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In the United States, there are commonly two levels of real estate professionals licensed by the individual states but not by the federal government:
Real estate salesperson
When a person first becomes licensed to become a real estate agent, they obtain a real estate salesperson's license (some states use the term "broker") from the state in which s/he will practice. To obtain a real estate license, the candidate must take specific coursework (between 40 and 120 hours) and pass a state exam on real estate law and practice. To work, salespersons must be associated with (and act under the authority of) a real estate broker. In Delaware, for example, the licensing course requires the candidate to take 99 classroom hours in order to qualify to sit for the state and national examination. In Ohio, a license candidate must complete 120 hours of classroom education. Each successive year thereafter, the license holder must participate in continuing education in order to remain abreast of state and national changes.
Many states also have reciprocal agreements with other states, allowing a licensed individual from a qualified state to take the second state's exam without completing the course requirements or, in some cases, take only a state law exam.
Real estate broker
After gaining some years of experience in real estate sales, a salesperson may decide to become licensed as a real estate broker (or Principal/qualifying broker) in order to own, manage, or operate their own brokerage. In addition, some states allow college graduates to apply for a broker's license without years of experience. College graduates fall into this category once they have completed the state-required courses as well. California allows licensed attorneys to become brokers upon passing the broker exam without having to take the requisite courses required of an agent. Commonly more course work and a broker's state exam on real estate law must be passed. Upon obtaining a broker's license, a real estate agent may continue to work for another broker in a similar capacity as before (often referred to as a broker associate or associate broker) or take charge of his/her own brokerage and hire other salespersons (or broker) licensees. Becoming a branch office manager may or may not require a broker's license. Some states allow licensed attorneys to become real estate brokers without taking any exam. In some states, there are no "salespeople" as all licensees are brokers.