Real Estate Agents and Brokers


Employment Prospects


There are approximately 465,500 real estate agents and brokers currently employed in the United States; agents hold about 79 percent of the jobs. Many work part time, supplementing their income with additional jobs in law, finance, or other fields.

Agents work in small offices, larger organizations, or for themselves. (About 56 percent of real estate agents and brokers are self-employed.) Opportunities exist at all levels, from large real estate firms specializing in commercial real estate to smaller, local offices that sell residential properties. Much of agents' work is independent; over time, they can develop their own client bases and set their own schedules. Many real estate agents and brokers work part time, supplementing their income with additional jobs in law, finance, or other fields.

Starting Out

The typical entry position in this field is as an agent working for a broker with an established office. Another opportunity may be through inside sales, such as with a construction firm building new housing developments. Prospective agents usually apply directly to local real estate firms or are referred through public and private employment services. Brokers looking to hire agents may run newspaper advertisements. Starting out, prospective agents often contact firms in their own communities, where their knowledge of area neighborhoods can work to their advantage.

The beginning agent must choose between the advantages of joining a small or a large organization. In a small office, the newcomer will train informally under an experienced agent. Their duties will be broad and varied but possibly menial. However, this is a good chance to learn all the basics of the business, including gaining familiarity with the databases used to locate properties or sources of financing. In larger firms, the new agent often proceeds through a more standardized training process and specializes in one aspect of the real estate field, such as commercial real estate, mortgage financing, or property management.

Advancement Prospects

While many successful agents develop professionally by expanding the quality and quantity of their services, others seek advancement by entering management or by specializing in residential or commercial real estate. An agent may enter management by becoming the head of a division of a large real estate firm. Other agents purchase an established real estate business, join one as a partner, or set up their own offices. Self-employed agents must meet state requirements and obtain a broker's license.

Agents who wish to specialize have a number of available options. They may develop a property management business. In return for a percentage of the gross receipts, property managers operate apartment houses or multiple-tenant business properties for their owners. Property managers are in charge of renting (including advertising, tenant relations, and collecting rents), building maintenance (heating, lighting, cleaning, and decorating), and accounting (financial recording and filing tax returns).

Agents can also become appraisers, estimating the current market value of land and buildings, or real estate counselors, advising clients on the suitability of available property. Experienced brokers can also join the real estate departments of major corporations or large government agencies.

Tips for Entry

Visit and for job listings.

Join professional associations such as the National Association of Realtors to access industry publications, training and networking opportunities, and job listings.

Ask agents in your area to suggest possible employers and job opportunities.

Obtain sales experience in order to make yourself more attractive to potential employers.

Look around your neighborhood to see which realtors have the most homes for sale. These agencies might offer the best hiring prospects.