An illustration of a real estate agent surrounded by towers of money
If you are even considering a career in real estate, here are a few key things to help you determine whether it would be a good fit for you. (Illustration by Adam Rappe, Columbia College Chicago)

Real Estate Can Be a Lucrative Career Path for College Students

Becoming an agent is an attractive career choice for many young adults, but you have to have the necessary skills to be successful.

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An illustration of a real estate agent surrounded by towers of money

Becoming an agent is an attractive career choice for many young adults, but you have to have the necessary skills to be successful.

In 2019, approximately 5.4 million “existing” homes and 682,000 newly constructed homes were sold. There are also about 106,548 real estate brokerage firms operating in the United States alone. Real estate may occasionally slow down but will never die, which makes it a fairly reliable choice for college students trying to find a career. Contrary to popular belief, real estate is actually very easy to get into, but it’s not for everybody. So, how do young adults know if real estate is the correct career path for them?

What Is a Real Estate Agent?

First and foremost, what exactly is a real estate agent? A real estate agent is a licensed professional who is responsible for arranging transactions, whether it be in buying or selling property. A real estate agent is a matchmaker in property transactions — they must “match” the right buyer to the right seller, and act as their own representative throughout negotiations.

However, real estate is not a career path that just anybody can go down. It takes a strong work ethic, a pleasant personality, a talent in selling and the ability to tolerate instability. To become a real estate agent, it’s important to be patient, be ready to devote extra time and effort and always be willing to go the extra mile.

Becoming an agent is a lot simpler than many people believe. The general requirements vary from state to state, but in most cases, you have to be at least 18 years of age, be a legal U.S. resident, complete pre-licensing education courses and pass the real estate license examination.

How To Become a Real Estate Agent

It takes just five simple steps to become a licensed real estate agent. The first step is to research and understand the state’s licensing requirements. It is important to find the requirement for the correct state because these requirements vary across the country.

The second step is to look into different real estate schools and enroll in the pre-licensing courses at the school of your choosing. The required credit hours also vary from state to state. For example, Missouri only requires 72 credit hours, but Oregon requires 150.

The third step is to apply to take the real estate salesperson exam. This, like the other steps, is state-specific and will require a fee. The fourth step is to pass this exam! This is an important step because it will require a great deal of preparation; taking an additional prep course for the exam is recommended.

If the exam is passed, the fifth step is to find a real estate brokerage that upholds important values and characteristics. An agent will represent their chosen brokerage, so it’s important to find one that is worth representing.

Do You Have What It Takes?

If it only takes a few online courses and an exam to achieve this career path, then how come it’s not for everybody? Experienced realtor Sarah Davis wrote an essay that all aspiring real estate agents must read. She starts by busting the myth that real estate is an easy job that makes a lot of money. It’s going to be difficult, and it’s going to take a lot of effort to succeed. The pay is also commission-based, so whenever the market slows down, so will the need for an agent, and so will the agent’s commission.

Davis points out that it’s important to make sure to have the time to get licensed — it can take several months to a year. If time constraints are an issue, then going into real estate may not be the best option. A real estate agent also has to be prepared to be their own boss and manage their own time. While this may be a huge perk for some, it could also be a major downfall for others. How, then, can one tell if real estate is right for them? There are several characteristics that every real estate agent should have.

People skills is one major characteristic that all real estate agents need to have. Agents need to engage in communication with a lot of people, so it’s important that they have the skills necessary to be enthusiastic and charismatic. A real estate agent’s career largely depends on networking, and if they have a reputation of poor communication, then there is a very low chance of repeat clients or advertising by word of mouth.

Another skill that goes hand in hand with this one is customer service. If a real estate agent’s clientele is not satisfied with their work, their reputation is easily damaged. A real estate agent’s career will not last very long if they are not able to handle all kinds of clients. It’s important for real estate agents to put themselves out there and be able to reach out and network within the community. If an agent is not known, their business will be very slow or even nonexistent.

A real estate agent also needs to have a very strong work ethic. Because an agent has to act as their own boss, their success heavily depends on how well they can stay motivated. If an agent does not hustle, they will not be able to make money — that is just the reality of working in real estate. It’s not possible to be a real estate agent and make money by doing nothing. It is a very common misconception that real estate agents can get rich without putting any work in. Many new real estate agents go into the field expecting to not work, and they fail due to their lacking work ethic.

Another very important characteristic is the ability to use technology, or at the very least, the willingness to learn. A lot of opportunities will be missed if a real estate agent does not work well with technology. If an agent does not use technology to their advantage, they will be beaten by other agents who do. It’s vital to stay up to date with modern technology and be able to adapt and use it to succeed.

The lifestyle of a real estate agent is also one that an aspiring agent needs to be prepared for. Because a real estate agent is their own boss, they also have to manage their own time. However, an agent does not have a typical nine-to-five job and needs to be prepared to be on call during any time of the day. It’s completely acceptable to set boundaries, but it’s also important to be available when services are needed.

There are also several things that an agent needs to be prepared for, and one of these things is that an agent’s success can vary. This is not a career that will get somebody rich fast. Early success is very rare and, while a new agent should strive for it, they should not expect it as a given. This career is also risky because it’s difficult for a person to know if they’ll be good at it before they actually begin working. On top of being risky, it can also be difficult to get started as a newly licensed agent. It’s important to figure out the lay of the land before becoming successful.

However, if you think that real estate is absolutely your dream, but you do not have all the necessary skills, that is not a deal-breaker, since many skills can be learned. This includes communication skills, time management skills and even tech-savviness. There is no certain formula or rule book that says who can or cannot succeed as a real estate agent. The most important thing to remember is that, like any small business, it takes time and effort to grow and get bigger. Success is not an easy destination to reach — it takes strong motivation and perseverance.

Writer Profile

Anastasiya Cernei

Missouri State University
Professional Writing

Hey! I’m Anastasiya. I’m a professional writing major at Missouri State University. I’m passionate about writing and hope to one day open my own business.

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