Planning to start a new career or a side hustle to earn extra money? You might be thinking about real estate. After all, some 17,000 people in the U.S. alone Google “how to become a real estate agent” each month. And those who take the leap join the nation’s estimated 2 million active real estate licensees.

Compared to other careers with similar earnings potential, it’s relatively easy to become a real estate agent or broker. There are lots of perks, too—like being your own boss, meeting new people, and helping people through one of life’s biggest milestones. Still, building a successful real estate career is more work than many people imagine. Here’s a closer look at the job to help you decide if a career as a real estate agent or broker is right for you.

Job Outlook for Real Estate Agents and Brokers

Real estate agents and brokers help clients buy, sell, and rent properties. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of real estate agent and broker jobs is projected to increase by 2% between 2019 and 2029, which is slower than the 4% average for all occupations.

Still, the BLS notes that “Demand for these workers will continue, because people turn to real estate brokers and sales agents when looking for a home, such as to buy a larger home or to relocate for a job.”

How to Become a Real Estate Agent

There’s no national real estate license, so you’ll have to meet your state’s unique licensing requirements. Visit your state’s real estate regulatory office website for information, or check out the regulatory agency directory from the Association of Real Estate License Law Officials (ARELLO).

These are the general steps to becoming a real estate agent:

  1. Take a pre-licensing course
  2. Take (and pass) the licensing exam
  3. Activate your real estate license
  4. Join a real estate brokerage

Real estate agents always work for an under the umbrella of a licensed real estate broker. Eventually, you may want to become a broker, in which case you’ll need to meet additional educational and experience requirements. Once you have your broker license, you can work independently and hire sales agents to work for you.

In most cases, you can expect to spend about four to six months getting your real estate agent license. And you’ll need some cash, too. Between the licensing course, exam, and start-up expenses (think: MLS fees, business cards, sale signs, open house signs, websites, etc.), you might want to budget anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 to get started.

The term Realtor can only be used by real estate agents, brokers, and other industry professionals who are members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR)—the largest trade association in the U.S. All Realtors must pay an annual membership fee and subscribe to NAR’s strict Code of Ethics.

When deciding if a career in real estate is right for you, be sure to consider if you have the time and cash to get your license and cover your start-up costs.

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