How Long Does It Take to Get Your Real Estate License in California 2020?

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From this article, you will learn how much time it takes you to get a real estate license in California.

As a real estate agent operating in South Pasadena, CA who has been through the licensing process, I will share with you the timelines of each phase as well as my personal experience.

Although it’s been several years since I applied for a real estate license in California, the basic process hasn’t changed much – save for precautions around Coronavirus.

Let’s start with a quick overview.


Timeline of Getting a Real Estate License in California

Time frame Action
1-2 weeks Research on what you want to do: choosing a specialty, brokerage, and courses.
7.5 weeks Minimum time mandated for the completion of your education requirements.
4-8 weeks Waiting to get approved for an exam and scheduling the exam date.
1 day Taking the exam.

If you add all that up, the fastest you can realistically expect to go from desiring to get a California real estate license to actually having your license is about 14 weeks or just a bit less than 4 months. Now, let’s go over each step in detail.


1-2 Weeks for Choosing a Course and a Brokerage

My process started from deciding that I wanted to go into real estate and get my agent’s license. In order to understand what the world of real estate looked like in my community, I reviewed and interviewed several of the local real estate brokerages to see what might be in store for me.

One brokerage in particular seemed like a good fit: the agents I met had been working for this broker for periods ranging from several years to decades. The broker was located right in the community I wished to serve. Plus the manager offered for me to come observe the weekly sales meetings to get to know the people and the process.

I decided after a few weeks of observing that I wanted to work for that broker. My process of obtaining my license started with the manager getting me in contact with the department within the brokerage who specialized in training new agents. This trainer set me up with all the necessary coursework to prepare to take the California real estate license exam.

To review in detail all of the specific rules and processes regarding getting a real estate sales license in California, you can refer to the California Department of Real Estate website section on obtaining a California real estate license.

My coursework was conducted online. There were two large main printed volumes that I was to study and refer to throughout the class. The main two were entitled: “Principles of California Real Estate” and “Real Estate Practice”. There is also a 3rd required course which can be selected from among a list of approved courses. So you choose one of the following to be your 3rd educational class:

  • Real Estate Appraisal
  • Property Management
  • Real Estate Finance
  • Real Estate Economics
  • Legal Aspects of Real Estate
  • Real Estate Office Administration
    General Accounting
  • Business Law
  • Escrows
  • Mortgage Loan Brokering and Lending
  • Computer Applications in Real Estate
  • Common Interest Developments

I also availed myself of several online tools which simply ask you questions that are likely to appear on the exam. After you answer, there is often an explanation of the correct answer.

You can also find online tools that simulate sections of the real estate exam, and you can take a “practice test” which includes a timed element.


7.5 Weeks Minimum for the Completion of the Course

I completed all the online coursework and passed everything and got a certificate indicating that I had completed the educational requirements to qualify to take the California Real Estate Exam.

What I had not realized up until this point is that there is a minimum time period that defines how long you should study for the real estate exam. The time between passing your education requirement and actually taking the exam.

The California Department of Real Estate mandates that the minimum amount of time to complete each of your 3 education courses is 2.5 weeks. That means the fastest you can apply to take the real estate exam is 7.5 weeks after you start taking your educational courses.

I had finished my educational requirements in just a few weeks, so I had to wait over a month before I could apply to take the California real estate exam.


4-8 Weeks for Getting Approved to Take the Exam

Another note on timing – after you apply to take the exam, you often have to wait between 4-8 weeks to get confirmation that you are now approved to schedule your exam. You’ll also have to go to a sanctioned vendor and get your fingerprints taken and verify your identity in order to apply to take the real estate license exam.

Scheduling the exam at the time I took it also required a few weeks of lead time. I couldn’t just schedule it for the next day after getting approved – the soonest available exam spot was a few weeks out. You might be able to reduce that time if you choose a much less popular exam location. This was the case in the Los Angeles, California area.


1 Day for Taking the Exam

The exam itself was straightforward for me. You have to go to a sanctioned exam facility. When you enter, they check your identification and then make you place all of your belongings in a locker. Before I could actually enter the exam area, they made me pull up my shirt sleeves (presumably to make sure I hadn’t written down any answers or notes on my arms!). Finally I was able to enter the examination room.

At my testing facility there were a number of desks with monitors. I was assigned a desk and simply entered in my information and began answering the test questions on the screen. After submitting my answer, the next question appeared. They did give me a sheet of paper and a pencil to take notes or do some calculations.

It took me about an hour or maybe a little longer to complete the exam. At the testing station they can give you your results as soon as you walk out of the testing room.

You need to correctly answer 70% of the questions correctly to pass the exam. They don’t tell you your final score – only whether you passed or failed. If you pass, they give you a slip of paper that functions as your “temporary license”. At some point, a card is mailed to you with your official license information on it – including your name and license number.


About the Author

Derek Vaughan lives in Los Angeles and is a seasoned realtor in South Pasadena. Known for his expert knowledge of digital marketing and the local real estate market, Derek has lived in South Pasadena for the past 20 years. Derek has also worked for the Walt Disney Company where he was responsible for digital marketing for both the ESPN.com properties and the NASCAR online store. He also holds degrees from the Indiana University School of Music, Purdue University and an MBA from Vanderbilt University.

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