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

As you begin your real estate career journey, there’s probably a number of terms you’ve come across that may have made the process incredibly confusing. Terms like real estate agent and REALTOR® are commonly misused, and you may be wondering what the difference is and which is the right license for you. 

As a real estate professional, it’s important to know the difference between these terms, not just from a licensing standpoint, but so you can advertise yourself correctly and deliver on clients’ expectations. Our helpful term guide below will give you the insight you need to start your new real estate career with confidence. 

Real Estate Agent

In the Real Estate Industry, most agents start their careers here. A real estate agent is a licensed professional that helps clients buy, sell or rent real estate, and licensing requirements vary from state to state. Real estate agents cannot work independently, and need a sponsoring brokerage firm or broker to hang their license with. 

Key Responsibilities: As a licensed agent, your number one priority is to represent your client and lookout for their best interest. Whether your client is buying or selling, you will help them find suitable properties or clients and negotiate pricing on their behalf. Whether you’re a buyers agent, a listing agent, or dual agent the tasks you perform on a daily basis vary significantly, but your end goal is always to provide the best possible outcome for your clients. 


A REALTOR® is any licensed real estate professional who becomes a member of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR’s). Meaning, members must comply with NAR’s unbending Code of Ethics. A REALTOR® can be a licensed real estate agent, broker, or another type of real estate professional, BUT not all agents or brokers are REALTORS®.

The title of REALTOR® comes with a lot of respect in the industry, and gives real estate professionals access to transaction management services, data on the real estate market, and other benefits. In turn, REALTORS® are expected to run their operation honestly and transparently.

Fun Facts: 

  1. The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) was established on May 13, 1908. NAR today boasts over 1.4 million members nationwide.
  1. Often people confuse the pronunciation of REALTOR®, the correct pronunciation is Real-tore not Real-uh-ter.

Want to get your Real Estate career started on the right foot? 

Sea Coast Real Estate Academy offers dedicated courses designed to prepare you for your new career in real estate in North Carolina and South Carolina. Contact us today to get started!