As a career change, real estate may sound like a good option because it offers flexible hours and earning potential. However, it also requires an upfront investment of time and money. So how exactly do you become a real estate agent? In a nutshell, you take pre-licensing courses and then pass your state’s licensing exam. The specifics differ by state, so be sure to research your own local rules.

Nicole Beauchamp, an associate broker with Sotheby’s International Realty in New York City, says many of the skills she honed during her previous career in finance and technology can serve her well as a realtor. “Having analytical and data-driven problem-solving abilities and the ability to build relationships are great assets in the real estate industry,” she says. “I also have an in-depth understanding of property values, market trends, mortgage financing and market analysis.” Also read

Most states require you to attend pre-licensing classes before you can take the licensing exam. These courses will cover topics such as real estate principles, real estate practices and laws, and the financial aspects of real estate. Some schools offer these classes on a part-time basis or through a learning platform that you can access from home. Others offer full-time courses at a campus or in a classroom setting.

After you successfully complete the pre-licensing courses, you’ll need to find a broker who will sponsor you as an agent while you’re getting your license. In New York, for instance, all agents must be affiliated with an established brokerage. Once you have a sponsor, they’ll help you get your paperwork together to submit to the state’s real estate regulatory body.

Once you’re licensed, your duties will include helping both buyers and sellers complete a sale. You’ll assist buyers by providing them with comparable properties and advising them on financing options and the terms of the sale. You’ll also help sellers by promoting their properties, setting an appropriate asking price and preparing documents such as purchase agreements and contracts.

One of the biggest things that separates real estate from other careers is its reliance on relationships. You’ll be meeting with clients face to face and building rapport, so having strong interpersonal skills is important. You’ll also have to travel to different properties, open houses and other events, so having a reliable vehicle and mobile phone is essential.

Most people who choose to become real estate agents do so as a second career. A 2023 survey by the National Association of Realtors found that most of its members (60 percent) who are active agents came to their role after working in other careers. You can read more about why real estate is a popular second career in our article on how to start your own business.