Many people unfamiliar with the real estate industry use the terms real estate agent, broker and realtor interchangeably. There are differences between the three titles, however, the most important being the services each real estate professional offers to those in need of real estate services.
A real estate agent is a real estate professional who has taken and passed all required real estate classes and passed the real estate licensing exam in the state in which he or she intends to work. It is the most encompassing of the titles, since it is the starting point for most real estate professionals. Agents are also referred to as real estate associates.
A realtor is a real estate agent who is a member of the National Association of Realtors. To become a member, a
real estate agent has to agree to abide by the association's standards and uphold the code of ethics.
A real estate broker has continued his or her education past the real estate agent level and passed the real estate broker license. Real estate brokers can work as independent real estate agents or have other agents working for them.
The biggest distinction between the three is that a broker can work on his or her own, while an agent or associate has to work under a licensed broker. A hybrid position, referred to as a real estate associate broker, is an agent who is working toward achieving a broker's license. Associate brokers have to work under a licensed broker but many share in the brokerage profits above and beyond the usual agent commission.