With all the magnificent properties across Beverly Hills, San Francisco, Long Beach, Malibu, and Palm Springs, it’s easy to get excited about a real estate career in California. The process of getting a California real estate license is more straightforward than you might think, which means you’re only a few months away from a flexible career with excellent income potential. Follow these four easy steps, and you’ll be launching your California real estate career in no time.

How to Become a Real Estate Agent in California

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How to Become a Real Estate Agent in California
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Complete a 135-hour Prelicensing Course
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Pass the California Real Estate Exam
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Join a California Real Estate Brokerage
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Complete the Licensing Process

There are four steps in the process to become a real estate agent in California. To be eligible for a license, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a Social Security number or an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN)

Wondering if getting your license is the right move? Check out this e-book from Colibri Real Estate to learn more about making the switch.

Let’s explore the four easy steps and then we’ll answer frequently asked questions like “How long does it take to become a real estate agent in California?”

1. Complete a 135-hour Prelicensing Course

To become a real estate agent in California, you need to complete 135 course hours through a state-approved real estate school. Your classes will cover the following:

  • Legal aspects of real estate
  • Real estate principles
  • Real estate practice

You’ll need the help of a highly rated California real estate school to get through this weighty material. Most people choose a real estate school based on the cost and the educational format of the course. Here are the most popular options.

If completing online classes appeals to you, we recommend Aceable Agent. Aceable Agent is a favorite in the online real estate education space because of their self-paced courses that you can consume on your mobile device. It’s the go-to school for aspiring California agents who are on the go.

Related Article
6 Best Online Real Estate Schools in California (CA) in 2024

2. Apply for & Pass the California Real Estate Exam

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Quick Facts




Time to Complete:

3 hours



Computer-based, 150 multiple-choice questions


Bring to the Testing Center:

Two valid forms of ID


Passing Grade:


The next step is to complete the California Department of Real Estate’s Salesperson Examination Application form. The form asks for your address, Social Security number (or ITIN), and driver’s license number, so make sure you have those handy.

There’s a $60 fee for your exam application. You’ll need to wait for your application to be processed to receive the date, time, and location of your exam (or you can check the box asking to schedule the test on your own).

The California real estate exam testing sites are located in the following cities:

  • Los Angeles
  • Fresno
  • Oakland
  • Sacramento
  • San Diego

You should arrive 30 minutes early at the testing site. Visit the State of California’s Department of Real Estate page to review the types of government-issued identification they will accept, and their lengthy list of items you’re prohibited from bringing to the exam room (including common items like calculators, pens, and cell phones).

After completing the multiple-choice exam, you’ll immediately learn whether you passed or failed. If you don’t pass, you’ll be given a detailed score report that will help you prepare for the retake. You can retake the exam as many times as you’d like within two years following the date you sent in your original exam application.

Related Article
Free Real Estate Practice Exam + 7 Hacks to Help You Ace Your Licensing Test

3. Join a California Real Estate Brokerage

The State of California requires that you work under a broker after passing the real estate salesperson exam. A broker has received additional training, has worked successfully in the industry for a minimum period of time, and has passed the broker’s license exam. Finding a broker to work under will feel like applying for a job.

In your broker interviews, you’ll want to ask about the split (or how you and the brokerage will divide the commissions). You’ll find that some brokerages will ask for a 50-50 split on commissions. Usually, brokerages that offer an even split will not charge monthly desk fees.

As a commissioned salesperson, your income entirely depends on your abilities and effort. Some brokerages may offer you 70% of your commissions, which may rise to 100% after you’ve met a specific sales goal (or a cap) for the year. It takes time to launch your new business, so some new agents choose to start part time so they can still bring in additional revenue as they’re learning the ropes.

Related Article
Can You Be a Part-time Real Estate Agent? (+ Free Guide & Videos)

4. Complete the Licensing Process

You’ll need to complete the California License Application Form to get licensed as a real estate agent in California. The form asks for additional background information and requires a $245 fee. You’ll also need to locate and visit a live scan fingerprint service provider as a part of your background check, which costs an additional $45.

Then, you wait for your license application to be processed. The State of California publishes the current wait times on their website. While you’re waiting for the wheels of bureaucracy to turn, you can set up your social media accounts to promote your new business and research how other agents have succeeded in this exciting industry.

Related Article
How to Become a Successful Real Estate Agent (6 Simple Strategies)

How Much Does It Cost to Get a Real Estate License in California?

It costs approximately $800 to $1,200 to get your real estate license in California, including your prelicensing education. Some of the costs are fixed, such as the state’s licensing and exam fees, while others vary.

While you don’t need a college degree to become a real estate agent in California, you must complete a state-specific licensing process. The price of the required 135-hour prelicensing courses (and optional exam prep materials) will vary depending upon the provider you choose.

Prelicensing Classes (135 hours) Starting at $179 (through Aceable Agent)
California Real Estate License Exam Fee $60
License Fee $245
Fingerprinting Fee $45
NAR Membership $150
MLS Membership $144 – $542 (CRMLS)
Total Costs $785 – $1,200

(Sample California real estate license costs as of May 2023)

Click on any Aceable Agent link on our website and save 25% off the cost of your prelicensing education.

How Much Do Agents in California Make?

According to Indeed, real estate agents make an average of $103,483 in California.

Keep in mind that real estate agents don’t make a salary—they’re paid solely on commissions. However, since the prices of California homes are some of the highest in the country, you might not have to sell too many to make a comfortable living.

California Housing Prices

Your commission is based on the sales price of a home. Here are some of the average home prices in each region of the state.

Average California Home Prices by Region & Typical Commissions per Sale

Average Home Price
Typical 3% Commission
San Francisco Bay Area
San Francisco (proper)
$1.27 million
Los Angeles
Orange County
$1 million
San Bernardino
San Diego
$1.1 million
Santa Barbara
$1.62 million

(Source: Zillow Home Values, May 2023)


Still have questions? Get answers to common questions about how to become a real estate agent in California below.

More Career Resources From The Close

Now that you’ve learned how to become a real estate agent in California, you’re likely to have more questions. Luckily, The Close is here to answer them for you.

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