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How To Become A Real Estate Agent in California

Learn how to get a real estate license in California and choose the pre-license courses right for you.

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Find answers to your California real estate licensing questions.

How To Get A Real Estate License In California

Becoming a licensed real estate agent in California requires completing pre-license education, passing a state licensing exam, and submitting a license application.

New agents will need a real estate salesperson license.

Managing your own brokerage requires a real estate broker license.

The California DRE has a pamphlet and video that explains the real estate licensing process to prospective salepersons. You can view this brochure on the dre.ca.gov website:

Meet basic requirements for a real estate license in California.

Starting Out: California Real Estate Salesperson License

If you are new to the industry and want to work as a real estate agent in California, you need a California real estate salesperson license. This allows you to conduct real estate transactions inside the state of California under the supervision of a licensed real estate broker.

All applicants for a real estate salesperson license must:

See the DRE License Application Handbook for details on education requirements, applications, and testing.

You do not need to have secured employment when you apply for your real estate license. However, you must be supervised by a licensed broker to actually work as a real estate agent in California. If you want to establish your own independent real estate business, you need a real estate broker license and several years of industry experience.

Pre-License Education Requirements for California Real Estate Salespersons

Your first step is to complete the required real estate salesperson pre-license training program. This will teach you about California real estate law and how real estate transactions work in California. Real estate pre-license training consists of three 45-hour courses:

  • Real Estate Principles (required)
  • Real Estate Practice (required)
  • Legal Aspects of Real Estate* (elective)

* Although you may choose from a list of 45-hour elective topics, we bundle Legal Aspects of Real Estate with all of our California salesperson pre-license packages. This course has the most useful information for most agents.

All courses are broken into modules with review quizzes at the end and conclude with a final exam. You must pass each final exam with a score of at least 75% to complete each course.

You can complete online courses entirely at your own pace. You are allowed one year to complete the coursework.

OnlineEd offers all required California real estate pre-license courses as a salesperson licensing bundle that includes instructor support and exam prep materials to help you pass the state exam on the first try.

Browse Salesperson Pre-License Courses

Getting your real estate salesperson license.

Running Your Own Business: California Real Estate Broker License

With a real estate broker license, you can manage your own real estate business and employ licensed salespersons. Requirements for a broker license are similar to getting a salesperson license, but with increased experience and education requirements. You must:

See the DRE License Application Handbook for details on education requirements, applications, and testing.

Pre-License Education Requirements for California Real Estate Brokers

Real estate broker pre-license education consists of 8 total courses, with 5 required topics and 4 elective topics.

Important Note: Most in-state applicants for the broker license will have already taken 3 of these courses as part of their salesperson pre-license training. This means you most likely will only need to take 5 courses to apply for a broker license. Only out-of-state applicants will need to take all 8 at once.

Required real estate broker topics:

  • Real Estate Practice
  • Real Estate Appraisal
  • Real Estate Finance
  • Legal Aspects of Real Estate
  • Real Estate Economics or General Accounting

Elective real estate broker topics:

  • Real Estate Principles
  • Advanced Legal Aspects of Real Estate
  • Advanced Real Estate Appraisal
  • Advanced Real Estate Finance
  • Business Law
  • Common Interest Developments
  • Computer Applications in Real Estate
  • Escrows
  • Mortgage Loan Brokering and Lending
  • Property Management
  • Real Estate Office Administration

OnlineEd offers all required California real estate broker pre-license courses as a distance education bundle that includes instructor support and exam prep materials to help you pass the state exam on the first try.

Browse Broker Pre-License Courses

Getting your real estate broker license.

Submit Your Real Estate License Application

After your real estate pre-license training is completed, your will need to submit your real estate license and exam application:

We recommend that you use the DRE's eLicensing system to submit your paperwork. You will get a faster response and it will be easier to correct any mistakes. The system guides users through the license application process and scheduling of exams. It includes the ability to upload required documents and pay the required fees. Submitting applications online will allow users to check the status of their application and to receive email notifications when there are updates.

The cost to submit an application is $245 and the exam fee is $60.

If you have already submitted a license application and need to retake an exam, instead submit Form RE 400A - Salesperson Examination Application.

Apply for your real estate license.

Schedule Your Real Estate License Exam

If the DRE accepts your application, you will be sent a time and date to take your real estate exam. It can take up to 6 weeks before you will be sent an Examination Schedule Notice. You can get a general idea how long it will take to process your application by checking the DRE's current processing timeframes page. If you do not receive your notice before the 6 weeks have expired, call the Examination office at (877) 373-4542.

After receiving the Examination Schedule Notice, you can schedule an exam by using the DRE's eLicensing system. If you submit your request before 6:00 AM that day, online exam scheduling allows you to take your exam on the same day as you scheduled it.

This exam consists of multiple-choice questions, must be completed within the time limit, and must be taken in-person at a testing center.

  • Salesperson Exam: 150 questions, 3 hour time limit, 70% score to pass.
  • Broker Exam: 200 questions, 4 hour time limit, 70% score to pass.

All exams are taken on a computer. Grading results are instant.

The DRE testing facilities are located in Fresno, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, and San Diego. The DRE often has alternative locations available, which you can find on their Exams Currently Scheduling page. You can check off your preferred locations on Box 10 of the exam application form.

Not Allowed: The following items are not permitted inside the examination room: cellphones, purses, wallets, backpacks, briefcases, suitcases, food, drink, study materials, tablets, portable computers, PDAs, calculators, cameras, video or digital recording devices, watches, lapel pins, tie tacks, and other items deemed inappropriate by exam proctors. Basic calculators are provided for your use.

After passing the exam, submit a real estate application along with fees if you have not already done so.

For more information on taking exams, visit the DRE website:

Schedule your real estate exam.

Submit Fingerprints

You must have your fingerprints electronically filed either after you submit your exam application or after you have successfully passed the state licensing exam. Fingerprinting must be done through the California Department of Justice's LiveScan Program.

The DRE website has the fingerprint form (Form RE 237) you will need to have completed for your fingerprint processing. Fill out Part 2 of the form and leave Part 3 for the LiveScan operator.

You can find a DoJ LiveScan location on the DoJ's web site. There are locations throughout the state and each has its own set of fees you will have to pay. It is recommended that you call your selected location to check on available hours and fee requirements.

If you choose to have your fingerprints processed before passing the state exam, then you must mail the completed form to the Department (as listed on page 2, Submission of Fingerprint Form, on Form RE 237). If you have your fingerprints processed after you pass your state exam, then you must include the completed fingerprint form with your real estate license application.

CA DoJ fingerprinting information

Submit fingerprints.

Getting Your Real Estate License

Your real estate license will be issued to you by the DRE when your exam is passed, fingerprints are on file, and the application is processed. Once your application has been approved you will be issued a real estate license. Congratulations!

Salespersons must associate their new license with a brokerage and be supervised by a California licensed real estate broker. Work with your new employer to finalize this step. Afterwards, you will be an officially licensed California real estate agent!

Get your real estate license.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I become a real estate agent in California?

Becoming a real estate agent in California requires completing pre-license education, passing a real estate licensing exam, and submitting a license application and fees.

Do California real estate agents need a license?

Yes! You must be licensed to show homes to clients, write contracts, negotiate deals, and earn commissions. Working without a license is illegal. Your real estate license will be issued by the California Department of Real Estate (DRE).

What is the difference between a real estate "salesperson" and a "broker" in California?

A “salesperson” is an entry-level real estate person. “Real estate salesperson” is the legal term in California for a person that works as a real estate agent under the supervision of a “real estate broker” as part of a brokerage. A “real estate broker” is a person who operates a brokerage. A broker has years of real estate experience and has been trained and licensed to operate an independent business.

What courses do I need to take to get a real estate license in California?

Getting a salesperson license requires 135 total hours of “pre-license training” courses before applying for a license. These courses are required by law. Pre-license courses will teach you about California real estate law, ethics, agency, and other real estate practices. A broker license requires 8 45-hour college level courses. Most in-state licensed agents will have already completed 3 of these courses as part of their salesperson license training.

Can I take my pre-license courses online?

Yes! You can take courses entirely online and you can start immediately. You can still opt for classroom courses, but most people now take their education online.

Can I get my California real estate license online?

Yes, mostly. The DRE utilizes their eLicensing system to apply for and track real estate licenses. However, your real estate exam and your background check fingerprinting must be attended in-person.

How much does it cost to get a California real estate license?

$400-$600. The license application fee is $245. The real estate exam fee is $60. Getting fingerprints costs $49. Pre-license education will cost between $99-$275 depending on what package you select. We recommend getting education that comes with additional exam-prep tools so that you can pass the real estate exam on the first try.

How long does the DRE real estate application process take?

3-4 months. It takes a minimum of about 8 weeks to complete all of the required real estate salesperson training (broker applicants will have additional course work to complete). The license application process can take about 6 weeks, depending on the volume of applications that the Department of Real Estate is processing. Finally, you will need to make time to sit for a real estate exam. These are scheduled with an exam provider.

Does California offer real estate license reciprocity?

No. If you already hold a real estate license in another state, you must still take 135 hours of required pre-license education and apply for a California real estate salesperson license.

Frequently asked questions.

Choose OnlineEd For Your California Real Estate Pre-License Education

Enrolling in pre-license courses is the first step towards a new real estate career. We hope that we can earn your business!

  • Take courses online.
  • Work at your own pace.
  • Mobile-friendly website
  • Get help from an assigned instructor.
  • Exam prep materials available.
  • DRE Approved Course Provider #S0683

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