A real estate BROKER is licensed to conduct a real estate transaction between a Buyer and a Seller and must be present in every transaction where real estate agents are involved. Most frequently, this person is the head of the real estate office where the agents work.
A real estate AGENT is a professional with a license that must be sponsored by a real estate broker. They are the people that you as a consumer will encounter in the transaction. They work for the real estate broker, and can not complete a real estate transaction without the broker’s oversight.
This creates an apprenticeship in the industry. In most states, a newly licensed professional must work for a broker for a certain number of years before they can qualify to become a broker themselves.
There are also many very experienced agents who have never chosen to pursue a broker’s license. They like working “in the field” as real estate agents, rather than running an office as a broker. They can be very experienced and may have amassed as much or more real estate knowledge than the broker that they work for, but prefer the job of working directly with Buyers and Sellers to that of an office administrator.
So to make a long story short, the broker is the person that runs the real estate office. The agents are the people who work directly with the consumers in the transaction.
Finally, there are some people who are licensed as Brokers, but still perform the role of an agent. This is usually the result of a preference for field vs. office work – at least that is the case with me.