Career Opportunities in Real Estate

real estate careers

What exactly can you do with a real estate license? The first thing that comes to mind is probably helping people buy and sell houses—and you're not wrong.  After all, over 5 million existing homes were sold in 2020, and that's a lot of work to go around. But real estate is a big industry with a lot of niches.  We've put together a list of careers that a real estate license can lead to.  They vary widely in structure, flexibility, clientele, and education investment.  There's something for everyone!

Residential Real Estate Agent

Being a residential real estate agent is the most common job in real estate.  The job can be flexible and allows for a part-time option, but your hours are largely dictated by your clients' availability.  That can mean evenings and weekends. There are two roles you can play: listing agent (also known as "seller's agent") and buyer's agent.  Some agents do both.  A listing agent helps a seller market and show their home, consider offers, and finalize the sale. A buyer's agent finds properties that meet a client's needs.  They also facilitate showings, offers, and agreements, but they advocate for the buyer. Either way, most agents work on commission. The amount you receive is a little complicated—check out our great guide on How Commissions Work. To become a residential agent, you need to earn your real estate license. The process that varies from state to state, but in all cases, you can take the courses online, at your own pace. A note on alternate titles: a Realtor® is a real estate agent who is a member of the National Association of Realtors.® You may also buy a house from an Associate Broker (or Broker's Associate).  These are agents who level up to a broker's license but continue to focus on sales. They often earn better commission splits. Average Salary (in the form of commissions): $47,046*

Commercial Real Estate Agent

Becoming a commercial real estate agent is higher stakes and harder to get into.  Agents still play the role of listing agent, buyer's agent, or both.  But instead of homes, commercial agents facilitate the sale of office buildings, retail sites, and large apartment complexes.  Less common sub-specialties include industry, manufacturing, farm, or land. In residential real estate, your clients are individuals or families. In commercial, they're businesses or investors. They expect agents to be fluent in business and finance. So while commercial and residential agents can technically practice with the same license, commercial agents are often expected to have a four-year degree in business, finance, or a related field. Have we mentioned it's a lot more lucrative? Average Salary (in the form of commissions):  $94,500*

Managing Broker, Designated Broker, or Broker-Owner

Real Estate Brokers are the next licensing level up from Real Estate Agents.  They've spent time as agents, gained experience, then taken additional licensing.  Brokers can own real estate firms (or "brokerages"), hire agents to work under them, and handle commissions and escrow accounts directly. We talked about what it means to be an Associate Broker above.  But for brokers who choose to exercise the rights and responsibilities a broker's license give them, there are a few different roles they can take on.  It's possible to be more than one at the same time, or only serve the single role.

  • Designated Brokers are legally responsible for the transactions of all real estate agents and associate brokers underneath them. All agents must work under the license and supervision of a broker.  The title doesn't indicate ownership of the firm or daily responsibilities, only legal liability.
  • Managing Brokers take a hands-on responsibility in the daily operation of the brokerage. They actively manage real estate agents and associate brokers. Managing Brokers might have the legal responsibility for their team, or they might just work for the designated broker who does.
  • Broker-Owners are designated brokers that also own the business. All Broker-Owners are Designated Brokers, but not vice-versa (think: squares and rectangles).

Broker-Owners can be all three, if the business is small and they choose to be hands-on.  Large brokerages might have employees who only serve the Designated Broker or Managing Broker role. In all cases, brokers can choose to actively take a sales role or stick to executive and managerial tasks.  That choice may impact their income. Average Salary (Managing Broker): $66,083* Average Total Pay (Broker-Owner): $76,000* (includes profit-sharing)

Property Manager

Property Managers are in charge of protecting a property owner's investment and managing the financial return it produces. The most common type of property management focuses on apartment buildings or condo developments. Managers collect rent, arrange maintenance, and handle evictions so the owners don't have to (among other things). A commercial property manager's responsibility are similar but focused on office buildings, shopping centers, and other properties that rent to businesses rather than individuals. There are a number of ways to become a property manager, depending on where you start in your career.  In any case, you'll need to earn your broker's license. Average Salary (Residential): $42,942* Average Salary (Commercial): $61,713*

Real Estate Appraiser

Real Estate Appraisers provide objective estimates of property value.  They assess a property's condition and amenities, then use the property values in the area to set a number. They collect an appraisal fee per property. Fees vary, based on the supply and demand of appraisers in their area. Becoming a real estate appraiser involves coursework and a trainee period of practical on-the-job mentoring. Average Salary (Residential): $53,542* Average Salary (Commercial): $74,989*

Real Estate Counselors (or Advisors)

Real Estate Counselors provide objective guidance on real estate decisions.  Unlike agents or brokers, they don't profit from the transaction or have a stake in the sale, so they have no personal bias or conflict of interest.  They also provide a higher, more well-rounded level of expertise and advice.  There are a number of specializations. People enter real estate counseling from a variety of backgrounds, including brokerage and property management.  There's no one career path—accumulate experience and invest in your education, particularly in areas like financial management. Since commercial interests and investors are most likely to use real estate counseling firms, a commercial specialty is ideal.  Earning real estate designations like CCIM, CPM, GRI, and SIOR can be effective gateways.  A Counselor of Real Estate (CRE) designation isn't something you study for—it's invitation-only and requires at least 10 years of real estate experience, with at least three of them as a counselor. Average Salary: $84,894*

Real Estate Researcher (or Analyst)

Real Estate Researchers provide data that allows all other real estate professionals to do their jobs more accurately.  They might specialize in physical research (analyzing structures and their construction materials) or economic research (projecting market and financing trends). Becoming a real estate analyst involves getting a 4-year degree in a related field.  You may also need real estate licensure and a professional certification like becoming a Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM).  Analysts often work for firms dedicated to commercial sales, investment, or lending. Average Salary: $106,000*

Bottom Line

This list is just the tip of the iceberg—there are many other careers in real estate. If you have capital, you can become a house flipper or real estate investor.  If you're interested in building from the ground up, there's land development or urban planning. If you're interested in the law, you can become a real estate attorney.  Many careers in financing also cross over with real estate (like Escrow Officer, Mortgage Loan Officer, and Mortgage Broker) If any of this sounds good to you, you can start your career in real estate today.  We offer the courses you need to earn your license online, at your own pace, around your own schedule.  It's a flexible and affordable option that will allow you to get started without needing to rearrange or interrupt your current responsibilities.

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