As the real estate market continues to grow, demand for real estate professionals remains strong. Real estate brokers, sales agents, and consultants help their clients buy and sell properties for the best possible price. They are directly involved with negotiating contracts, seeking out selling opportunities, and closing deals. Almost all real estate brokers and sales agents are self-employed which makes their earning potential limitless — those who work hard and develop their skills enjoy the freedom to write their own paycheck and develop their career at their own pace.

Learn about real estate school and related programs, career paths, certifications, earning potential, and job prospects for the next decade.

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Real Estate School and Career Paths

The field of real estate is always evolving, keeping demand for experienced and credentialed professionals stays strong. U.S. News & World Report ranked real estate agent jobs among The 100 Best Jobs in 2015 and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an 11 percent job growth for real estate agents through 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

All real estate professionals must pass a state licensing exam in order to earn money through their own business or through their employer. Certification is often required and the National Association of Realtors offers several certification programs to support a real estate professional’s career path.

Realtor

Individuals with strong interpersonal and sales skills can enjoy career success as a residential real estate agent or realtor. Real estate agents help people buy and sell their home and must have advanced knowledge of local real estate laws, financing options, mortgages, and fair housing regulations.

Education requirements

High school diploma equivalent and/or bachelor’s degree, state license, Council of Residential Specialists (CRS) courses

Commercial Broker

Careers in commercial brokerage revolve around the buying and selling of commercial properties, such as apartment complexes, retail stores, office buildings, shopping centers, and office parks. Commercial brokers oversee purchasing arrangements between the buyer and seller to sell investment properties at the best price.

Education requirements

High school diploma equivalent and/or bachelor’s degree, state license, Certified Commercial Investment Member Institute (CCIM) courses

Industrial and Office Broker

Brokers who specialize in development, sales, and leasing of industry and manufacturing properties will thrive in a career as an industrial and office broker. These workers have in-depth knowledge about properties located in areas that are well-suited to serve as manufacturing plants, warehouses, and other industrial buildings. These realtors are experts in labor availability, local building and zoning laws, and other variables pertaining to industrial clients.

Education requirements

High school diploma equivalent and/or bachelor’s degree, state license, Society of Industrial and Office REALTORS courses.

Farm and Land Broker

Those interested in working in the agricultural sector can specialize in farm and land real estate. These brokers predict the income potential of properties and coordinate deals related to the buying and selling of rural land or existing farms. They have advanced knowledge about the agricultural business, transportation resources in the area, and farm operations.

Education requirements

High school diploma equivalent and/or bachelor’s degree, state license, REALTORS® Land Institute (RLI) courses.

Real Estate Appraiser

Those with a strong accounting and analytical background may enjoy a career as a real estate appraiser. Appraisers are responsible for determining the value of the property by conducting a formal appraisal. They need to have practical experience in the field and a thorough understanding of income projections, accounting, and economics.

Education requirements

High school diploma equivalent and/or bachelor’s degree, state license, Residential Accredited Appraiser (RAA) designation by the National Association of REALTORS®

Property Manager

Individuals with a background in real estate or sales may be successful as a property manager for a developer or private party. Property managers are responsible for protecting the owner’s property by hiring the right staff to take care of the property, respond to emergencies, and provide feedback to owners and investors. Property managers may work for real estate firms or private investors.

Education requirements

High school diploma equivalent and/or bachelor’s degree, state license, Institute of Real Estate Management courses and designation as a Certified Property Manager (CPM), Accredited Residential Manager (ARM) or Accredited Commercial Manager (ACoM).

Real Estate Consultant

Former real estate agents or those with extensive experience in the field may serve clients as a real estate consultant or counselor to provide advice and recommendations on buying and selling various properties. They may work with realtors and property investors to help these individuals make more informed decisions.

Education requirements

High school diploma equivalent and/or bachelor’s degree, state license, The Counselors of Real Estate (CRE) courses.

Real Estate Salaries

Since real estate agents and brokers work on commission, the pay scale can fluctuate significantly depending on the professional’s experience, location, and commitment to their career. Those who specialize in a certain field or have a large client base after years of experience in the industry will earn more over their lifetimes. Those who invest in their careers by completing continuing education courses or certification programs to earn various designations can look forward to higher-than-average income.

Ultimately, a real estate professional’s salary will depend on the base pay offered by the firm they work for plus the final sales price of the properties they sell. Those who work in management positions may earn a base salary plus bonuses.

$43,860 Real Estate Agent
$56,970 Commercial Property Manager
$74,153 Real Estate Asset Manager
$57,217 Real Estate Analyst
$59,838 Real Estate Appraiser

Components of a Successful Real Estate Career: Skills, Tools, and Technology

Skills

Realtors and brokers must have strong communication, interpersonal and sales skills in order to succeed in this field. They must work hard to provide an unforgettable customer experience and be flexible enough to work with all types of clients as they navigate the online and offline world of buying and selling properties.

Since real estate professionals are in charge of negotiating and coordinating contracts, they need to exercise good judgment and make decisions that will best serve their clients. They must be open to meeting new people and making personal connections so that they can develop a strong client base and build their pipeline. Having working knowledge about local market trends and being able to analyze real estate statistics and Multiple Listing Service (MLS) data effectively are some other valuable skills successful real estate agents have.

The basic education requirement to become a real estate professional is a high school diploma and relevant work experience. All agents must pass a state licensing exam. Some professionals choose to complete a Bachelor’s Degree in Real Estates for in-depth knowledge about the field and to expand upon their basic skill set. However, a degree does not guarantee success in this field. Successful real estate professionals have extensive hands-on experience and specialized knowledge about their market.

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and its affiliated organizations offer a wide range of programs for those who wish to specialize in a certain area. Individuals can take courses and pass an exam to achieve a designation in various real estate sectors. The following represents a few of the available credentials for real estate professionals:

Accredited Land Consultant (ALC)

Certified by the REALTORS Land Institute, this certification designates an agent as one of the most trusted, knowledgeable, experienced, and highest-producing experts in all segments of land.

Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM)

Ensuring the agent is proficient in theory and practice, a person who is a CCIM is a recognized expert in the commercial and investment real estate industry.

Certified Property Manager® (CPM®)

Often fulfilling the lead roles in their offices, PPIM’s are seen as experts in the property management field.

Military Relocation Professional (MRP)

A MRP has specialized knowledge of the needs current military members have when relocating.

Tools and Technology

Real estate professionals can take advantage of a number of desktop applications and mobile apps to manage MLS data, communicate with clients effectively, and manage sales leads. Using the right customer relationship management (CRM) software is especially important for real estate professionals since following up with leads, managing relationships, and sending emails at the right time is a critical part of day-to-day activities.

Since almost all agents are self-employed, they may have to invest in certain types of software programs and tools to perform their jobs successfully. Some of the most popular tools used by real estate agents and brokers include:

Desktop Publishing

Microsoft Office, Apple Pages, Microsoft Publisher

Presentations

Microsoft PowerPoint, Apple Keynote

Operating System

Windows, Mac OSX

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Contactually, Follow Up Boss, Insightly, IXACT Contact, Salesforce, Realvolve

Office Management

RealtyAPX, Brokers Management System, Infusionsoft, AccelerAgent, AgentOffice, Traklogix Appraisal Management Software

Real Estate Job Growth, Prospects and Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects job growth for real estate growth brokers and sales agents to be 11 percent through 2022, which is about as fast as the average for all other occupations. Steady growth in this field and ongoing demand for experienced professionals may be attributed to the real estate market recovering from the economic recession experienced in the early half of the 2000s.

However, the industry is at the mercy of economic fluctuations so when real estate prices drop well below average rates, real estate agents and sales agents may experience a significant decrease in commission checks and struggle to close more high-value sales. However, this may open up opportunities to generate more leads and sell higher volumes of low-priced properties.

What Do Related Occupations Make?

Those with basic experience buying and selling properties can explore other career paths related to the needs of a buyer, seller, or property manager. Several related occupations in this field boast similar median salaries with potential to earn six-figure salaries based on experience.

Related Occupations: What You Need to Know