Becoming a California real estate broker is a strong step forward in your career. Not only does this advanced license look great on a resume, it also allows you to work independently, open real estate brokerage firms, and manage other agents within these firms.
Getting the California Real Estate Broker License is a fairly simple process, but it does require you to complete five steps and have a few prerequisites before applying or taking the broker’s exam.
This guide covers all of these requirements in a simple, easy-to-understand way that will make it easier for you throughout this process.
California Real Estate Agent vs. Real Estate Broker
California offers two different types of real estate licenses: Sales and Broker.
A sales agent’s license is the initial license that real estate agents get in order to sell real estate.
A broker’s license is an advanced license that allows the license holder to operate at a higher level within real estate businesses in California.
People often confuse sales agents and brokers. A simple way to look at the difference is that holders of the sales agent’s license are called real estate agents, while holders of the broker’s license are called real estate brokers.
California Real Estate Broker License Requirements
First, to be eligible for a real estate broker’s license, you must meet the prerequisites to become a real estate broker in California.
These prerequisites are:
- A minimum of two years of full-time licensed salesperson experience within the past five years. You may also be eligible if you can prove two years of unlicensed equivalent practice or hold a four-year degree with a major or minor in real estate
- Completion of the required education courses based on California state law
Residency in the state is not required. However, you will need to meet the requirements for the written exam. These may include submitting transcripts, filing a Consent to Service of Process, or filing an Out of State Broker Acknowledgement.
How to Become a Real Estate Broker in California
Once you meet all the requirements listed above, you can follow these five steps to easily help you get your real estate broker license in California.
Step 1: Complete a California Broker Pre-licensing Course
The first step to getting your real estate broker license in California is to complete eight statutorily required college-level courses.
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These real estate courses mostly cover the fundamentals of working in real estate and must be completed for your broker’s license application. This requirement is divided into two sections:
The required classroom hours of qualifying real estate courses include the following mandatory college-level courses. Courses must be either three semesters or four quarter units and taken at an institution of higher learning accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (or a comparable accrediting agency recognized by the US Department of Education). Each course is a minimum of 45 hours in length.
- Real Estate Practice
- Legal Aspects of Real Estate
- Real Estate Finance
- Real Estate Appraisal
- Accounting or Real Estate Economics
You must also take 3 of the following 11 classes to finish your requirements:
- Real Estate Principles
- Business Law
- Property Management
- Real Estate Office Administration
- Advanced Legal Aspects of Real Estate
- Advanced Real Estate Finance
- Advanced Real Estate Appraisal
- Mortgage Loan Brokering and Lending
- Computer Applications in Real Estate
- Common Interest Developments
Please note if you choose to take Accounting and Real Estate Economics from the requirements list, you are only required to take two of the 11 courses. You can also submit your transcripts if you received a four-year degree with a major/minor in real estate.
California offers no reciprocity, so if you’re an agent (or broker) from a different state, there will be no waivers to any of the requirements.
After completing the courses, you must also pass the final broker course exam. The minimum passing grade is 75% for brokers. The final pre-license exam is to be supervised by a proctor.
After passing your broker course exam, your pre-license education provider will provide you with your course completion documents.
Step 2: Submit a California Broker License Application
Once you meet the broker pre-licensing education requirements and pass all of your courses, you can now apply for your license.
To submit your broker license application, you can use the Broker Exam/License Application form. In California, applicants can combine the fees of the exam and the fees of the application. The cost to apply for both is $395 ($300 for the license fee and $95 for the exam).
If you don’t want to file online, you can access the form online and then mail in a paper application form. It’s highly recommended that you submit all of your paperwork and fees at the same time, as this can result in a faster approval process.
Step 3: Get a Fingerprint-Based Background Check
After submitting your license application, you must have a fingerprint-based background check. You must submit your fingerprints via Live Scan.
To begin the fingerprinting process, fill out the Live Scan Service Request and then take it to any approved live scan service provider. The fingerprinting fee is $49. Plus, there will be an additional fee paid to the live scan provider (not the DRE).
Once the fingerprints have been submitted, you can submit a copy to the Live Scan Service Request (with Part III completed by the live scan provider) to the DRE.
Fingerprints must be submitted electronically through a provider that transmits fingerprints to the DOJ and FBI. Original licenses will not be issued until there’s a report from both organizations verifying no criminal history.
Note:If you aren’t sure whether you qualify for a real estate broker license based on your history, check out our article on Real Estate License Eligibility.
Step 4: Pass the California Real Estate Broker Exam
After completing the steps above, you must take the real estate broker licensing exam via a California testing facility. Facilities are located in Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, Fresno, and Sacramento. You will get your results immediately upon taking the electronic test. You are not permitted to take the exam online at home.
The fee for the broker exam is $95. You can either self-schedule or let the DRE schedule an examination time for you.
In California, brokers will answer 200 questions. The test covers financial analysis, property transfer, contracts, valuation, regulations, laws of agency, and disclosures.
You must complete the California real estate broker exam within four hours.
The passing rate is 50% for the California Real Estate Broker Exam. If you fail the exam, you can continue to take the exam as needed. You are only required to pass within two years of filing your original application.
For more information on the exam, DRE provides a Reference Book – A Real Estate Guide containing the California Real Estate Broker Exam Content Outline.
Taking an exam prep course provides you with helpful tools and materials, such as quizzes and specific state-only practice exams, to increase your chances of passing your broker license exam the first time.
Step 5: Application Review
After passing your broker exam, you will only need to wait for the DRE to review and approve your application.
The process should take between six to eight weeks (if not more). Use the eLicensing platform to both submit your information and receive your license upon approval.
Please note that any discrepancies in your paperwork can cause significant delays to the process.
Now that you’ve successfully passed the broker licensing exam and obtained your license, there are a few things you need to do to keep your broker license active and updated.
California Real Estate Broker License Renewal and CE
In California, you must renew your real estate broker license every four years. DRE will send you a renewal notice 60 days before your expiration date. The renewal process is not the same for the broker license and sales agent license.
To renew your license, use the eLicensing online system. Enter the information, including all courses and completion dates of your continuing education requirements. You can also renew your license by mailing all of the appropriate forms to the DRE. This includes the Renewal Application form and the Continuing Education Course Verification (as well as the application fee).
The renewal fee is $300. You can renew your license up to 90 days before the expiration date.
As part of renewing your broker license, you must also complete the CE requirements that include 45 clock hours of DRE-approved courses. Please note that first-time renewals will have different course requirements than subsequent renewals.
California Real Estate Broker License FAQ
How much does it cost to get a real estate broker license in California?
The costs of getting a real estate broker license in California can range from $748 to over $900.
The cost breakdown is as follows:
Pre-license education courses: $209–$399
Application fee: $395
Fingerprint-based background check: $49
Broker exam fee: $95
How long does it take to get a real estate broker license?
The steps that typically take the most time when getting a broker license include taking pre-license education courses and exams. The average amount of time to get a broker license is generally three to six months.
What is the difference between a real estate agent and a real estate broker?
Real estate agents focus on working with clients on individual real estate transactions, while real estate brokers have more experience with the added responsibility of managing a team of real estate agents or brokerage business.
See our Real Estate Agent vs. Broker vs. Realtor page for more information.
How much does a real estate broker make?
Real estate brokers get paid just like real estate agents by earning commissions on their agents’ sales. Brokers can also charge the real estate agents they manage a fixed monthly fee or have the option to earn money on commission sales by helping their own clients buy and sell property. According to Payscale data, brokers earn $61,314 per year in base salary, with anywhere between $10,000 and $147,000 in commissions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that the median broker salary is $62,010.
How do I get a job as a real estate broker in California?
Browse through available real estate broker jobs in your area using our StateRequirement Job Board!
CADRE – California Department of Real Estate
1651 Exposition Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95815
Hours: Monday – Friday, 8:00am – 5:00pm
Phone: (877) 373-4542
Fax: (916) 263-8943
Information on this page has been gathered by a multitude of sources and was most recently updated in October 2022.
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