How a finance degree can put you on the path to a career as a real estate broker

If you’re interested in a career that allows you to work independently and help clients buy, sell, and rent property, you might be a good candidate for a career as a real estate broker. But it takes more than determination, drive, and a passion for the real estate industry to get started in this field. You’ll need to gain the right education and professional credentials before you can start soliciting clients and brokering deals.

An online Bachelor of Science in Finance from UAB’s Collat School of Business can prepare you with business fundamentals, accounting principles, and economics essentials — all of which can lay the foundation for a successful career as a real estate broker.

If the following career opportunities and job responsibilities sound appealing to you, a finance degree can help get your foot in the door.

What Is the Difference Between a Real Estate Agent, Real Estate Broker, and Realtor?

If you’re looking into a career as a real estate professional, you may have heard the terms “broker,” “agent,” and “Realtor” used interchangeably. Although these job titles have very similar goals and duties, there are a few major differences to be aware of.


A Realtor is a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) — the largest trade organization in the U.S. with 1.4 million members. All NAR members, including brokers, sales agents, estate appraisers, property managers, and other industry professionals, can all be considered Realtors. The term “Realtor” is a registered trademark held by the NAR. When someone holds this title, it signals a dedication to the profession and an adherence to the NAR’s strict code of ethics.

A real estate broker makes a call about a pending sale

Real Estate Agent

A real estate agent is a licensed professional who typically works for a real estate brokerage as an employee or independent contractor. After completing the required coursework and passing a licensing exam, an agent can represent either a buyer or seller and is responsible for facilitating property sales and other real estate transactions. Upon making a sale, an agent will earn a portion of the transaction cost in the form of a commission.

Someone in this role can wear the hat of a real estate salesperson or personal shopper, depending on their client’s needs. For instance, a real estate agent working as a listing agent will primarily help the seller get the most advantageous sale for their property. On the other side of the arrangement, when working as a buyer’s agent, they advocate for the prospective purchaser and try to negotiate for the lowest price and most favorable terms. Some states permit dual agency, where the same brokerage or even the same agent represents both parties, but this is not universally accepted.

Real Estate Broker

Professionals in the real estate industry typically start out as agents before they can become brokers. Unlike a real estate agent, a real estate broker is licensed to operate their own brokerage firm. Someone in this role can also work with buyers and sellers as an independent agent broker, or they hire real estate agents to work for their business and help it grow.

Possessing additional training and extensive experience, a broker may oversee the more complicated aspects of a real estate transaction. As part of their real estate business, a broker might also undertake property management responsibilities and help landlords rent out their spaces. Additionally, they may work as a mortgage broker and help clients secure loans.

Given these additional responsibilities and career possibilities, a prospective real estate broker should be familiar with more than just the real estate market. They would also benefit from a strong finance background, such as an online Bachelor of Science in Finance. This can be useful across the board, from helping clients make sound property investment decisions and analyzing a landlord’s rent roll to weighing financial considerations related to running a profitable real estate agency.

What Does a Real Estate Broker Do?

Brokers who work in real estate perform a variety of tasks and can serve different types of clients. They might work with clients on the residential side, facilitating home buying, selling, and renting — or businesses and property investors who are buying, selling, and leasing out commercial properties. Some real estate brokers specialize in agricultural property and other types of real estate.

The job duties of a real estate broker include:

  • Learning about what clients are looking for in their next purchase or sale
  • Sharing active property listings with prospective buyers and creating listings for sellers
  • Promoting properties and the brokerage business through ads, listing services, and other marketing channels
  • Hosting open houses and taking prospective buyers on private showings to view different properties
  • Providing clients with advice on market conditions and guidance on developing a competitive purchase or sale price
  • Presenting buyers’ offers to sellers and overseeing negotiations between both parties
  • Preparing loyalty contracts, deeds, purchase agreements, and other real estate documents
  • Ensuring that every transaction complies with real estate laws and all contract terms are met
  • Overseeing operations of a real estate brokerage and managing other agents

The career of a real estate broker might be a good fit if you want to help clients and take on a leadership role. Even though home buyers and sellers aren’t always required to work with a broker, a majority opt to do so. Brokers can offer valuable advice about real estate market trends, mortgage rates, and negotiation tips while helping prospective buyers navigate complicated processes. You’ll thrive in this role with the ability to communicate effectively and provide a positive client experience. In a survey by the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), 100% of real estate brokers reported communicating with email and phone calls every day. Face-to-face meetings and property tours are also a large part of the job.

A high percentage of respondents also noted having a significant amount of freedom regarding decision-making and structuring their workday. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 57% of real estate brokers are self-employed, while 39% work for a real estate, rental, and leasing organization. These can range from a team of just a few real estate professionals to a large-scale enterprise with branch locations across the country. Some real estate brokers have the flexibility to work on a part-time basis. However, many work more than 40 hours a week — often in the evenings and weekends when their clients are available.

What Is the Career Outlook for Real Estate Brokers?

O*NET identifies the role of real estate broker as a “Bright Outlook” career for 2020, meaning it is currently experiencing rapid growth. Job candidates can expect to see plenty of new opportunities over the next several years. The demand for real estate professionals is projected to rise 7% from 2018 to 2028, according to the BLS. This rate is faster than the national average across all occupations.

Cities experiencing a rise in rental activity and residential property turnover are likely to provide the most opportunities for new real estate agents and brokers. And the BLS explains that in competitive markets, brokers with college degrees, like a Bachelor of Science in Finance, will stand out from the competition.

How Much Does a Real Estate Broker Make?

Real estate brokers’ earnings can vary considerably, depending on the number of hours they work, the types of properties they specialize in, and the current market values. Experience also plays a significant role in compensation. Brokers earn a majority of their income from commission, so they often start to earn more once they gain experience and expand their client network.

However, the BLS reports that, in May 2019, the median annual salary for real estate brokers was $59,720. The top 10% of earners — likely those working in luxury markets — made more than $151,660.

How Do You Become a Real Estate Broker?

As the aforementioned comparison between real estate agent and real estate broker noted, you’ll need some experience as an agent before you can advance to the broker role. The BLS explains that you’ll typically need one to three years of experience as a licensed real estate agent before you can obtain your state-issued broker’s license. Once you start working in real estate, you’ll need to renew your license every few years by participating in continuing education sessions and other professional development activities.

Consider a Finance Degree from UAB as Your Next Step

As part of earning your real estate broker license, you’ll need to complete formal training courses. In many states, college coursework can count toward licensure requirements. An online Bachelor of Science in Finance can help you develop the decision-making skills and analytical prowess necessary to succeed in the fast-paced real estate industry.

If you’re interested in opening up your own brokerage business, a well-rounded education that includes essential business skills and topics such as finance, accounting, marketing, communications, and operations management will help you launch, promote, and sustain your own brokerage firm.

To learn more about UAB’s online Bachelor of Science in Finance, get in touch with an enrollment advisor today.


Recommended Readings:

Online Bachelor’s Degree in Finance

Online Bachelor’s Degree in Management

Real Estate Finance in an Economy That’s Bouncing Back



BLS — Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents

NAR — About NAR

O*NET — Summary Report for Real Estate Brokers