An Overview of the Steps to Get Your Real Estate License in California

By Ciprian Morariu Published: December 28, 2023

Real estate is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling career paths one can pursue. The satisfaction of helping people buy and sell a property along with the freedom to be your own boss is a rare combination. 

One of the fastest growing sectors globally, real estate is on the boom in the United States. Thanks to the growing need for luxury real estate as well as the demand for housing across the country. 

Due to the flexibility of the job and the independence of working on your own schedule, real estate continues to attract professionals from all walks of life. 

The aspiring real estate agents, brokers and realtors of tomorrow have various questions and doubts before making a switch to this industry. 

If you are amongst the thousands of aspiring real estate professionals who want to start their career in the California market, this article will guide you through. 

Well, congratulations on having made the right decision as California is one of the most rewarding and exciting real estate markets in the country.

The golden state is also known as a real estate paradise - as it is home to the best corporations, big tech companies, great weather and relatively less taxes. All of these factors make it a popular state for life and work, attracting migrants and investors from across the country. 

Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco…these are some of the many diverse real estate markets which will open up once you get a California real estate license

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, real estate professionals can make high earnings consistently in the California real estate market. 

Did you know that for a hardworking and sincere professional, earning $100K annually is easily achievable!

If you are eager to kickstart a profitable and successful real estate career in the sunshine state, now is the time! 

But first, to be on the way to a lucrative and rewarding career in the industry, you must get a real estate license in California

Wondering how to go about obtaining your license? 

Read our step-by-step guide to find out everything you need to know about getting your own state approved real estate license. 

Let us dive deeper into all the steps one-by-one so you can be confident and clear in your pursuit of becoming a real estate professional in California.

Real Estate License in California

The Most Important Requirements for getting a California Real Estate License

The reason why a degree, or more specifically, an education in the real estate field is important is because it gives you a strong foundation of knowledge. On the basis of this knowledge, you can pass the licensing exam and obtain a real estate license. 

Whether your goal is to work independently or as part of a big real estate firm, getting a real estate license in California is going to be the badge of your capabilities and sincerity. 

Moreer, a license is a mandatory requirement as per the state law and industry rules, and failure to comply with the same could lead to limited career growth. 

The California state real estate department only allows qualified and educated professionals to work in the state’s real estate market. 

This means that every applicant must fulfill the California real estate salesperson license requirements in order to work as a licensed salesperson in the state. 

Education Requirements

Completing your pre-licensing education comes as the first and foremost amongst all other California requirements for a real estate license

However, before you decide to opt for or enroll in a pre-licensing college or course, it is important to check whether you meet the basic eligibility requirements or not. 

For those who are not aware of the general requirements, here’s a quick checklist: 

  • Applicants must be 18 years of age or older.
  • Applicants must have a legal resident proof of California
  • Applicants must meet the California state’s code of conduct and guidelines for trust, truthfulness and ethics. 

After you have understood and fulfilled the eligibility requirements, you can then move on the meet the Department of Real Estate’s educational requirements. 

The first step to be a licensed real estate professional in California is to go through 135 hours of pre-licensing coursework.  

You can choose to complete this training online or in-person, based on your preference and convenience. 

The state requires every applicant to complete their pre-licensing education from a state-approved and accredited college, university or real estate school. 

Wondering what exactly is this pre-licensing education and why does it matter so much? 

Well, for any aspiring real estate professional, it is important to understand the basic fundamentals of the industry and get familiar with the foundational subjects. 

This is why successful completion of pre-licensing education is a must. 

The topics covered in the pre-licensing coursework in California include 45 hours of Real Estate Principles and 45 hours of Real Estate Practice.  

Additionally, you will be allowed to choose an elective course from the following: 

  • Real Estate Finance
  • Real Estate Appraisal
  • Property Management
  • Business Law
  • General Accounting
  • Legal principles of real estate
  • Escrows, Business Laws
  • Mortgage Loan Brokerage and Lending
  • Real Estate administration
  • Computer Applications in Real Estate

Only after completing the mandatory 135 hours of coursework do you acquire the eligibility to appear for the real estate licensing exam.  

Age Requirements

One of the pre-requisites to apply for a real estate license in California is to meet the mandated age requirements.  

The California Department of Real Estate (CDRE) has established the minimum age limit of 18 years for all the applicants. 

If you are unable to meet the age requirements, your application will be rejected. 

Legal Requirements

In legal terms, an applicant applying for a salesperson, broker or an appraiser’s license in California must not have any legal felony or misdemeanor against their name. 

As per CDRE (California Department of Real Estate), all applicants are required to undergo a criminal background check and fingerprint verification as part of the license process. 

This step is important because the state will run background checks on all applicants, irrespective of any other factors.

California Real Estate License

What are the steps to take to acquire eligibility to apply for a real estate license in California

Step 1: Meeting the Fundamental Eligibility Complete 

It is common for aspirants to join a real estate college or enroll in an online course to quickly cover the coursework hours. However, before doing that, one must ensure the fulfill the basic license requirements for real estate salesperson in California. These are listed below: 

  • Your age must be at least 18 years or older 
  • You must have residency status in California or an alien who is legally permitted to work in the state. 
  • You must fulfill the state guidelines of trust, truthfulness and honesty. 

While the process to become a real estate agent or broker is quite simple and straightforward, meeting the eligibility requirements is the first and most important step to progress further. 

Step 2: Complete the Required Education

If you have already fulfilled the basic eligibility criteria for a career in real estate, the next step is to complete the next set of the California requirements for a real estate license

Go through 135 hours of pre-licensing education as mandated by the California Department of Real Estate (CDRE). To do so, you can join any state approved college or university. Alternatively, you can also enroll in an online course to complete the coursework. 

In total, your coursework will prepare you for the fundamentals of real estate, including two foundational courses - Real Estate Principles (45 hours) and Real Estate Practice (45 hours) and Real Estate Finance (45 hours) or any other elective course of your choice.  

Many applicants prefer enrolling in online courses and they facilitate remote learning and make work-life easier to manage. 

Plus, it is easier to self-pace your learning, as compared to in-person learning or classroom classes. 

Note that it takes between 2-6 months to complete the pre-licensing education, depending on whether you are enrolled in a traditional classroom environment or an online learning course.

Step 3: Take and Clear the California Salesperson Licensing Exam

Once you are done with your pre-licensing education, the next step is to apply for a real estate license California licensing exam. 

This will require you to submit an application along with documents showing that you have successfully completed the education requirements and your background check documents and fingerprints.

Alongside you will have to pay a one-time fee for appearing in the licensing exam. 

The licensing exam consists of 175 multiple choice questions. You must score at least 70% in the final licensing exam to pass. 

Step 4: Obtain a Live Scan Fingerprint Clearance

Every applicant for a real estate license in California must submit to a background check. The rule ensures that all applicants do not have any history of criminal records of charges of felony against them. 

Hence, all applicants must submit their fingerprints for verification in this regard to the Department of Real Estate (DRE) in California.  

Post screening, the Department of Real Estate determines the eligibility of a prospective applicant. If they have a history of felony or any criminal activity, the DRE has the right to revoke or suspend the application. 

Step 5: Submit Your Application to the California Department of Real Estate

So you have finally passed the salesperson licensing exam in California. Congratulations! You are now one step closer to achieving your dream.

In order to proceed further in the licensing process, the next step is to submit your licensing application. 

This process is simple and you can complete it either online or mail your application to the California Department of Real Estate (CDRE). 

You will be charged a one time fee for issuing your license. 

Go through the checklist given below to know the documents to be submitted with the real estate license application.  

  1. A proof of having completed the stipulated number of hours of real estate pre-licensing education. 
  2. A live scan service request form coupled with your electronic fingerprints 
  3. A request form seeking accommodation, in case you have a need for the same

You can visit the CDRE website and create your profile by registering as a first time user. 

Once you are registered, you will be asked a few basic questions and then you will be allowed to submit your licensing application to the California Department of Real Estate online.

Step 6: Receive Your Real Estate License

Congratulations! You’re almost there in your journey to getting a California salesperson license. 

Once the real estate authorities review and approve your application, they will send you an inactive license on your mailing address. 

To activate your new found license, you will need to  find a sponsoring broker or brokerage firm with whom you can work and gain experience. 

The purpose of working with a broker is to learn the ropes and gain real-world knowledge of the industry. This will help you gain confidence and understand the dynamics and working of the California real estate market.