Making up roughly 13% of the U.S. national GDP at $1.898 trillion, real estate is the largest industry in the country.
Being such a large sector, there are countless career options worth pursuing. Fulfilling and profitable real estate career options include a sales agent, inspector, appraiser, loan officer, or surveyor. Everybody has career options depending on interests, background, education, and goals.
1. Real Estate Agent
The first job most people think about in real estate is the real estate agent. The real estate agent is a licensed person responsible for assisting property owners in purchasing, selling, and leasing properties.
How much do real estate agents make?
The average real estate agent in the U.S. makes $94,031 per year. Real estate agents make a living off of commissions. Since real estate agents work for themselves, they do not earn a salary.
One perk of being self-employed is setting your schedule. This can be great if you spend mornings and afternoons with your kids without skipping the work day.
Residential real estate is one of the most common specialties in the real estate agent job. Most of us think about this when we hear the title “real estate agent.”
The role of a residential agent is to focus on providing the best possible service to residential clients. This includes any property occupied by people with four or fewer units. Buying, selling, leasing, and investing are all under the umbrella of residential agents.
It is not uncommon to see people specializing even further within this group. Common residential agent specialties include buyer’s specialist, listing specialist, leasing expert, and investment specialist.
Finding a niche within residential real estate is a great way to begin a fulfilling career helping others. Many real estate agents are spreading themselves too thin and fail to build a prospering business.
By focusing on what you are passionate and knowledgeable about, growing your business will feel less like a chore and more like something you get to do. Like many others, the saying “niches get riches” holds true in this job.
Commercial agents have the same real estate license as other agents but focus on commercial properties—usually one specific asset type.
Purchase, sale, and lease of commercial properties are knowledge-based for each property type, so that you will see many pros with decades of experience in this field.
Most real estate types other than residential get lumped under commercial real estate, but let’s look at a list of different types you might see. Each specialty has career options in real estate, from sales and leasing to syndication of investment properties.
- Industrial (warehouses)
- Farm & Ranch
- QSR (quick service restaurants)
- Big Box
- Special Purpose
There are many career options in real estate, and most agents on the commercial side are successfully focusing on just one or two specialties.
Commercial real estate is an excellent path for those from the financial sector who enjoy running numbers and investing in real estate.
Qualifications to become a licensed real estate agent
To become a real estate agent, consider your state’s licensing requirements. In our article, “Do Real Estate Agents Need a Degree?” we’ve broken down the requirements for each state for you. By clicking on your state in the table at the bottom of that article, you will be taken to your state’s licensing requirements.
Each state requires the completion of pre-licensing classes and then passing a state and national test. A few states have additional requirements, such as proof of residence or a driver’s license. Almost every state is now performing background checks to make sure you are meeting their standards of ethics to handle large financial transactions in their state.
2. Real Estate Inspector
Want to get into the real estate sector without selling houses? Inspectors are the unsung heroes of the business. Any deal with a loan will not close without an inspection of the property.
Career options in real estate don’t involve working as an agent, writing contracts, or making cold calls. Becoming an inspector is a great way to start working in real estate without being an agent.
What do real estate inspectors do?
Inspectors visually inspect major home components such as the structure, foundation, plumbing, electrical, roof, and HVAC. They look for deficiencies that the buyer and lender must be aware of.
Since home inspectors are often working for themselves, they set their schedules. This means they can work as much or as little as they want. Depending on popularity and demand, they can work from sun up until sunset seven days a week or only 3-4 days a week if they prefer.
How much do real estate inspectors make?
In the U.S., the average home inspector makes $51,228. Like with agents, this can be much more or less depending on work ethic and time spent on the job.
The process for building a business as an inspector in the real estate industry is primarily based on communicating your value to agents and home buyers.
Arguably the best way to begin earning revenue quickly is to focus on your relationships with local real estate brokerages and the agents that work there.
Types of Inspectors
Within the inspection sector, most states have licensee levels based on experience. Starting with apprentice inspectors, going up to real estate inspectors, and finally, professional real estate inspectors.
Each tier, from apprentice to professional inspector, has different marks for graduating to the next licensing level. With each level comes the ability to perform more complex jobs and demand higher pay.
Qualifications to become a real estate inspector
All states set their own requirements, but many have similar standards. Most states require inspectors to take licensing exams.
For the most part, licensees must be 18, be sponsored by someone already a licensed professional inspector, complete pre-licensing education, and have performed multiple inspections under the supervision of a professional.
3. Real Estate Appraiser
Ever wonder how the bank knows what your home is worth when they loan you money to buy it? They require appraisals to be performed by licensed appraisers to understand that the property is worth what the contract says.
Career options in real estate, such as becoming an appraiser, are great ways of securing a well-paying job without needing a college degree.
What do real estate appraisers do?
A real estate appraiser is an expert at understanding what goes into the value of a property. They have mathematical processes that help them solve for the most accurate value estimation. This number is called the appraised value.
Typically, these appraised values must be at least as much (or more) than the home loan amount.
The process lenders use to select appraisers is randomized and based on bids submitted by appraisers. As long as the real estate market is active, appraisers stay busy. It is not unusual to have several weeks or months’ worth of work scheduled in advance.
How much do real estate appraisers make?
On average, appraisers make $58,234 per year. By building solid relationships with lenders and getting more experience, you can be hired for more complex jobs.
For example, an appraiser of the highest experience level/license could be hired to appraise a vineyard or large investment property and be paid $40,000 for less than one month’s work.
Qualifications to become a real estate appraiser
In most states, you must be at least 18 to become an appraiser. The minimum number of education hours differs by state, so check with your licensing board. This info can be found by searching the state commission table here, or Googling your state with the words “real estate commission.”
Most states require an apprenticeship similar to inspectors, which can take six months to 3 years. Some career options in real estate require less education, but few offer the structured levels of progression and income growth that this career path offers.
The experience and license levels for appraisers are as follows: licensed residential appraiser, certified residential appraiser, and certified general appraiser. You can be hired for more complex and profitable appraisals by progressing through the levels.
4. Loan Officer
A loan officer works for a lender and finds buyers looking to get on a loan or refinance their home. They also run numbers, pre-approve, and present loans to loan committees for final approval.
What do loan officers do?
Loan officers are working hard to help buyers get mortgages on the homes they want to buy. They are plugging in numbers to determine how much buyers can afford.
Usually, they are independent contractors like real estate agents, but some are salaried employees. In that scenario, they receive a small base salary, with most of their income coming from commissions on mortgages originated.
How much do loan officers make?
On average, loan officers make a total of $180,296 per year. The most successful loan officers are knocking on doors introducing themselves to real estate agents and title companies and making an impact in the local community to get the business of their friends and neighbors.
Qualifications to become a loan officer
Loan officers have a higher average annual income. They also have higher minimum requirements to get the job!
They must be 18 years old, complete background checks, pass state and national licensing exams, register with the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System (NMLS), and apply to an institution looking for loan officers.
Because of the higher standards required to enter this field, it is no surprise that a Bachelor’s degree or higher is typically needed. Often, lenders prefer hiring applicants with a finance, accounting, or mathematics-related degree, but that is not mandatory.
Just like appraisers, surveyors do a job that provides deliverables needed by lenders to loan on a property. Surveying is an excellent career path for those looking to get started working in a field that will be around for years.
What do surveyors do?
Surveyors are responsible for accurately describing the property’s physical characteristics that allow it to be uniquely identified.
These descriptions include a drawing or map to visualize the property. They also have measurements of property boundaries and locations of improvements on the property.
Improvements that surveyors have to include in their surveys include houses and other permanent structures such as barns, wells, fence lines, pools, driveways, etc.
How much do surveyors make?
The average real estate surveyor in the United States makes $69,193 annually. Depending on the types of properties you are surveying, your income can vary greatly.
Surveyors who are primarily surveying residential properties will be closer to that average. Surveyors that specialize in a niche will often make more.
Several niches within surveying include farm and ranch, industrial, new development, and residential.
Qualifications to become a surveyor
Most states require at least an associate’s degree to become a surveyor, preferably a bachelor’s degree. A certain amount of the college coursework must be related to surveying.
Each state has its board of professional engineers and land surveyors, so check your state’s licensing requirements.
6. Escrow Officer
Escrow officers are one of the less well-known jobs in real estate. They spend time behind the scenes ensuring that under-contract deals are closing successfully.
What do escrow officers do?
Escrow officers usually work for title companies. They are coordinating and obtaining signatures on important documents. They also hold funds in escrow, aiding in the closing and disbursing funds from escrow after closing.
How much do escrow officers make?
On average, escrow officers in the U.S. make $60,059 each year in the form of a salary. For the most part, escrow officers are salaried employees that work 40 hours per week. Escrow officers are not working weekends or evenings unless they deal with extraordinary circumstances for a closing.
Qualifications to become an escrow officer
To become an escrow officer, you must start working at a title company. The most important part is building up experience and knowledge about the escrow process. Most title companies will require escrow officers to have a college degree. Some states are requiring state licensing, but not all. Check with your state to find out.
One of the best ways to build experience is by working as an escrow assistant. Do this and use this time to learn everything you can. Once you have several years, you are often qualified to assume a role as an escrow officer.
Career Options in Real Estate at a Glance
When looking at career options in real estate, it is important to have a goal in mind. Knowing what you want to be doing or what skills you bring to the table will be important when deciding the direction you want to go.
Becoming a real estate agent, inspector, appraiser, loan officer, surveyor, or escrow officer can be a great change of direction if you don’t like the career you’re in now. Check out our other articles about entering the real estate industry, and visit your state’s real estate commission website.