Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents

Quick Facts: Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents
2017 Median Pay $47,880 per year 
$23.02 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation  
On-the-job Training  
Number of Jobs, 2016 444,100
Job Outlook, 2016-26 6% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 24,900

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Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents Career, Salary, and Education Information

What Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents Do

Real estate brokers and sales agents help clients buy, sell, and rent properties. Although brokers and agents do similar work, brokers are licensed to manage their own real estate businesses. Sales agents must work with a real estate broker.


Real estate Brokers and Sales Agents

Duties of Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents

Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents typically do the following:

  • Solicit potential clients to buy, sell, and rent properties

  • Advise clients on prices, mortgages, market conditions, and related information

  • Compare properties to determine a competitive market price

  • Generate lists of properties for sale, including details such as location and features

  • Promote properties through advertisements, open houses, and listing services

  • Take prospective buyers or renters to see properties

  • Present purchase offers to sellers for consideration

  • Mediate negotiations between buyer and seller

  • Ensure that all terms of purchase contracts are met

  • Prepare documents, such as loyalty contracts, purchase agreements, and deeds

Most real estate brokers and sales agents sell residential property. Others sell commercial property, and a small number sell industrial, agricultural, or other types of real estate. Brokers and agents can represent either the buyer or the seller in a transaction. Buyers’ brokers and agents meet with clients to understand what they are looking for in a property and how much they can afford. Sellers’ brokers and agents meet with clients to help them decide how much to ask for and to convince them that the agent or broker can find them a qualified buyer.

Real estate brokers and sales agents must be knowledgeable about the real estate market in their area. To match properties to clients’ needs, they should be familiar with local communities, including knowing the crime information and the proximity to schools and shopping. Brokers and agents also must stay current on financing options; government programs; types of available mortgages; and real estate, zoning, and fair housing laws.

Work Environment for Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents

Real estate brokers held about 95,300 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of real estate brokers were as follows:

Self-employed workers: 56%

Real estate and rental and leasing: 39%

Workplace size for real estate brokers and sales agents can range from a one-person business to a large firm with numerous branch offices. Many brokers have franchise agreements with national or regional real estate companies. Under this arrangement, the broker pays a fee to be affiliated with a widely known real estate organization.

Work Schedules

Many real estate brokers and sales agents work more than 40 hours per week. They often work evenings and weekends to accommodate clients’ schedules. Many brokers and sales agents spend a significant amount of time networking and attending community events to meet potential clients. Although they frequently work irregular hours, many can set their own schedules.

How to Become a Real Estate Broker or Sales Agent

Real estate brokers and sales agents typically must complete a number of real estate courses and pass a licensing exam.


Real estate brokers and sales agents must complete some real estate courses to be eligible for licensure. Although most brokers and agents must take state-accredited prelicensing courses to become licensed, some states may waive this requirement if the candidate has taken college courses in real estate.

As the real estate market becomes more competitive and complex, some employers are preferring to hire candidates with a college degree. Some community colleges, colleges, and universities offer courses in real estate. Some offer associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs in real estate, and many others offer certificate programs. Courses in finance, business administration, economics, and law also can be useful.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations 

To obtain a broker’s license, individuals generally need 1 to 3 years of experience as a licensed sales agent. They also must take additional formal training courses. In some states, a bachelor’s degree may be substituted in place of some experience or training requirements.

State licenses typically must be renewed every 2 to 4 years. In most states, brokers and agents must complete continuing education courses to renew their license. To verify exact licensing requirements, prospective brokers and agents should contact the real estate licensing commission of the state in which they wish to work.


Sales agents who earn their broker’s license may open their own offices.

Important Qualities 

Business skills. Because most brokers are self-employed, they must manage every aspect of their business. This task includes reaching out to prospective clients, handling their finances, and advertising their services.

Interpersonal skills. Strong interpersonal skills are essential for real estate brokers and sales agents, because they spend much of their time interacting with clients and customers. To attract and keep clients, they must be pleasant, enthusiastic, and trustworthy.

Organizational skills. Real estate brokers and sales agents must be able to work independently, managing their own time and organizing, planning, and prioritizing their work.

Problem-solving skills. Real estate brokers and sales agents need to be able to quickly (sometimes immediately) address concerns clients or potential customers may have with a property. They also mediate negotiations between seller and buyer.

Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents Salaries

The median annual wage for real estate brokers was $56,730 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. 

The median annual wages for Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Real estate and rental and leasing: $55,680

Brokers and sales agents earn most of their income from commissions on sales. The commission varies by the type of property and its value. Commissions often are divided among the buying agent, selling agent, brokers, and firms.

Job Outlook for Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents

Employment of real estate brokers and sales agents is projected to grow 6 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. There will be a continued demand for real estate brokers and sales agents, since people turn to them when looking for a larger home, relocating for a new job, and for other reasons. Employment is projected to grow along with the real estate market.

Job Prospects 

New agents will face competition from well-established, more experienced brokers and agents. Because income is dependent on sales, beginners may have trouble sustaining themselves in the occupation during periods of slower activity.

Employment projections data for Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 444,100

Projected Employment, 2026: 469,000

Change, 2016-2026: +6%, +24,900

Careers Related to Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents

Advertising Sales Agents

Advertising sales agents sell advertising space to businesses and individuals. They contact potential clients, make sales presentations, and maintain client accounts.

Appraisers and Assessors of Real Estate

Appraisers and assessors of real estate provide a value estimate on land and buildings usually before they are sold, mortgaged, taxed, insured, or developed.

Insurance Sales Agents

Insurance sales agents contact potential customers and sell one or more types of insurance. Insurance sales agents explain various insurance policies and help clients choose plans that suit them.

Loan Officers

Loan officers evaluate, authorize, or recommend approval of loan applications for people and businesses.

Personal Financial Advisors

Personal financial advisors provide advice on investments, insurance, mortgages, college savings, estate planning, taxes, and retirement to help individuals manage their finances.

Property, Real Estate, and Community Association Managers

Property, real estate, and community association managers take care of the many aspects of residential, commercial, or industrial properties. They make sure the property is well maintained, has a nice appearance, and preserves its resale or leasing value.

Retail Sales Workers

Retail sales workers help customers find products they want and process customers’ payments. There are two types of retail sales workers: retail salespersons, who sell retail merchandise, such as clothing, furniture, and automobiles; and parts salespersons, who sell spare and replacement parts and equipment, especially car parts.

Sales Engineers

Sales engineers sell complex scientific and technological products or services to businesses. They must have extensive knowledge of the products’ parts and functions and must understand the scientific processes that make these products work.

Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents

Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents connect buyers and sellers in financial markets. They sell securities to individuals, advise companies in search of investors, and conduct trades.

Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives

Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives sell goods for wholesalers or manufacturers to businesses, government agencies, and other organizations. They contact customers, explain the features of the products they are selling, negotiate prices, and answer any questions that their customers may have about the products.

Advertising Sales AgentsHigh school diploma or equivalent$49,680
Appraisers and Assessors of Real EstateBachelor's degree$54,010
Insurance Sales AgentsHigh school diploma or equivalent$49,710
Loan OfficersBachelor's degree$64,660
Property, Real Estate, and Community Association ManagersHigh school diploma or equivalent$58,670
Sales EngineersBachelor's degree$98,720
Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales AgentsBachelor's degree$63,780
Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives$60,340
Retail Sales WorkersNo formal educational credential$23,370
Personal Financial AdvisorsBachelor's degree$90,640


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents,
on the Internet at