Commercial real estate is a dynamic industry that allows you to help businesses find their perfect location. Whether you are looking to switch from residential real estate or are making a new career change entirely, commercial real estate offers many opportunities for growth and financial success. Suppose you’re ready to embark on a commercial real estate journey. In that case, I’ll walk you through the essential steps on how to become a commercial real estate agent and explain what exactly a commercial real estate agent does. 

What Is a Commercial Real Estate Agent?

A commercial real estate agent specializes in helping clients buy, sell, lease, and manage properties used for business purposes. Unlike residential real estate agents who deal with homes and apartments, commercial agents focus on properties such as office buildings, retail spaces, industrial complexes, and multifamily housing units. These agents play a crucial role in identifying properties that meet the specific needs of businesses.

 List of types of commercial real estate like offices, retail, industrial, multifamily, hotels, and mixed-use.
Commercial properties (Source: Train Agents)

Whether finding a prime location for a new store, negotiating lease terms for office space, or facilitating investment opportunities in large-scale commercial developments, successful commercial real estate agents possess a deep understanding of market trends, property valuations, and zoning laws. They must also have a keen eye for detail and strong negotiation skills. These skills are essential to successfully navigating complex transactions, securing favorable terms for their clients, and maximizing each deal’s value.

Commercial versus Residential Real Estate Agent Salary

Income may be one of the most important factors evaluated when considering a career in real estate. Both commercial and residential real estate agents have the opportunity to earn substantial salaries. However, these roles’ income structures and earning potential can differ significantly. Commercial real estate deals typically offer higher commissions due to larger deal sizes, but they require agents to navigate more complex transactions, and they may have fewer transactions in total.  

Generally, the average nationwide salary for agents is $90,506. However, ZipRecruiter reports that the average salary for residential agents is $87,375, whereas the average for commercial agents is $101,309. Choosing between residential and commercial real estate should align with your skills, interests, and career aspirations. Here are some factors that influence salary between the two roles: 

  • Deal size and value: Commercial real estate deals involve larger properties and higher transaction values, leading to higher commissions despite lower percentage rates. Residential deals are more frequent but generally smaller in size.
  • Transaction frequency: Residential agents often handle more transactions annually than commercial agents. This frequency can impact overall earnings and cash flow consistency.
  • Commission rates: Residential agents typically earn higher commission percentages (around 5%–6%) than commercial agents (1%–3%). However, the larger deal sizes in commercial real estate can result in higher total earnings per transaction.
  • Market conditions: Both roles are influenced by market conditions, but commercial real estate can be more sensitive to economic cycles and business investment trends. 
  • Specialization and experience: Both residential and commercial agents with specialized knowledge, strong networks, and extensive experience tend to earn more. Commercial real estate agents are sometimes rewarded financially when they develop expertise in specialized niches to differentiate themselves from the general commercial market. 

How to Become a Commercial Real Estate Agent in 8 Steps

When you are ready to learn how to get into commercial real estate, some steps need to be taken to establish yourself in this industry. Let’s explore the essential steps of becoming a commercial real estate agent.

Step 1: Understand the Industry

Before diving in, familiarize yourself with getting into commercial real estate. You’ll want to learn about the different types of properties involved like office buildings, retail spaces, industrial complexes, etc. By understanding the industry, you can decide whether it interests you and if you want to continue to pursue this career opportunity. 

Step 2: Obtain a Real Estate Agent License

The licensing process is the same for both residential and commercial real estate. Aspiring agents must follow a series of steps to ensure they meet state requirements and are well-prepared for their new careers. Licensing requirements for real estate agents vary by state, so make sure to check the specific requirements for your state to ensure you complete all necessary steps to become licensed. Typically, the licensing process involves several steps:

  • Complete pre-licensing education: Enroll in and complete the required pre-licensing courses. The number of required hours varies by state.
  • Participate in exam prep courses: Enroll in exam preparation courses to better understand the material and improve your chances of passing the state exam.
  • Pass the state exam: Schedule and pass your state’s real estate licensing exam, which tests your knowledge of real estate principles, practices, and laws.
  • Submit an application: Apply for your real estate license through your state’s real estate regulatory agency, including any required fees and background checks.
  • Find a sponsoring broker: Many states require new agents to work under a licensed broker, so find a brokerage firm to sponsor and mentor you.
  • complete post-licensing education: Some states require additional education within the first year or two of obtaining your license.
  • Maintain continuing education: Keep your license active by completing continuing education courses as your state requires.
CE courses for California
CE courses for California (Source: The Close)

To help you meet your continuing education requirements, The CE Shop offers a comprehensive selection of online CE courses. We named it one of the top 5 best online real estate schools for having a variety of courses at various price points to meet student needs. The courses at The CE Shop are designed for convenience and flexibility, so students can learn throughout their busy schedules. With up-to-date content and a user-friendly platform, The CE Shop ensures you can efficiently earn your credits and advance your real estate career.

Step 3: Get Educated Specifically on Commercial Transactions

Beyond getting a basic understanding of the industry, prospective commercial real estate agents may want to enroll in courses that cover the fundamentals of commercial real estate to better understand how to become a commercial real estate broker. Many community colleges, universities, and online platforms offer programs tailored to commercial real estate principles. These courses will be in addition to the pre-licensing and continuing education requirements needed to obtain and maintain your license.

CCIM 50 years logo

Additional education available to commercial real estate agents involves certifications and designations that can enhance their expertise. Programs such as the Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM), the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors (SIOR), and the Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) offer specialized training in various aspects of commercial real estate. These designations deepen your industry knowledge and demonstrate your commitment to professional growth.

Step 4: Gain Experience

Once you’ve taken the licensing course and passed the exams, commercial real estate agents will start by working under an experienced commercial real estate agent or broker at a real estate firm. This hands-on experience is invaluable for learning the ropes, understanding client needs, and gaining practical industry knowledge. Consider internships or entry-level positions to get started.

Step 5: Build Your Network

Networking is crucial in commercial real estate. Attend industry events and join professional organizations such as the National Association of Realtors (NAR) or the Commercial Real Estate Development Association (NAIOP) to connect with other professionals in the field. Building a robust network can lead to potential clients, industry referrals, and valuable insights.

Step 6: Develop a Specialty

Specializing in a particular niche can set you apart from other commercial real estate agents. Whether it’s office spaces, retail properties, industrial facilities, or investment properties, developing expertise in a specific area can make you a sought-after agent in that niche. 

Select your specialty by assessing your interests and strengths, then research market demand in your area to identify thriving sectors. Your mission should be to gain experience in the niches that interest you. Seeking mentorship from experienced agents may also help you narrow down your interests. 

Step 7: Market Yourself

Commercial agents should create a strong personal brand and use digital marketing strategies to promote their services. Consider building a professional website, leveraging social media, and blogging about industry trends and insights to offer prospective clients your expertise. Producing effective marketing materials and strategies can help you attract clients and establish your reputation in the industry.

Flyer with an image of an available office building for lease and agent contact details.
Commercial flyer (Source: Pinterest)

Step 8: Stay Informed

The commercial real estate industry is constantly evolving. Stay up-to-date with market trends, regulatory changes, and new technologies by attending workshops, reading industry publications, and continuing your education. This is also a great opportunity to network. Staying informed will help you provide the best service to your clients.

What Does a Commercial Real Estate Agent Do?

A commercial real estate agent plays a multifaceted role in the commercial real estate market. Commercial real estate agents help clients buy, sell, lease, and manage properties used for commercial purposes. Their work involves a blend of market research, client interaction, property evaluation, and negotiation. Here’s a closer look at the various career paths available when learning how to get into commercial real estate:


Commercial real estate brokers and agents with licenses at a brokerage firm act as intermediaries between buyers and sellers or landlords and tenants. They assist clients in finding suitable properties, negotiate terms, and facilitate transactions. Brokers often specialize in a particular type of commercial property, such as office buildings, retail spaces, or industrial properties. Their success depends on a deep understanding of market trends and the ability to meet their client’s exact needs. 

In-house Real Estate

In-house real estate agents have the career opportunity to work directly for a company to manage its real estate portfolio. In-house commercial agents will handle tasks such as site selection for new locations, negotiating leases, and managing existing properties. Working in-house allows agents to focus on a single organization’s real estate needs, which often involves strategic planning and long-term investments.

Property Management

Commercial property managers oversee the day-to-day operations of commercial properties. Their responsibilities include maintaining the property, handling tenant relations, and ensuring compliance with local regulations. Effective property management ensures that properties remain attractive to tenants and maintain their value over time.

Real Estate Investment

Agents in this field work with investors looking to buy and sell commercial properties as part of an investment portfolio. They analyze market trends, assess property values, and identify opportunities for profitable investments. This role requires strong analytical skills and a keen understanding of financial markets.


Leasing agents specialize in helping landlords find tenants for their commercial properties. They market available spaces, negotiate lease terms, and ensure that properties are occupied by reliable tenants. This role is critical in maintaining the income and value of commercial properties.

Real Estate Development

Development agents have the real estate opportunity to be involved in creating new commercial properties. They work on projects from the ground up, including site acquisition, financing, construction, and marketing. This career path combines elements of project management, finance, and real estate expertise.


Real estate consultants advise clients on various aspects of commercial real estate. This can include market analysis, property valuation, investment strategy, and risk management. Consultants often work with a range of clients, including investors, developers, and corporate real estate departments. This is also something that can be done part-time as an agent.

Each career path offers unique opportunities and challenges that cater to different skill sets and interests within the commercial real estate industry. Whether you’re drawn to the transactional world of brokerage, the strategic aspects of in-house real estate, or the hands-on nature of property management, there’s a niche that can fit your commercial real estate interests. 

Difference Between Residential & Commercial Real Estate Deal Flow 

Although both require the same licensing education, the deal flow in residential and commercial real estate differs significantly. In residential real estate, the process typically involves a property search driven by personal preferences, straightforward offer negotiations, home inspections, standard mortgage financing, and a relatively simple closing process.

In contrast, commercial real estate transactions begin with a detailed market analysis and property search, followed by a Letter of Intent (LOI), an extensive due diligence phase, intricate negotiations, and complex financing arrangements. The involvement of various professionals, such as brokers, attorneys, and financial analysts, is more pronounced in commercial real estate, which emphasizes the larger scale and higher stakes of these transactions. 


Bringing It All Together

Whether switching from residential real estate or starting fresh, the path to becoming a commercial real estate agent is challenging and rewarding. With the right education, skills, and network, you can navigate the complexities of the market, build a successful career, and have a deep understanding of how to get into commercial real estate. Additionally, by holding a real estate license, there are many commercial opportunities and industries that can benefit from your expertise, from property management to real estate investment.