AEs Love What They Do

RAE’s Job Satisfaction Survey finds most association executives hope to stay with the REALTOR® organization for their entire career. Here’s why.

Surveys of American workers consistently find job satisfaction hovering around 50 percent. That means about half the people you know like their jobs. But if you narrow that group down to just REALTOR® association executives, then the number rockets to 91 percent.

Most AEs, according to a survey conducted by REALTOR® AE in December, are “very satisfied” with their work. They mostly like the variety of their work responsibilities and say that their salary and benefits package meets expectations. AEs surveyed said NAR provides adequate resources and training for being a successful REALTOR® AE, ranking the AE Institute as the top resource.

What keeps you at your job?

Many of the survey respondents who said that being an AE is their life’s career are nearing retirement, having been an AE for 20 or more years. One comment summarized the typical responses: “I’m very passionate about and dedicated to what I do. I love being an AE (most days).”

The respondents who said being an AE is a stepping stone to another career offered responses such as: “I really enjoy my job but if a more lucrative opportunity arose that made sense, I would jump at that opportunity.” The two AEs** who admitted their job isn’t what they’d like to be doing right now cited burnout and frustration with “leading a group that does not want to belong.”

What do you like most about your job?

Survey respondents were asked to pick from these options:

  • The variety of my work responsibilities: 44%
  • Leading the organization (determining its future and guiding my staff): 34%
  • Contributing to the success of REALTORS®’ businesses: 11%
  • Interacting with the membership: 6%
  • Working with the volunteer leaders: 4%

AEs also elaborated on what they like most about their job, with many saying they loved all of the above. Others said they truly admire their volunteers: “I have a soft spot for working with REALTOR® volunteers. They are amazing and I genuinely feel part of the REALTOR® family.”

Do you have access to enough REALTOR® AE-specific professional development and training?

Most AEs (75%) said NAR provides adequate training on how to be an AE (11% weren’t sure and 8% indicated inadequate resources). The survey also asked AEs to rate various NAR resources for their usefulness as tools for learning how to be a better AE and better manage their REALTOR® association.

Most AEs said the AE Institute is either a great (63%) or a good (18%) resource; NAR staff is also highly ranked as either a great (55%) or a good (30%) resource. Most AEs said (including its various toolkits, guides, and databases) was a good (46%) resource, with 34% indicating that it’s a great resource. AEs indicated that REALTOR® AE magazine is mostly a good (48%) resource; 34% said it’s a great resource. The Internal News Service was viewed as mostly a good (45%) resource, with 29% saying great and 18% saying fair. The AE Committee and AE work groups were mostly viewed as a good or great resource, with 15% of AEs indicating they had not used this resource.

What would make you more satisfied with your job?

Survey responses to this question were broad, but three were mentioned often: Leadership that understands and appreciates the role of the AE, leadership that has more training for the positions they hold, and higher pay. One respondent said: “I find that select members don’t understand that we are a membership organization: that they do not ‘own’ us and we are not their employees.” Another AE said his job would be easier if his association could “attract high-level firm managers and owners onto the board—REALTORS® who know how to run a business.”

Salary expectations

AEs’ annual salaries as reported in this survey ranged widely. The largest group (22%) reported a salary and benefits package above $120K annually; 17% indicated a $60K – $79K salary; 16% reported a $20K – $39K salary; 14% reported $80K – $99K; 13% reported $100K – 119K; 11% reported $40K – $59K; and 7% reported an annual salary below $20K. Please keep in mind the specific duties of an association executive, hours worked, demographics, and membership and staffing sizes vary widely. For a more thorough survey on AE compensation, see the 2014 Local Association Compensation Profile Survey online at

Career history

Before becoming an AE, most survey respondents (57%) indicated they had management or supervisory roles; 24% had executive or business-owner level roles; 14% held entry-level or administration roles; 3% were unemployed for an extended period of time; 1% were students; and 1% had been retired.

Where (besides NAR resources) do you look for career guidance or management education?

To become the best AEs they can and stay at the top of their game, survey respondents cited these resources for continuing education and guidance:

  • ASAE (American Society of Association Executives) meetings, webinars, publications
  • Local university and college workshops
  • Books and publications about the nonprofit world, technology, management, HR
  • Local Chamber of Commerce
  • Other AEs
  • Community involvement
  • Career coaches and association consultants

What do you dislike most about being an AE?

Most AE surveyed (40%) indicated that the “structure of a membership organization (bylaws, committees, board of directors, etc.)” was what they disliked most about their jobs. A few respondents added that the structure of their organization slowed down the decision-making process, which often led to missed opportunities.

In second place among dislikes (33%) was the “lack of growth/advancement opportunity.” A common reply among the respondents was: “Once you hit this level, your options are limited unless you look outside the industry.” Slightly more than 13% of respondents indicated that “working with the volunteer leaders” was what they dislike most about their jobs, yet their written-in comments indicated that working with “difficult” volunteer leaders led them to choose this answer. One AE said: “I dislike working with volunteers who have no vision or motivation toward the success of the organization and are only out for their own personal agendas or vendettas.”

In fourth place on the dislike list was working with members, but again, judging from the comments, some members are a joy and others are a challenge. One AE summed it up this way: “While the majority of our members are great, we have seen a dramatic surge in the number of part-time agents and others who are not serious about the business of real estate. These members make it difficult for us to keep up the high standards and do not help to enhance the professionalism of the REALTOR® brand. These members drain the staff resources and work against the majority of the members who want to provide the best service to their clients.”

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