There are a lot of specific and complex terms in the real estate world.  But few may be more confusing or misused than the titles of the professionals that help you sell and buy.  Along your journey of buying or selling your home you’ll meet a lot of different people.  The lines of the services they provide can blur, and it’s easy to interchange their roles.  So what is the difference between a real estate agent, a REALTOR®, and a broker? 

Real Estate Agent

A real estate agent is anyone with a real estate license. State requirements will vary across the country. In Louisiana, agents have to complete 90 hours of mandated curriculum and pass an exam and background check in order to qualify for a license. The license is issued by the Louisiana Real Estate Commission (LREC) and gives the holder the ability to transact property.  Agents cannot work independently, they must work under the supervision of a real estate broker. Agents are required to take 12 hours of continuing education and pay to renew their license annually. Real estate agents adhere to real estate license law and rules.


REALTOR® is a trademarked term for an agent that is a member of the National Association of REALTORS®, the largest trade association in the nation. By joining the national association, REALTORS® also belong to their state association and in some cases a local association. REALTORS® are still regulated by the licensing board and also adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and higher moral standard. These professional standards separate REALTORS® from real estate agents. REALTORS® advocate for consumer property rights and protect homeownership. Their knowledge and education goes beyond the license requirements and they can earn specialized designations and certifications in specific areas of practice to better serve their clients. In addition to continuing education hours, REALTORS® must complete Code of Ethics training every 2 years.


A real estate broker is a real estate agent who pursues a higher level of licensing after working in the industry. In Louisiana, agents have to complete 150 hours of mandated curriculum and hold the salesperson license for at least 4 years prior to applying as a broker. Brokers have the option to then work independently or hire agents that work under their supervision. If agents work under them, they are responsible for behavior, performance, and legal compliance. Some brokers provide training and other resources and also handle earnest money deposits and establish escrow accounts. Brokers have to complete 12 hours of continuing education annually and in 2017, LREC has required brokers take a mandatory broker responsibilities course.