How Long Does It Take to Get a Real Estate License in North Carolina?

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This article takes you through the time frame to become a provisional broker, the entry-level license for a North Carolina real estate career.

After reading, you will know how quickly you can complete each step in the process. You’ll have detailed insight into what factors lead to the shortest timeline and which can prolong it.

So, continue reading to get a closer look at how long it is to get a real estate license in The Tarheel State.


Estimated Timeline to Get a Real Estate License in North Carolina

Time frame Step
2 weeks full time Go to real estate school.
5-7 days on average Apply and wait for eligibility notice.
2 days-3+ weeks Obtain a background report.
1 week or more Get ready for the real estate exam.
About 7 days Book a time slot and take the exam.
7+ days Wait to receive your license.
1-2 weeks Select a broker-in-charge.
Up to 30 days Activate your license.

Go to Real Estate School: 2 Weeks Full Time

The North Carolina Real Estate Commission has a 75-hour pre-licensing education requirement. The time it takes to complete the course depends on the schedule you choose.

Those who can devote at least 40 hours per week to studying can finish the course online in a couple of weeks.

Others who need a more manageable schedule won’t complete the requirement as quickly.

Most part-time live and virtual classroom options run from 4-8 weeks. Those schedules include a choice of morning or night classes that meet 2-4 days a week and full-time weekend sessions.

You can choose your completion time frame and set an associated pace in an online course.

You’ll generally spend the longest time completing the required hours at a community college. The courses are taught during a quarter or semester, 10 and 15 weeks, respectively.


Apply and Wait for Eligibility Notice: 5-7 Days on Average

North Carolina is one of the states where you must be approved for eligibility to take the exam. That requires you to apply for your license at the start of the process versus the end.

The quickest way to accomplish this is to complete the application form online. You can request and mail a paper application if you prefer. Just know that this can lengthen the process.

Processing time may also be slowed if you fail to submit the appropriate application fee and all required documentation.

For example, if you check “yes” to any of the “character” questions, you must provide a written explanation of each problem related to these matters or your application will be delayed.

Otherwise, assuming you meet the qualifications and have submitted a complete application, the North Carolina Real Estate Commission will typically send you a Notice of Exam Eligibility within 5-7 business days.

You can start your application while taking the pre-licensing course to save some time. That way, you’re ready to enter payment and submit the form as soon as you finish classes.


Obtain a Background Report: 2 Days-3+ Weeks

You can order the required criminal background report when you apply for your license. Once it’s complete, the reporting agency will submit an electronic copy to the Commission.

The criminal records search results must cover the seven years preceding your application. Therefore, your residence history during that time will impact how long this takes.

  • If your report involves only a search of North Carolina’s criminal database, you can typically expect results to be ready within 2-4 business days after making the request.
  • Most reports requiring an out-of-state records search will take approximately 5-7 business days. However, more time is needed if multiple states are involved.
  • Searching records outside of the United States generally takes 2-3 weeks. However, there are some countries where that time frame can be considerably longer.

You can do this step concurrently with the pre-licensing course or exam preparation to get a jumpstart on the background check and speed up the overall process.

Refer to our guide on getting a North Carolina real estate license with violations on your record for complete information on the topic.


Get Ready for the Real Estate Exam: 1 Week or More

In addition to regularly reviewing what you learn while taking pre-licensing classes, how long should you study for the real estate exam before attempting to pass it?

We suggest reserving at least a week and adding more time if you need it to boost your confidence and readiness.

You can use that time to go over coursework and do practice tests to determine if you should study more. Use the exam info in NC’s Real Estate Licensing Booklet to plan study sessions.

Alternatively, you can spend the time completing an exam prep course. Lessons are organized around topic areas, which can help you review more effectively, thus reducing study time.

Prep courses also include mock exams and tools that make monitoring your progress and performance easier. So, you’ll be better able to gauge when you’re ready to sit for the exam.


Book a Time Slot and Take the Exam: About 7 Days

You can make an exam appointment once the Commission lets you know you’re eligible. Give the test administrator PSI a business day to record your eligibility before you try to schedule.

You can reserve a test slot by telephone or online. The latter is the fastest and most convenient method for scheduling.

According to PSI, you should be able to get an appointment at the test center of your choice within seven days of contacting them in most cases.

Your wait time will be longer, of course, if you request a later appointment.

On exam day, block out a half day to take the test. Although you may only use some of the allotted time, you have 2.5 hours for the national portion and 1.5 hours for the state section.

Add on another 30 minutes for early arrival at the test center. This extra time is for signing in and familiarizing yourself with the examination process.


Wait to Receive Your License: 7+ Days

The Commission will perform a character review process after you pass the exam as the last part of your application evaluation.

If there are no issues relating to your fitness to practice real estate, you will typically receive your license within 7-10 days of the exam date.

Suppose you have a character issue like a criminal conviction or licensure disciplinary action, in those cases, how long does it take to get a real estate license in NC, assuming you qualify?

The Commission requests that you allow them 45 days before inquiring about the status of your application. Therefore, processing could take that amount of time or longer.

At this point, Commission staff will evaluate your application using a set of assessment factors. They will promptly issue your license if they determine you’ve met the character requirement.

However, if they deem it necessary, the staff will refer your application to the Commissioners for further consideration. That would delay action until the next monthly Commission meeting.


Select a Broker-in-Charge: 1-2 Weeks

You don’t need a sponsoring broker to be granted a provisional broker license. However, you must have one to activate your license and start work in the real estate business in the state.

This selection doesn’t have to be one of the last things you do. Instead, you can accomplish this concurrently with earlier steps to shorten the time to become an active licensee.

Here are suggestions for using a week or two of your time to make the most informed choice:

  • Identify brokers you think you’d like to work for. Do online research and use our directory of the top real estate brokerages in North Carolina to expedite your efforts.
  • Reach out to your list of potential brokers-in-charge to open the conversation.
  • Schedule interviews with the top 3-5 picks, tour their offices, and talk with other brokers working there.

Also, reference our blog post on choosing the right broker to work for to get help figuring out what’s important to you in a company (i.e., commission split, culture, training).


Activate Your License: Up to 30 Days

You and your broker-in-charge must file a License Activation/Affiliation form to have your provisional license placed on active status.

It can take up to 30 days to process your request. So, the sooner you pick a broker and complete the form, the faster you can launch your career.

To remain active as a North Carolina real estate agent, you must complete the required post-licensing courses within 18 months of initial licensure.

After that, keeping an active broker license requires satisfying the annual NC real estate license renewal requirements, which include eight hours of continuing education and a renewal fee.


Where to Study for a Real Estate License Exam?

Your choices of where to take the pre-licensing course include a traditional classroom. These in-person classes are offered in two settings: community colleges and real estate schools.

Many of the North Carolina real estate schools also teach the coursework through live online classes.

This virtual format provides real-time, instructor-led content on a set schedule like conventional classroom courses. But your learning environment can be your home.

The Commission also allows you to complete the qualifying coursework online. So, you can tailor your education to your personal pace and pick your preferred study spot.

That may be the comfort of your home as well. The local library can also be a great go-to place for self-paced study. It offers quietness, reliable internet access, and plenty of table space.

Best to compare the pros and cons of real estate classes vs. classroom courses before you make your choice.

Wherever you choose to do your classwork, make sure it’s someplace where you will be ergonomically comfortable and won’t be easily distracted.

Apply the same criteria to your study space for completing exam prep courses. Most are offered online, which means that your classroom can be wherever you choose.

Read my tips for studying for the real estate exam to up your chances of passing the test on your first try.


No matter where you study, you can be better prepared to get a passing score with insights gained from our blog post on how to pass the North Carolina real estate exam.

You can also reference our expert articles to familiarize yourself with all the requirements in getting a North Carolina real estate license and the cost of a real estate license in NC.

When you’ve finally received your license, the following resources can help you lay a good foundation for a successful real estate practice in North Carolina:

To help you build and grow your real estate career quickly, we at Real Estate Bees created a directory for real estate professionals.

It’s designed to help you get more exposure for your business, including receiving leads. Create a free profile by signing up here.


If you want to contribute your expert advice on a topic of your expertise, feel free to apply to our Expert Contributor Program.


About the Author

Kristina Morales is a REALTOR® with over 20 years of professional experience. She actively practices real estate in Ohio but also has practiced real estate in California and Texas. Conducting her real estate business in three states has allowed her to gain unique experiences that make her a well-rounded realtor. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Business Management and her MBA with a concentration in Banking and Finance. Prior to real estate, Kristina had an extensive corporate career in banking and treasury. She ended her finance career as an Assistant Treasurer at a publicly traded oil & gas company in Houston, TX.

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