Residential CA licensing: AT (Trainee license) AL (Licensed) AR (Certified license) One of the biggest hurdles is finding someone to train you the right way. Downward pressure on fee's has created a problem for the mentor-trainee relationship. In years past, trainees would get roughly 20-30% of the total fee of the appraisal. When they became licensed, the split usually increased to 40%, or the newly licensed person went out on their own, and in CA was allowed to complete non complex assignments under their own AL license. It was not uncommon for AL license levels to run their own companies, and many who had been appraising for years never went the additional step to test for the Certified license. However, in this climate, very few lenders and AMC's (appraisal management companies) will accept reports from AL appraisers anymore since their underwriting guidelines require a certified appraiser even for non complex assignments. There were no college educational requirements to become an appraiser in years past, other than the required coursework by the State. Recently those requirements changed, and to become a certified, appraisers are required to have Associate degrees. From what I understand, as of 2013, entry into the profession will be contingent on a bachelor’s degree. (My colleagues will correct me if I am wrong on this issue.) Let's say you found a mentor to train you. You need to take and pass the trainee license exam. Then you need to work under that mentor until you reach the required 2000 hours to test for your AL license level. Typically that takes about 3 years of being trained and working under your mentor for a flat fee or fee split. After you receive your AL license, you will then need to accrue 500 hours to test for your AR (certified license). Other appraisers I have spoken too said in years past it took them roughly 3-4 years before they were able to test for their AR. Finding a mentor that has enough clients which pay a decent fee is going to be difficult. My opinion of a decent fee for a non complex standard property is $375-$400. Unfortunately due to the current economic climate and mortgage melt down, those fees are few and far between. If you read other categories on the forum, you will see that many appraisers are being forced to accept fees from appraisal management companies which can range between $175-$250. Let’s say your mentor gives you 30% of the fee which is let’s say $200. 30% of $200 is $60. Of that $60, you are going to have to pay for the cost of wear and tear on your car and gas driving to the subject property, as well as driving and photographing 5-8 of the comparable properties. Then you will have to go back to the office and sit to write the report which can typically take anywhere from 6-10 hours depending upon complexity. As a trainee, it may take you even longer. Then if you a decent mentor (like I did), your mentor will sit with you and review your report, explaining everything you did incorrectly, or didn’t know to include based on the property and neighborhood. In the beginning, this can take a few hours of you and your mentors time. Then you have to pay tax on that $60 fee, and often times you are paying the cost of the software which you need to complete the report. Roughtly, one report will take you 1-2 days for $60, and you will not receive any type of benefits. When you consider that you can go work at Starbucks and earn more than $60 per day as well as tips, and if you work 20 hours per week, you get full medical, dental and vision, as well as stock, Starbucks could be the better choice. I just had an AL call me the other day and tell me when she did her taxes, that she made less in 2011 than she did in 2010 working for the same mentor, even though she did more appraisals in 2011 than she did in 2010. She has been in the field for 5-6 years now trying desperately to get enough hours to take her licensing exams in hopes of someday making some decent money for her family. She is feeling extremely discouraged, and said that she feels as though she has invested more money trying to BE an appraiser, than what she has earned being an appraiser. She has been considering changing gears because she just feels that even if she does get her AR, there isn’t much future in the job anymore. Best of luck to you in whatever you decide.