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Real Estate Agent

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(5.6 out of 10)

Number of Jobs


Median Salary


Unemployment Rate

4.9 percent

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This Job is Ranked in
Best Business Jobs #20
The 100 Best Jobs #89

The main difference between a real estate agent and a real estate broker is that brokers are licensed to manage their own businesses, while agents are not. But even though real estate agents work under brokers, their jobs are similar. Brokers and agents both help clients sell their homes as well as buy new homes. It’s possible for people to buy or sell their home without using a professional, but a real estate agent can make the process a lot easier. By advising clients on prices, mortgages and market conditions, an agent shows sellers how to price their house accurately and make the property as appealing as possible to potential buyers. Agents also guide buyers toward the homes that best fit their needs by generating a list of properties for sale, accompanying the client to see the properties and negotiating an offer with the seller. Real estate agents must be intimately familiar with the communities in their area, especially with regard to job opportunities, healthcare and activities.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 11.1 percent job growth for real estate sales agents between 2012 and 2022, which is about as fast as average. During that time period, an additional 38,000 jobs will need to be filled. Couple these projections with a fairly low unemployment rate and the promise of increased home sales as the economy continues to improve following the downturn, and the outlook for real estate agents is quite solid.


According to the BLS, in 2012, real estate agents earned a median salary of $39,140. The best-paid earned about $95,540, while the lowest-paid earned approximately $20,700. The highest earners worked in the metropolitan areas of Lake County, Ill., White Plains, N.Y., and Wayne, N.J., amd Santa Fe, N.M.

Salary Range

75th Percentile $63,300
Median $39,140
25th Percentile $27,470


Real estate agents need to acquire a license, which they can do by passing a written exam administered by their state. (They first need to be 18 years or older and to have a high school diploma.) In addition, a college or graduate degree in finance, business administration, statistics, economics or even law can help prospective agents get ahead in the profession. The National Association of Realtors also sponsors courses that touch on the basic financial and legal aspects of real estate. But education isn’t the only deciding factor: Social skills, good judgment and enthusiasm are key and among the traits that brokers look for in applicants.

Reviews & Advice

Moe Veissi, the 2013 president of the National Association of Realtors, says commission should be the last thing on the mind of an aspiring real estate agent. He says education comes first: “Without that education upfront, you limit yourself initially.” Veissi says using the NAR as a viable resource for further learning, as the NAR features an extensive library that’s free for members. He also suggests taking courses at state and local associations, as they will be more specific about laws and regulations. “You’ve got a three-tier level of education available, which is more than most other professions,” Veissi says. He also recommends using other real estate agents and brokers as mentors: “People within this business are willing to help you along, even though they are your competition.” On top of education, Veissi says employers are looking for applicants with some background in sales, who exhibit excellent people skills and who are fully committed to the profession. “A good real estate agent must be willing to accept both the stress and the rewards of sales,” he says.

Job Satisfaction

Upward Mobility good Above Average
Stress Level fair Average
Flexibility good Above Average
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Last updated by Kimberly Palmer.

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