There are essentially four different tiers of people you will interact with in real estate: real estate agents, realtors, real estate associate brokers, and real estate brokers.
The first tier, real estate agents, are professionals who passed the required classes and licensing exams in the state they plan to sell and buy real estate. They are required to work under a licensed broker (more on that below).
If a real estate agent wants to further his or her network, they can become a realtor, a real estate agent who is a member of the National Association of Realtors who abides by the association’s code of ethics and rules (i.e. advocating for the right to own, use, and transfer real property ethically). Overall, the main difference in realtor vs real estate agent is the membership and potentially larger network. Like real estate agents, realtors must also work with a licensed broker.
If a real estate agent or realtor wishes to continue his or her education, they can become a real estate broker, someone who can work independently, like Joe Hoppis Real Estate, or employ other agents, like Bellwether Real Estate. The biggest difference here is that a broker can work independently. Note: a real estate agent does not have to become a realtor before becoming a real estate broker
There is also a real estate associate broker who is a real estate agent working on their broker’s license. The associate is also required to work under a licensed broker but can share in profits beyond the typical agent commission (typically 6% split 50-50 between the buying and selling agents).