Becoming a real estate agent in California is fairly straightforward. However, there are a number of steps you must complete before you can start earning your first commission from a real estate transaction. You’ll need a license, which involves meeting prelicensing requirements such as completing 135 hours of coursework, a passing grade on the exam, and securing a sponsor.
If you are ready to jump-start your new real estate career and are looking for prelicensing education and exam prep help, try Allied Real Estate School. There are three different fast-track packages to choose from, and a livestream program, giving you access to affordable, quick-packed, yet high-quality courses as well as additional study tools, practice exams and instructor access. Click below to get started.
To learn more about the steps involved in becoming a real estate agent in California, read on:
1. Meet California Real Estate License Requirements
Professionals in the real estate industry are entrusted to help others with what is, more often than not, one of their largest investments. As a result, the California Department of Real Estate (DRE) mandates that individuals meet a number of criteria before they can apply for a salesperson’s license. This is similar to the process for getting a license in other states. These requirements are:
- Age: Applicants must be at least 18 of age or older
- Education: You need to have at least a high school diploma or GED
- Residency: Any U.S. citizen or a lawfully admitted alien can apply
- Clean background: Applicants will be asked to submit their fingerprints through the California Department of Justice (DOJ) Live Scan Program and agree to a background check
- Fees: Applicants must be prepared to pay a $245 license fee and a $60 exam fee
2. Complete Prelicensing Coursework
The next step toward becoming a real estate agent or salesperson in California is a little tougher than other states due to its prelicensing course requirements. For example, you need to attend a total of 135 classroom hours of state commission-approved prelicensing courses. In comparison, Florida real estate licenses require only 63 hours of courses. However, these courses are worth attending as they cover the following topics:
- Real estate principles: 45 hours
- Real estate practice: 45 hours
- California business law and real estate math: 45 hours
Luckily, the state does allow you to take these courses online, which can save you time. But if you want live-instruction, Allied Real Estate School is one of the few that offer this option in California. Over the past 25 years, they have educated over 350,000 agents with a focus on the needs of Californian real estate professionals. Click below to check out the three fast track packages they offer.
3. Register for the Real Estate Licensing Exam
Once you finish the required prelicensing courses, you can register for the exam by submitting a registration form, fingerprint cards, and license fees. For real estate agents, the total license fee is $305; for brokers, it is $395.
To expedite processing, complete the combination real estate Salesperson Exam/License Application online form to schedule your exam and pay all associated fees at once with a cashier’s check, money order, or credit card. If you would prefer to apply for your license by mail, just note that you will have needed to have already registered for your exam separately, as you must specify a testing location, date, and time on your application form.
Examinations are conducted in the following locations:
- San Diego
- Los Angeles vicinity
After you complete your registration, you will be able to schedule your examination date. You may sign up for an exam time until 6 a.m. on the day of the exam. However, you will want to make sure you check the California COVID-19 page for updated information on exam cancellations. It is also worth noting that once you register, you must pass the exam within two years or your application will expire and your fee will be forfeited, so plan accordingly.
4. Familiarize Yourself With the Exam
The California real estate salesperson license exam includes a total of 150 multiple-choice questions, broken up into approximately seven topic areas. The time limit on the salesperson exam is three hours and 15 minutes. You’ll need to learn some general information as well as state-specific content.
General Practice Areas
On the exam, you’ll need to demonstrate a grasp of general business and language skills. General information requirements on the California salesperson licensing exam include:
- English language: Test-takers must have appropriate knowledge of the English language and arithmetical computations common to real estate and business.
- General real estate: Applicants must exhibit an understanding of general real estate and business principles, the purpose and effect of agency contracts, deeds, mortgages, appraisals, and other real estate documents.
- Principal and agent obligations: You must have a general understanding of the obligations between the principal or client and agent, the code of business ethics, and law relating to real estate as administered by the Real Estate Commissioner.
The California licensing exam includes 150 questions, and you must answer 70% of those questions correctly to pass the exam. The subjects covered on the California real estate salesperson exam are:
- Property ownership and land use controls and regulations
- Laws of agency and fiduciary duties
- Property valuation and financial analysis
- Transfer of property
- Practice of real estate and disclosures (includes specialty areas)
For a more in-depth outline of the subjects covered on the real estate salesperson exam, visit the California Department of Real Estate.
5. Prepare for the Licensing Exam
Since the real estate exam is timed and covers a broad range of topics, you’ll need to recall a large volume of information quickly and accurately to earn a passing score of 70%. To pass the first time, check out our guide to real estate exam prep for a list of tips to help you get ready on your own. You can also check out our article on the best real estate exam prep providers if you prefer more guided assistance.
6. Take (& Pass) the Licensing Exam
Applicants must make an appointment to take the licensing exam at one of the testing centers in Fresno, San Diego, Los Angeles, Oakland, or Sacramento. Arrive at the testing center at least 30 minutes before the exam is scheduled to begin and provide your confirmation number and two forms of identification with signatures.
The materials you should bring to the testing center include:
Basic calculators will be provided for your use, so there is no need to bring one to the testing center. However, items you are not permitted to bring with you include:
You will be notified of whether you passed immediately following the exam. If you pass the exam, you are not informed of your final score. However, those who don’t pass are notified of the actual score and the percentage of questions answered correctly in each subject area.
If you do not pass the exam, you may retake the test as many times as necessary within the two-year registration period. After two years, you will have to resubmit an application and repay the fee.
7. Complete Your License Application
Aspiring agents who did not fill out the Salesperson/License Application online form prior to taking the exam will be sent a real estate Salesperson License Application after they pass the exam. To finalize your licensure, complete and return the appropriate form and submit the fee within one year after passing the California real estate license exam. This must be submitted to the Department of Real Estate examination via mail or fax.
In addition, the state will not issue a license until the Department of Real Estate receives fingerprint response information electronically through the DOJ’s Live Scan Program. Those seeking a salesperson license must also provide evidence that they completed the necessary education requirements.
8. Choose an Agency or Brokerage
Even after you’ve passed the real estate exam, you still have a challenge in choosing the right brokerage to work for, which isn’t always easy. If you plan to stay in your current market and already have a relationship with a successful brokerage, the decision will be easy.
However, if you’re considering a new market or need guidance regarding earning potential at various agencies, we compiled data for some of the top performing teams in the state.
According to Real Trends, here are the top five real estate brokerages in California:
When considering where to join an agency or brokerage, ask these specific questions to get accurate information about commissions, resources, and training. To make your choice a little bit easier, check out our in-depth guide to choosing the right agency to join.
For further guidance on where to work, check out our best real estate company guide comparing Keller Williams, RE/MAX, and Century 21.
9. Keep Up With Continuing Education Requirements
When it’s time to renew your license for the first time, agents must take 45 hours of California Department of Real Estate-approved continuing education (CE) courses every four years. Salespersons and brokers renewing for a second time or subsequent have the same number of required hours, but different types of courses. Read more details on how to renew your California real estate license.
Once you earn your license and start taking continuing education courses, check out Allied Real Estate School through Real Estate Express. It offers continuing education packages for first-time and subsequent renewals and boasts excellent reviews from users. Plus, Allied Real Estate School offers al-carte options to reach the 39 hours you need to obtain to your CE requirements.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How much does a real estate agent make in California?
On average, real estate agents in California earn a salary of $101,947 per year. Average real estate agents’ incomes range from $23,008 to more than $200,000 and depend on the number of transactions agents complete, the commissions paid to their brokerage, and how commissions are split as part of the transaction. Check out our guide for more general information about real estate agent salaries.
Can I represent clients with an out-of-state license?
California is a physical location state, which means that out-of-state agents must conduct business remotely. In other words, they can’t enter the state for any real estate-related reasons. In addition, California doesn’t have mutual recognition agreements with any state, so you can’t get a real estate license in California without first passing the state exam. Visit our real estate license reciprocity and portability guide to learn more about out-of-state licenses in California.
Can I get a California real estate license online?
As with several other states, you cannot complete all of the California real estate licensing requirements online. Not only must applicants take the licensing exam at a testing center, but they must also submit fingerprints and take prelicensing courses in person.
How long does it take to become a licensed real estate agent?
On average, it can take between five weeks and six or more months to get a real estate license in California. For example, it can take up to six months to meet the education requirements for getting a real estate license, but this time period can be reduced to several weeks. What’s more, it can take the Department of Real Estate six to eight weeks to process applications.
A California real estate license gives you access to multiple career paths in the world of real estate—not just homebuying and selling. However, while the process for getting your license is straightforward, but it takes time and dedication to become successful in whatever path you choose to follow. That said, it is well worth it for people who are driven by a passion for helping others.