvania $100,000 $88,000 $113,000 372

Information for this table was pulled from

These are only a few states but are great examples of what a license in real estate can do for you. This is the most basic licensing mind you, meaning that there is no need to get a real estate broker license in order to make money.

Seeing as the courses and licensing are a one-time fee (aside from license renewal prices) the income outweighs the expense of getting the license. Success isn’t guaranteed, but with schooling and experience, success is more of a possibility.


Long story short, getting a real estate license is the right call for most people looking to expand into real estate on the side, but if you are looking to one day do it full time, becoming a broker is the way to go. If you just have your real estate license, you still need to find somebody to be your broker, but that really isn’t too hard since most of the time brokers are looking for new agents anyway.

Really though, you have to start with a real estate license anyway so it makes sense to get that first. The great part about real estate is that it scales really easily. You can start out small and eventually work with more and more people until you are bringing on other agents and you need to become a brokerage.

Even if you want to be a broker, there is no reason not to start getting your real estate license now, especially when we lay it out so simply for you.

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