Each state has its own rules for real estate licenses. Most set a minimum age -- usually 18 -- and require that applicants have completed a certain number of hours of real estate training courses. In addition, 14 states require all applicants for real estate licenses to have a high school diploma, and four others require at least some applicants to have a diploma. The remaining 32 states and the District of Columbia have no diploma requirement.
Most states have two basic kinds of licenses: a "salesperson" or "agent" license, and a "broker" license. The key difference: You need a salesperson license to represent clients in buying and selling real estate, but you need a broker license to actually operate a real estate agency. Salespeople generally must work for brokers. With only a couple of exceptions, states that require a high school diploma to obtain a real estate license apply that requirement to all types of licenses.
Diplomas Required in All Cases
According to Mortgage News Daily, which tracks license requirements, 14 states require applicants for all levels of real estate license to have either a high school diploma or an equivalent certification, such as a GED. Those states are Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oregon, South Carolina and West Virginia.
Four additional states -- Kentucky, Montana, Ohio and Washington -- have high school requirements that don't necessarily apply to all license applicants. Kentucky requires a high school diploma or GED, but the licensing board can waive that requirement for applicants who have earned 28 credit hours at a post-secondary educational institution. In Montana, applicants for a salesperson license need only to have completed high school through the 10th grade; applicants for broker licenses, however, need a diploma or GED. In Ohio, license applicants must have a high school diploma or GED if they were born after 1950. And in Washington state, applicants don't need a diploma or GED for a salesperson license, but they do for a broker license.
Most states have real-estate "reciprocity" agreements with neighboring states. These agreements allow real estate professionals who are already licensed in one state to obtain a license in another state without having to go through the entire training sequence normally required. These agreements can sometimes circumvent a diploma requirement. Alabama, for instance, normally requires license applicants to have a diploma -- but applicants for reciprocal licensing need only fulfill their own state's requirements, then study Alabama law and pass an exam.