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Many people are interested in joining the over two million real estate agents and brokers in the U.S., so they can have an exciting career where they set their own schedule and meet new people while earning a living. Real estate brokers make a median of around $62,010 annually, but if you choose to be a real estate agent instead of a broker, you can see that salary drop off to a median of only $48,340.
So, how do you become one? To become a licensed agent or broker, you must first take a minimum number of class hours in what is known as a pre-licensing class. The hours can vary depending on the state but expect to spend anywhere up to 170 hours in an online class. Classes teach you about various topics, like real estate principles and legal practices in addition to practical knowledge.
Once you complete your required class hours, you must take your state exam. In some states, less than 50% of people pass their first time around. One service many online real estate schools offer is a test prep course in addition to pre-licensing regulatory requirements to help students learn the study tools to pass the test the first time.
And how do you know which real estate school to enroll in? We can help. We reviewed a bunch, comparing everything from price, customer ratings, nationwide availability, pass rates, and more, and compiled this list of the best online real estate schools.
Best Overall : Kaplan Real Estate Education
If you’ve ever studied for the SATs, ACTs, or AP exams, you may have used a Kaplan workbook or taken a Kaplan class. But it turns out they also offer real estate education and are known as one of the best in all test prep categories. We chose Kaplan Real Estate Education as the best overall due to its extensive reputation, online and in-person offerings, and large test bank. The fact that they also offer classes with live (industry expert) instruction in some states was another bonus.
There are a few different ways the course is structured. You can interact with your fellow students in the “Live Online” courses with a fixed lecture schedule (though it’s worth noting that this type of class is not available in all states), but if you prefer a more flexible study program that goes at your own speed, you can use the home study method (self-paced, reading out of an e-textbook.) Or you can get the best of both worlds using their OnDemand structure, where you can watch videos of previously recorded lessons.
Prices vary from state to state. We’ve seen pre-licensing classes for as low as $149 and a separate Broker Drill and Practice Question Bank exam prep class starting for $99. With your class registration, you have access to a test-question database, enabling you to simulate nearly every test environment. Also, the database is online, so you can access it anytime.
Best Discount : Real Estate Express
We chose Real Estate Express as our runner-up because they have had over 520,000 students take pre-licensing classes—passing the test—and frequently offer discounts to enroll, giving an added incentive to use them. Real Estate Express is geared toward people with little-to-no business know-how, which means it’s perfect for beginners.
Their pre-licensing courses in the states we checked ranged between 40 and 90 hours, and prices vary from state to state—the company is available in nearly every state. Prices start at $103.20 for a basic course.
They have a rich library of content for students and even a live Q&A program for students to chat with real estate professionals. You’ll learn everything it takes to pass your exam and what it’ll be like as a real estate broker or agent. In addition to pre-licensing courses, the school offers an “Exam Prep Master” course, which you can buy separately from the pre-licensing course ($99).
Real Estate Express also offers packages ranging from basic lower-tier courses to professional development coaching. Agents and brokers can also take continuing education courses (through a sister school, McKissock Learning) to help maintain annual licensing requirements. We’ve seen prices for continuing education as low as $68.95.
If you want to upgrade your license with additional certification (certified buyers or sellers agent), they have courses for that, too. They have a high rating from consumers, and if you fail the exam and are not satisfied, they do have a “pass or don’t pay guarantee.”
Best Continuing Education : The CE Shop
The “CE” in CE Shop stands for “continuing education,” so it’s no surprise that their continuing education is a standout in their list of programs that helps agents and brokers fulfill the mandatory requirements to maintain a license.
The CE Shop runs its courses on proprietary software, Leap 2.0, which lets you learn on your phone, tablet, or laptop. Their app and video design are streamlined for easy learning, and industry experts created the curriculum with combined decades of experience.
Continuing education courses start at around $29, and exam prep starts at $60, making it a great value. And if you practice in multiple states, they can do a cost-effective bundle, so you get your CE requirements through multi-state qualifying courses.
93% of The CE Shop’s students gave them a “great” or “excellent” rating on Trustpilot. The prelicensing and CE classes are available in all 50 states.
Best for Specialized Designation : The Center For Realtor Development
The Center for Realtor Development is the place to go if you’re interested in gaining special designations, like Accredited Buyer’s Representative, or Seller Representative Specialist Designation. This is the education arm for the National Association of Realtors with an extensive library of classes that will help you specialize in areas like Military Relocation and Real Estate for Seniors.
The Center was founded in 2001 and serves as an online space for classes from a variety of organizations, such as The Certified International Property Specialists and Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager.
The prices for individual courses start at $29, and bundled classes can go up to nearly $1,250. The goal of these certifications is to provide added value to consumers in the real estate transaction by giving real estate agents and brokers designations that build confidence with clients. For example, getting a designation to work with senior citizens gives elderly property owners confidence that their agent is thinking about things from a senior’s perspective.
Some courses are only available for members of the National Association of Realtors. The company also frequently runs sales and promotions, so you may be able to get a discount on your courses.
What Is an Online Real Estate School?
An online real estate school provides you with courses for different phases of your real estate journey. As a prospective agent or broker, you must fulfill the mandatory requirements of pre-licensing classroom hours before you can enroll in the test. Schools may also offer test-prep classes to prepare for the actual exam since retaking the test can be time-consuming and expensive. You can often find a bundle course that will give you exam prep while fulfilling your pre-licensing requirements.
Aside from pre-licensing work, online real estate schools help agents and brokers fulfill continuing education requirements or improve their credentials with special designations.
How Much Do Online Real Estate Schools Cost?
Real estate school costs depend on the state in which you live, the type of course, and the different perks associated with your course. Overall, the online courses will save you money when it comes to pre-licensing work. A live class conducted by an instructor may cost close to $1,000, while having a class with access to just an e-textbook runs in the $100 to $300 range. Continuing education classes start around $15 but can be several hundred dollars for special designations that also fulfill CE needs.
How Long Does It Take to Complete Online Real Estate School?
Pre-licensing courses take anywhere from 60 credit hours in the state of Virginia to 168 in the state of Colorado. That means you have to spend that many hours in class, but how your program divides it up (nine hours a week for five weeks, for example) is up to the program. According to Real Estate Express, a typical in-person real estate school could last for months. Online courses log your hours reading the material and taking quizzes; this allows you to meet the pre-licensing hour requirement, but gives you the choice of either speeding up or slowing down the calendar days of completion to suit your needs.
What Is the Difference Between an Agent and a Broker?
There is a key difference between an agent and a broker: management. Both are capable of representing both buyers and sellers in a real estate transaction, but agents must work under brokers who manage and run real estate offices. Brokers can handle some of the more technical parts of the process by negotiating, arranging, and overseeing real estate transactions. Brokers can choose to own brokerages where they employ agents or work directly with clients (or both). However, the term "broker" can vary by state.
How We Chose the Best Online Real Estate Schools
We looked at more than ten online real estate schools and narrowed them down to list the best here. Our search included comparing price, national coverage, test prep, continuing education courses, and professional designations. We also paid attention to customer reviews going with ones that had at least four out of five stars on average.