There are many terms used to describe licensed real estate professionals. Real estate broker and REALTOR® are two terms that are often used interchangeably, though they are not the same thing. It is good to know the difference when finding a professional to work with for your real estate needs.
Here in Colorado, a licensed real estate broker must complete 168 hours of licensing education that is approved by the Colorado Real Estate Commission. Once this is completed, the real estate school that the prospective licensee attended will provide a certificate (REC 33) that confirms this. Then the state and national exams must be passed in order for the prospective licensee to apply for their license. Once the license is received, the licensee is able to find a brokerage to work for. At a minimum, a new broker must be highly supervised for two years under a managing broker. Another term you’ll see is broker associate. This is the title given to a real estate broker, new or experienced, that chooses to work under the authority of another broker.
A real estate broker, then, is someone who is licensed to practice real estate. They are governed by the Division of Real Estate and must abide by the statutes regarding real estate practice.
A REALTOR® is a real estate broker that has chosen to join the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). With this, a REALTOR® voluntarily submits themselves to a higher standard of conduct as stipulated in the Code of Ethics. The Code of Ethics promotes a standard of professionalism for how REALTORS conduct business with the public and with other REALTORS® and real estate brokers. REALTORS can also be held accountable for their actions by NAR which gives additional protection to consumers if they are not treated professionally. While REALTORS® and real estate brokers are both governed by the law, REALTORS® are governed by a code of ethics as well.