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How to Get a Real Estate License

The process of getting a real estate license differs depending on where you live, as each state has a different set of criteria for those interested in selling real estate. At a minimum, most states require accredited training and the completion of an exam. Each state has different requirements, and in California, there are several general licensing requirements, education requirements, and exam requirements.

There are also accredited degrees (associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral) that widen your career prospects by providing expertise across different real estate disciplines. At Pepperdine, our master of science in real estate program will put you on a path to a successful real estate career.

Interested in embarking on a path in real estate? Keep reading to learn the value of a real estate degree and how to decide if getting one is right for you.

The Value of a Real Estate Degree

While it is possible to build a career in real estate without a degree, there are definite advantages to getting one. Many career paths remain gated without in-depth information on the financial and logistical aspects of real estate, such as commercial development and financing. Having a real estate degree provides a clear competitive advantage. However, it's important to consider several key factors in deciding the best course of action for you.

Your Career Goals

Whether a real estate degree or a real estate license is the answer for you will depend in part on what you want to sell, to whom, and how.

The National Association of REALTORS® provides more than 20 designations and certifications for real estate professionals. Real estate includes far more than homes—it also encompasses schools, casinos, airports, amusement parks, and hospitals. The world of real estate involves zoning laws, appraisals, taxes, and mortgage applications.

If you're most interested in connecting individual buyers with homes and small business spaces, a real estate license might do the trick. Licensees usually work independently and on commission, which means a flexible schedule and income. It also means you'll likely work weekends and take on the responsibility of your own marketing and promotion. It can be a thrill or a hustle, depending upon the competition, the market, and your personal preferences.

Those with advanced degrees like the master of science in real estate from Pepperdine Graziadio extend career prospects to include both contract work and full-time employment. Many larger companies and corporations have in-house real estate departments that are devoted to large-scale, long-term projects, location scouting for hubs and headquarters, and fulfilling broader business mandates through the application of advanced metrics and data. The mortgage industry is also a growing area with disrupters gaining ground in technology and app-based solutions.

Time and Resources

Depending on the school, one can earn an associate's, bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree in real estate. Full-time bachelor programs generally take four years, which is considerably longer than obtaining a real estate license, but you can earn a master's degree in real estate in as little as one year. One aspect of your decision, therefore, will depend on your level of education thus far.

The cost of a license is also a good deal less than that of a degree. And while your earning potential might be strong in a given market, the scope of what you'll sell as a license holder could be narrow. There are also ongoing expenses incurred by licensees, like membership fees, continuing education costs, and self-promotion, that should be factored into the long-term cost.

Benefits of a Deeper Dive

If you have the time and resources to deep dive into a real estate master's program, you'll have an opportunity to build broad, foundational real estate expertise while you clarify your personal motivators.

Other avenues covered while earning your master's in Real Estate include finance, law, sustainability, and decision sciences. The added time and investment required for an advanced degree are not for everyone, but there is no question this route widens professional possibilities.

Basics of a Real Estate License

If you want to start fast and keep things cost-effective, a real estate license can be obtained in a matter of weeks—even with little-to-no real estate experience. Pre-license courses are usually required (40 to 180 hours, depending upon the state) and definitely recommended. Be sure to check your state's individual requirements and understand how the state defines "broker," "salesperson," and "agent," as the meanings of these words tend to differ from one.

Agents primarily represent the seller, but those who put buyers at ease with honesty, openness, and know-how benefit from personal referrals and gain satisfaction in helping individuals find the perfect home for their family or their business.

Real Estate Program Comparison

  Master's Degree Real Estate License
Duration 1 to 2 years 3 to 8 weeks
Costs $20,000 to $40,000 $500 to $1,200 initially, then $1,000+ each year
Career Prospects Less restricted More restricted
Opportunity for Global Study 1-week intensive international courses N/A
Alumni Network Yes No
Additional Courses Additional courses in finance, accounting, law, economics, and decision sciences No

Get a competitive edge in today's burgeoning real estate and debt/equity markets with the Pepperdine Master of Science in Real Estate. During this one year program, you will dive deep into the areas of development, investment and deal structuring, architecture and construction management as well as urban planning and economics. If you would like to learn more about the degree and what it has to offer, please email or call us at 310.506.4858.