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Realtor vs Broker vs Agent

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The logo for the national association of Realtors.

What is the different between a broker, agent, and a Realtor?


An agent is someone who has a “salespersonlicense with the Bureau of Real Estate. A salesperson must work for a real estate broker.

This license is given to someone who:

  • Is at least 18.
  • Is a resident of California.
  • Has completed three college-level real estate courses.
  • Passed a 3.25-hour, 150-question test with a 70% or better.


Before I became a broker, I was a licensed real estate agent and worked for my father-in-law to-be, Bill Stewart (a broker) at The Experienced Realtors.


A broker is someone who has passed an additional broker’s exam with the Bureau of Real Estate. A broker may open their open brokerage (company) and employ other salespersons or brokers. A broker who works for another broker is a “Broker Associate.” A broker who manages a brokerage is known as a “Managing Broker.” The owner is not always the managing broker. A broker may do everything a salesperson can do in addition to employ other salespersons. Brokers may work for themselves (their own brokerage). Being a broker does not imply ownership.Picture of a California broker's license pocket card.

This license is given to someone who:

  • Is at least 18.
  • Is a resident of California.
  • Has completed 8 college-level real estate courses.
  • Has two years full-time licensed salesperson experience within the last two years or a 4-year degree in a real estate field.
  • Passed a 5 hour, 200-question test with a 75% pass rate.

Only about 50% of agents are brokers.


I am a real estate broker who works for my own company: The Paffrath Organization.


A Realtor is someone who is a member of the “National Association of Realtors” or N.A.R.

To become a “Realtor,” one must abide by a stringent code of ethics and pay annual dues. Additionally, members often join their local board of Realtors and their state association. In California, Realtors are often members of the California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.). In Ventura County, Realtors tend to join the Ventura County Coastal Association of Realtors (V.C.C.A.R.). A local board generally gives Realtors access to their M.L.S. Several local associations may share their M.L.S. data with other associations.

Picture of the California Association of RealtorsHow to Pronounce Realtor

Realtor is Pronounced “Real-tor.” It is a two-syllable word. A common mispronunciation is “Real-a-tor,” a three-syllable word.

What can someone be?

  1. I am a broker and a Realtor. I can fulfill all of the duties of an agent while working for myself or employing other agents.
  2. Someone can be an agent and a Realtor.
  3. Someone can just be an agent, such as an attorney or a financial analyst, who generally does not represent themselves.

What can’t someone be?

  • Someone cannot be a Realtor without being an agent or a broker.
  • Someone cannot be a broker without being an agent (as being a broker encompasses being an agent).
  • Someone cannot actively sell real estate without being employed by a broker and working for a brokerage. They may work for their own brokerage.

Real Estate License Statistics

This month Last month 12 months ago 24 months ago
Licensee Population:
    Brokers 141,027 141,266 142,640 146,240
    Salespersons 272,239 272,957 282,464 308,524
Total Licensees 413,266 414,223 425,104 454,764
Real Estate Licenses Issued:
    Original Broker 648 762 537
    Original Salesperson 1,431 1,289 1,029
    Broker Administered 735 794 570
    Salesperson Administered 2,151 2,080 1,372


See the full chart at the Bureau of Real Estate’s Licensee and Examinee Statistics page.

Note: not all licensing requirements were listed.