Real Estate Agent vs. Broker: What’s The Difference?

Kyle Hiscock

Kyle Hiscock | Greater Rochester NY Real Estate | Pittsford NY Realtor at RE/MAX Realty Group

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Real Estate Agent vs. Broker: What's The Difference?
Real Estate Agent vs. Broker: What’s The Difference?

While many confuse what real estate agents and brokers do, these job titles aren’t interchangeable. When comparing real estate agents vs brokers, there are some significant differences, however.

While a real estate agent has to pass an exam for their real estate license, so does a broker. But the broker also needs to pass a licensing exam and can choose to operate their own brokerage. They can operate independently, work within a brokerage, or run their own firm and hire real estate agents.

There isn’t just one type of real estate broker. If you are looking to begin a career in this industry, you’ll need to know the difference between a real estate broker vs. real estate agent.

What a Real Estate Broker Does

One of the more popular questions in the industry is what is a real estate broker. Maximum Real Estate Exposure has a comprehensive resource explaining everything you need to know about real estate brokers and what they do.

Brokers negotiate real estate transactions and ensure they successfully go through. They can work alone or within a brokerage and supervise real estate agents. A broker’s exact role varies depending on the type of broker.

A broker can manage real estate agents, ensure their training is up to date, and recruit agents. They can also supervise transactions and write contracts. They might manage the brokerage and deal with the brokerage licensing and professional association membership.

The Different Types of Real Estate Brokers

Every real estate brokerage needs at least one broker, but they often have more than that, fulfilling different roles in the firm.

Designated brokers

Often called a principal broker, the designated broker ensures all agents within the brokerage stick to the relevant real estate laws. Within the brokerage, the designated broker is the person who holds the license on behalf of the firm.

Every brokerage needs a designated broker for every state they operate in, and they are often paid a salary instead of the commission agents receive.

Managing brokers

Sometimes known as a broker in charge, the managing broker manages the office. This type of broker is responsible for hiring and training real estate agents and managing office staff. They also deal with compliance, record-keeping, and managing suppliers.

Associate brokers

An associate does a similar job to a real estate agent but without the supervision usually given to agents. As a consequence, they often earn more than real estate agents.

What a Real Estate Agent Does

An agent represents their clients when they are buying or selling property. Agents can work full or part-time, but they need to work under the supervision of a broker. Becoming a real estate agent is less challenging than a broker.

The primary role of a real estate agent includes the following responsibilities:

  • Helping their clients through the buying or selling process
  • Dealing with the paperwork from preapproval to closing
  • Negotiating the details of the transaction
  • Communicating with the other side, including agents, mortgage brokers, and real estate attorneys

Hiring the wrong real estate agent can lead to significant disappointment, so it is essential to go through a thorough interview process.

How to Become a Real Estate Agent

The exact requirements to become a real estate agent depend on your location but will typically include the following:

  • Meeting licensing requirements. This might only be a high school diploma and at least 18 years of age.
  • Complete pre-licensing courses. These courses will cover federal rules and regulations.
  • Pass the real estate exam.
  • Work under the supervision of a broker. In some cases, working under a broker for a set amount of time is required.
  • Submit your application for a real estate license. With all the requirements met, the license can be applied for and background checks completed.

How to Become a Broker

How to Become a Real Estate Broker
How to Become a Real Estate Broker

When you have been a licensed real estate agent for a certain amount of time, you can complete the following requirements to become a broker. The number of years you need to be a real estate before becoming a broker varies from state to state.

For example, before becoming a real estate broker in Massachusetts, you need three years of experience. In New York and other states, you only need to be a real estate agent for two years.

  • Complete broker courses. The exact length of courses required varies between states.
  • Pass the broker exam.
  • With the exam passed, the new broker has several options.

A Real Estate Broker Can:

  • Work as a broker in their current brokerage
  • Join a new brokerage
  • Work independently
  • Start their own brokerage and hire agents

A Realtor is Different Than a Real Estate Agent and a Real Estate Broker

To become a Realtor, you must become a National Association of Realtors member. One of the most significant differences between a Realtor vs. a real estate agent is agreeing to follow a strict code of ethics.

Realtors must follow the code in their daily business. They must agree to always put their client’s interests ahead of their own. Both real estate agents and Realtors are paid via commission.

The best-performing agents can make a significant income. Most agents, however, don’t make a substantial yearly income.

Why Should You Become a Broker?

If you want more from your career in real estate, stepping up from an agent to a broker increases your income and gives you more opportunities. Brokers can earn more money with a greater share of the commission paid by the seller, and they can also start their own firm.

Many people who become real estate brokers enjoy management more than sales. While a real estate broker can also sell homes, their responsibility lies with growing the company and overseeing the agents under them.

Real Estate can be a lucrative career for both real estate brokers and agents. It is one of the reasons so many people are flocking to this industry.

Final Thoughts

Becoming a real estate agent or real estate broker takes a lot of hard work. Real Estate is often portrayed as an easy industry to enter where agents are making money hand over fist. That is rarely the case.

If you’re planning on entering the industry, prepare to work hard. That is what it will take to become one of the best of the best.


About the author: The above article on “Real Estate Agent vs. Broker: What’s The Difference?” was written by Bill Gassett. Bill has been working in the real estate industry for the past thirty-three years. He works for RE/MAX Executive Realty in Hopkinton Massachusetts. Bill loves providing trustworthy information to buyers, sellers, and fellow real estate agents to make the best possible decisions. His writing has been featured on RIS Media, National Association of Realtors, Inman News, Placester, Today.com, Credit Sesame, and others.


About Rochester’s Real Estate Blog: Rochester’s Real Estate Blog is owned and operated by Kyle Hiscock of the Hiscock Sold Team at RE/MAX Realty Group.

Since being launched in 2013, Kyle has published more than 150 quality, in-depth, and unique real estate related articles on the Rochester Real Estate Blog pertaining to topics varying from home selling to mortgages and everything in between!  In addition to quality real estate related content, there are also many quality articles pertaining to the Greater Rochester NY area.

The Rochester Real Estate Blog has been recognized by many reputable websites as one of the best real estate blogs to visit and follow!  In addition to being recognized as one of the best real estate blogs, Kyle has been recognized as one of the top Realtors on social media by several organizations and websites.

With over 40 years combined experience, if you’re thinking of selling or buying, we’d love to share our knowledge and expertise.

We service the following Greater Rochester NY areas: Irondequoit, Webster, Penfield, Pittsford, Fairport, Brighton, Greece, Gates, Hilton, Brockport, Mendon, Henrietta, Perinton, Churchville, Scottsville, East Rochester, Rush, Honeoye Falls, Chili, and Victor NY.

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