Do you love looking at real estate, to the point where you understand the local market better than anyone else you know? If you combine this passion with a salesperson’s drive, an administrator’s attention to detail, and a genuine desire to help people buy (or sell) their homes, consider a career in real estate.
The compensation is usually good—and sometimes, it can be excellent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the top 10% of real estate brokers and sales agents earned more than $178,720 in May 2019. However, it’s worth noting the bottom 10% of earners made less than $23,600. That’s the pitfall with commission-based work.
Real Estate Career Options
The real estate industry offers professional opportunities for workers other than agents and brokers. Many other real estate positions are available, and several paths exist into real estate work.
Most consumers are unaware of the distinctions between these roles and they use some titles interchangeably, even though the legal definitions differ.
Top Real Estate Jobs
Real Estate Agent
These terms "agent" and "broker" are often used interchangeably when, in fact, the difference is rather significant.
Agents can be either buyers' agents or listing agents. As the terms imply, the former represents those who want to buy property and the latter assists those who want to sell.
Anyone who sells real estate on behalf of the owner or assists a client in purchasing property is a real estate agent.
There are two levels of licensing in real estate. You must first take a training course, pass a test, and receive a license to practice as an agent under the supervision of a broker. State requirements for licenses vary.
Salary: According to the BLS, real estate agents earned a median annual wage of $48,930 in May 2019.
Real Estate Broker
Becoming a real estate broker requires a second level of licensure after becoming licensed as and working as an agent for a period of time. Further study and a more stringent test are required.
Many states impose certain educational requirements that must be met before sitting for the broker exam.
Some employers may give preference to brokers with a college degree, while others will accept a high school diploma and the required pre-licensing courses.
Associate brokers are those who are licensed as brokers themselves but nonetheless work under the supervision of another broker. Managing brokers manage their own real estate offices. They're sometimes referred to as brokers-in-charge.
Salary: According to the BLS, real estate brokers earned a median annual wage of $59,720 in May 2019.
“REALTOR” is a legally protected phrase owned by the National Association of REALTORS (NAR). It doesn't refer to a separate level of licensure, but rather it signifies that the individual is a member of NAR.
Members must meet professional and ethical standards set by the association. There are approximately 1.4 million REALTORs in the U.S. Many brokerages require that their agents be members.
Salary: According to PayScale, REALTORs earn an average annual salary of $54,332.
Other Positions in a Real Estate Office
Real Estate Clerks
Real estate clerks don't need licenses, although they do need relevant experience. They maintain records and handle paperwork and other administrative duties for real estate brokerages.
Salary: Per Salary.com, real estate clerks earn an average annual salary of $27,308.
Office managers oversee a brokerage's day-to-day operations, not unlike in other industries. They deal with everything from maintenance and ordering supplies to scheduling and bookkeeping.
Salary: According to PayScale, office managers earn an average annual salary of $49,380.
More Common Real Estate Jobs
After a building is built or renovated, an inspector comes in to ensure that the building is up to code.
Some inspectors specialize in residential houses, while others specialize in commercial and other types of buildings.
Home inspectors provide professional opinions and documentation of a home, determined by a visual evaluation in addition to operational testing of the home’s elements and components to determine its current condition.
Salary: PayScale reports that building inspectors earn an average annual salary of $53,174.
Real Estate Appraiser
Because most real estate properties are not bought with cash, bankers have processes for deciding whether to issue loans to buyers. That process begins with an appraisal—a professional estimation of the financial value of the property.
Real estate appraisers sometimes also set values for property tax purposes, for setting compensation levels in cases of seizure by eminent domain, and they might assist in negotiations between buyers and sellers and renters and owners.
Appraisers must be either certified or licensed, and several levels of licensure exist.
Salary: According to Glassdoor, real estate appraisers earn an average annual salary of $51,140.
A loan professional takes over on the bank side of the equation after the appraiser performs his job, while any of several types of mortgage professionals will help the buyer negotiate the process. Mortgage consultants, or loan officers, advise borrowers on choosing the best mortgage and they assist in helping them fill out loan applications. They make their money through commissions on the loans.
Salary: Per PayScale, loan officers earn an average annual salary of $47,224.
Loan underwriters make sure that buyers are able to repay their mortgages before granting approval for loans. The underwriter will either approve, suspend, or turn down a mortgage application.
Salary: According to Glassdoor, loan underwriters earn an average annual salary of $57,152.
Licensed closing agents or closing coordinators ensure that the financial transaction is conducted properly, distributing paperwork, and providing escrow instructions.
These professionals make sure that all documents are signed correctly to transfer ownership of the property from one party to another.
Salary: Glassdoor reports that closing agents earn an average annual salary of $45,553.
Real Estate Lawyer
Real estate lawyers make sure all legal agreements involved in the sale are properly drawn up, and they handle any disputes about ownership.
Salary: According to PayScale, real estate lawyers earn an average annual salary of $77,824.
Real Estate Consultant/Analyst
Real estate consultants and real estate analysts help potential buyers understand how to invest in real estate to get a good financial return.
Salary: PayScale reports that real estate analysts earn an average annual salary of $59,696.
Real estate managers, sometimes referred to as property managers, manage properties belonging to investors. They deal with hands-on operations and are additionally responsible for maintaining the property's value and income. They are typically paid a percentage of the rents they generate and collect.
Salary: According to Glassdoor, property managers earn an average annual salary of $53,683.
Foreclosure specialists facilitate the process when a home or property is reclaimed by a bank due to non-payment on a mortgage. They might help the homeowner restructure their loan to keep the property or help a prospective buyer to navigate the purchasing process. Foreclosure specialists also work with banks and real estate companies.
Salary: Per Glassdoor, foreclosure specialists earn an average annual salary of $57,152.