Obtaining a Real Estate License in California


In the state of California, nearly 400,000 people currently hold real estate salesperson licenses. Given that California’s population includes over 38 million people, it’s no surprise that becoming a realtor in this state is potentially quite lucrative. While California is subject to the governing rules and regulations propounded by both the Association of Real Estate License Law Officials (ARELLO) and the National Association of Realtors, like all other states it has specific jurisdiction when it comes to the requirements for obtaining a license in the state. People who wonder how to get a real estate license in California should pay particular attention to the following information as well as the guidelines established by the California Department of Real Estate

Basic Prerequisites

The California Department of Real Estate governs the state real estate community. As such, they have specific guidelines and basic prerequisites to which each applicant for a real estate salesperson license must adhere. Potential realtors in the state of California must:

  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Provide proof of U.S. residency; those who live outside of California must follow special Out-of-State guidelines as outlined in the handbook
  • Be honest and disclose any previous felony or criminal convictions
  • Complete college-level courses on real estate tenets (specifics below)
  • Pay the appropriate nonrefundable application fee
  • Pay for and take the final state licensing exam

Applicants for real estate salesperson licenses in the state of California need no prior experience to apply for a license. However, candidates should complete the required three-semester (or quarter equivalent) education requirement. California allows a waiver on the education requirement to potential realtors who have been admitted to the State Bar. Those who hold State Bar status should adhere to special instructions regarding this waiver.

Training & Education

Unlike some states, California requires applicants to complete three semesters (or equivalent quarter semesters) of college-level courses in real estate rather than a set number of hours. These courses must be accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges or hold an equivalent accreditation. Applicants may also attend a state-approved private real estate school provided that the courses directly apply to the college-level courses. 

California real estate applicants must adhere to these stringent education requirements and complete the necessary prelicensing paperwork, including a fingerprint card, prior to obtaining a real estate license. 

California real estate licenses are valid for four years. During this period, realtors are expected to complete 45 hours of combined continuing learning credits in the following areas: 3-hour courses in Agency, Ethics, Fair Housing, Risk Management and Trust Fund Handling; 18 hours of consumer protection courses; and additional courses to meet the remaining 45 hours. Candidates should complete these continuing education requirements in a timely manner, as fees for late renewal can be 150% of the original licensing fee.

Additional Information

Application fees mandated by the California Department of Real Estate apply to those interested in pursuing a real estate salesperson license. 

  • Exam fee: $60
  • License fee: $245

Other fees may apply, as applicants are required to submit a fingerprint card at the time of application. Candidates should also note that these fees apply specifically to salespersons, not brokers. Those interested in a broker license should adhere to separate guidelines. 

California does not allow reciprocal licenses. Instead, those who hold real estate licenses in other states and wish to practice real estate in California must follow the Out-of-State guidelines established by the real estate department. 


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