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What’s the Difference between a Real Estate Agent, Real Estate Broker, and a Realtor®?

What’s the Difference between a Real Estate Agent, Real Estate Broker, and a Realtor®?

You’ve likely heard all of these terms before and have wondered if they can be used interchangeably. Realtor.com breaks it down this way:

Real estate agent- “someone who has a professional real estate license to help people buy, sell, or rent all sorts of housing and real estate.” 

“To get that license, states generally have education requirements, which include pre licensing training.” These requirements vary from state to state. To earn their license, agents must pass a written exam. 


Real Estate Broker- “A real estate broker is someone who has taken education beyond the agent level as required by state laws and passed a broker’s license exam.”

“Similar to real estate agent exams, each state sets its own broker education and exam requirements.” A certain amount of experience is necessary to take the broker’s exam.  In Pennsylvania, that’s a minimum of 3 years, a specific number of closed transactions and an additional requirement of 240 hours of education.

On top of that, there are 3 different types of brokers. Principal/designated broker, managing broker, and associate broker.  

Realtor- This one’s pretty straightforward. “In the real estate industry, in order to become a Realtor—a licensed agent with the ability to use that widely respected title—an agent needs to be a member of the National Association of Realtors®. As a member, a person subscribes to the standards of the association and its code of ethics.”


Beyond those titles, a Realtor® can also earn designations and certifications through the National Association of Realtors (NAR). These are the acronyms listed after a Realtor’s name, such as CMS, CCIM, etc.

NAR provides “provide a wide range of programs and services that help members increase their skills, proficiency, and knowledge…Real estate designations and certifications through NAR are specialized credentials for REALTORS®.”

What’s the difference between a designation and certification? A Realtor pays annual dues for a designation, where as a certification only requires an application fee. 

Here are a few examples of designations an agent can earn:

And some examples of certifications:

You can read more about the designations and certifications by going to NAR’s article here.


Fun fact, Jason earned his Associates Broker’s license in 2007, and has these designations/certifications:

e-Pro, Real Estate Negotiation Expert, At Home With Diversity, Certified Marketing Specialist, is a LGBTQA Real Estate Alliance Certified Ally and is C2EX Endorsed by the National Association of Realtors. 


Looking to buy or sell in Central PA? We can help ! Reach us at (717) 371-0557


Your Friends in Real Estate, Jason Burkholder Real Estate Team


Jason Burkholder

Kelly Burkholder

Adam High

Jaci Hoosier

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