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Rose Hipp has been a realtor for 20 years and has seen her profession go from hot to ice cold. These days, no matter what the headlines say, her career is taking off once again.

“I work from 5 a.m. until midnight sometimes,” said the El Cajon realtor. “People start calling from the East coast looking for a condo on the beach or a place in Hillcrest, and I don’t stop until I collapse.”

Becoming a real estate agent or realtor doesn’t always lead to the American Dream, but it can come close if your dreams are reasonable.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2011, real estate agents earned a median average salary of $39,070. The best paid earned about $92,860, while the lowest-paid earned approximately $20,200. The highest earners worked in the metropolitan areas of Santa Barbara, Chicago, and Syracuse, New York.

But things are looking up for the profession.

According to U-T San Diego, this year, the median price for single-family homes in the county increased by 20 percent and rose 31 percent for condos/townhomes, when compared to the first half of 2012. Nearly 12,500 single-family homes and 4,680 attached homes were sold in the first half.

That’s a lot of commission checks.

And there should be a lot more opportunity for employment over the next few years in the real estate industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 12.2 percent job growth for real estate sales agents between 2010 and 2020, which is about as fast as average. During that time period, an additional 52,500 jobs will need to be filled.

So you can see that if you’ve been considering getting a real estate license this is the time to do it. The cost of the real estate training and the licensing fees are much less than the cost of a single semester at a traditional college.

Kaplan professional schools and Clare Institute clareinstitute.com are some great places to start earning your license in San Diego.

“I took a course at Clare and passed the exam on my first try,” said Bethany Lind of Vista. “I hooked up with a broker and I am helping out with sales and paperwork. I hope to move up soon and start selling on my own.”

To get your real estate license in any state you must be at least 18 years of age and have no undisclosed criminal record and then you will be eligible to take the real estate courses required by your state to earn a real estate license. Although the actual number of course hours needed will vary from state to state, they can usually be completed in anywhere from a couple of weeks to a few months. Online schools are also a great place to get your license: alliedschools.com and californialicense.com are a few, but there are plenty to choose from out there.

Agents work hard for their commissions, and the competition is fierce these days with bidding wars going on in every part of the county. Although many realtors quickly learned about foreclosures and short sales in the last few years, others are back to counting on San Diego real estate staying hot and the paychecks fat.

According to the online real estate school, RealEstateExpress.com, the number of people interested in careers in real estate has exploded in the past 18 months with the housing market resembling normalcy for the first time since 1997.

This career isn’t without obstacles.

“I had to get two part-time jobs because I was about to lose my own house,” Hipp said. “I won’t get caught like that again. Every time I make a sale I put half of it in a savings account. I know better than to think this bubble will never burst again, but it’s hard not to get excited by all the action out there.”

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