REALTOR® vs Real Estate Agent: What’s the Difference?

Blog, Real Estate

Many use the terms “real estate agent” and “REALTOR®” interchangeably. Even though real estate agents and REALTORS® perform the same basic duties – helping clients with real estate transactions – there is a difference between the two titles. Here’s what you need to know about becoming a REALTOR vs real estate agent.

Key Takeaways:

  • All REALTORS® are real estate agents, but not all agents are REALTORS®.
  • REALTORS® are members of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and adhere to its Code of Ethics.

What Is a REALTOR® vs Real Estate Agent?

All REALTORS® are real estate agents, meaning they have completed the required real estate coursework and are licensed by the state to help clients with real estate transactions.

However, licensed real estate agents may also become members of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). By joining this organization and passing the NAR Code of Ethics, those real estate agents earn the right to call themselves REALTORS®. The term is a registered trademark of the NAR.

So besides being responsible for staying up to date on their real estate license, REALTORS® must also pass an additional NAR course every four years, which focuses on financial and business ethics.

Even though many would say that the terms “REALTOR®” and “real estate agent” are interchangeable – just as Kleenex® and facial tissue – REALTORS® have a slightly higher standard for certification.

Does this mean that real estate agents who are not members of the NAR aren’t trustworthy? Certainly not! However, they aren’t required to take this additional training NAR requires.

Benefits of Being a REALTOR vs Real Estate Agent

You’ll have to choose whether to become a REALTOR® by joining the NAR. Some benefits come with joining this professional organization. Consider the following:

  • Joining the NAR demonstrates your commitment to always acting in your client’s best interest.
  • Becoming a certified REALTOR® can help you establish authority and credibility in the industry and your community.
  • Being a REALTOR® means you are a member of the largest trade organization in the U.S. The organization lobbies on behalf of the industry.
  • Joining the NAR enables you to connect with like-minded professionals in your city or state.
  • Becoming a REALTOR® will give you access to industry data and discounts on insurance, technology, and other helpful resources.

A real estate agent must pay dues to become a member of the NAR. However, these dues may be considered a business expense.

How much do REALTORS® make?

The median gross income of REALTORS® is $54,300 according to the 2022 NAR Member Profile. However, it’s worth noting that REALTORS® who work more than 60 hours per week earn an average of $144,400. It’s known in the industry that putting in longer hours and staying with the profession yields high rewards.

What Is A Real Estate Agent?

Like REALTORS®, real estate agents must meet specific legal and educational standards in the states where they practice, which enables them to oversee real estate transactions for their clients. In most states, real estate agents must complete relevant coursework and pass criminal background checks. To become a real estate agent in the state of Ohio, you must:

  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Have no felony convictions
  • Hold a high school diploma or equivalent
  • Complete 120 hours of real estate coursework
  • Be sponsored by an Ohio Broker
  • Be honest and truthful
  • Pass the state and national portions of the Ohio real estate salesperson exam

Again, REALTORS® must meet the same legal and educational standards as real estate agents. However, they must pass the NAR Code of Ethics course. Please note that plenty of good real estate agents hold themselves to the same (or higher) ethical standards as REALTORS®. However, they are not required to take additional training on ethical business practices.

Benefits of Being a Real Estate Agent

Becoming a real estate agent can have many benefits. You can quickly establish your own business, use your creativity to market your services, and create a flexible schedule that fits your lifestyle. Many people are drawn to the industry for these reasons – and the unlimited income potential that is part of the profession.

How much do real estate agents make?

The average salary of a real estate agent vs REALTOR® is difficult to pin down. However, Colibri Real Estate’s recently published Real Estate Income Guide confirms that longer hours lead to higher pay. The report also shows that the average real estate agent salary - for those with 26 years of experience (or more) is $148,639. Putting in the hours and establishing a loyal client base pays off when working in the industry!

If you want to become a real estate agent or REALTOR®, you deserve to start your career with the best education possible. The prelicensing course packages offered by Hondros College are customized for students getting their real estate license in Ohio. Hondros College offers in-person, livestream, and online courses. Enroll today and learn why over one million students have chosen Hondros College as their real estate school.


“Membership.”, May 9, 2017.

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