General Real Estate, Real Estate

Starting a Real Estate Appraisal Career

The steps to become a real estate appraiser differ from state to state, but the general idea is still the same.

1.Research your state’s requirements to become an appraiser trainee (title might vary). Most require some basic classes before you can apply for a trainee license, such as basic appraisal procedures and basic appraisal principles, and a USPAP class. The Appraisal Institute provides these classes in class and online.


2.Take those required classes through an approved organization such as the Appraisal Institute. Online business schools provide such classes, but they are there to churn a profit, not to reinforce your education. Expect to pay $900 – $1500 for all of the classes.


3.After obtaining a trainee license, get the required hours to become fully licensed. Check your state requirements on how many hours are needed and how the log is recorded. A licensed/certified appraiser needs to sign off and verify your work hours. Most states require a minimum/maximum set of years to complete. For Example: Washington State requirement for a Certified Appraiser is 2,500 hours in no less than two years, but less than five years.


4.When you are a trainee, as your work on your experience hours also take classes necessary for the corresponding license. Classes are typically located throughout the nation and throughout the year, and some can be taken online. Constantly check classes through organizations such as the Appraisal Institute or Association of Independent Fee Appraisers.


5.When you have completed your hours and taken your required classes, its test time. Follow the directions of the state to submit your proof of schooling and signed log. Most states outline the topics and theories you should be familiar with when taking the test. Go over your previous class notes and study hard.




  • There are typically three levels of appraisal licenses. Licensed Residential, Certified Residential, and Certified General. Generally speaking Licensed Residential is only residential and there are limits on property types and values. Certified Residential is only residential, but with greater property types and values. Certified General allows the valuation of most types of properties, including commercial and industrial.


  • Talk to other appraisers. Actual conversations with a few appraisers will give you different perspectives about the industry and how to get started. Contact them by phone or by email. Find out how they started and ask for any advice.


  • Keep up on your log and check with your state’s requirement frequently. In my time as an appraiser trainee two major changes happened in my state that could have been a huge set back had I not checked often.


  • In some areas having a license in two or more states is common. There are two ways to do this: fulfill the two state’s requirements at the same time; or get licensed in one state and then just take the test in another.




Do not pay for any kind of software. Software is necessary for appraisers, but not for someone just starting out. You’ll be working under someone else’s supervision for at least two years. You are their employee; you do not need to own your own software.


Do not pay to shadow an appraiser. There are appraisers taking advantage of the necessary required hours to become a certified appraiser, but it shouldn’t be at a cost.


I’ve known people who thought it would be easy to be a real estate appraiser. They thought it was easy money, because it looked like an appraiser spent maybe an hour at a house, take a few notes and make $400. Keep in mind 90% of an appraiser’s work is done in the office researching, making phone calls, and writing reports