Become an Auctioneer
How do you learn the auction business?
Many auctioneers got their start working as a clerk or bid caller for the family auction business. Some NAA members now run businesses that have been in their family for two or three consecutive generations. Many auction companies continue to be family-held endeavors, with extended family members helping organize and staff sales.
If you haven’t been involved in a family auction business, there are two other ways to learn the trade.
- First, there are dozens of auction schools and programs, either independent institutions or programs that are affiliated with a community or four-year college. Schooling can last for a couple weeks or as long as a college semester. You can expect to learn the trademark auctioneer chant, how to market your services and sales and how to get started in the auction business. The NAA has developed a growing list of auction schools from across North America.
- A second option is to gain practical experience as an apprentice under an experienced auctioneer. Apprentice auctioneers assist in organizing and running sales, and learn many of the crucial day-to-day operations of running an auction business.
Either option also includes holding a high school diploma or a GED. Some auctioneers find completing some additional education, either through a local community college or four-year institution, helpful.
Your choice of education could largely depend upon the licensing requirements for auctioneers in your state. Many states that require licensing for auctioneers only accept educational credit from specific auction schools or programs. Often licensing boards will waive the educational credits if an applicant served as an apprenticeship under a licensed auctioneer. Required apprenticeships can range in length from conducting a few auctions under an auctioneer’s guidance to one or more years. Call your state government offices to determine if your state has auctioneer licensing laws and educational requirements.
What a Auctioneer Does / Schools / Licensing
The most common public perception of an auctioneer is that of a man or woman, holding a gavel, spitting out a torrent of words and yelling “Sold!” as one lot after another crosses the auction block.
The chant, that often-indecipherable string of words, is a crucial, but minor aspect of an auctioneer’s job. From the moment they’ve been contracted, an auctioneer fills several roles: office manager, public relations manager, accountant, traffic coordinator and janitor to name a few.
The single most important role an auctioneer takes on is that of marketing expert. Auctioneers are adept at marketing a client’s property through the appropriate media and reach a specific audience. In large part, their livelihood depends upon being able to attract those individuals most interested, and therefore, most willing to buy a particular item. The ability to market auctions and merchandise effectively comes from an intimate knowledge of the specific types of merchandise, its value, the demand for such merchandise, and the targeted market.
Beyond being able to juggle a number of duties, the prospective auctioneer needs to be personable and work well with a variety of people. During the course of organizing a sale, the auctioneer consults with the seller, field questions from potential buyers and, on occasion, mediates disputes.
The majority of auction companies are independent ventures, although there are some larger regional and national auction houses. Building and maintaining an auction business can be time-consuming endeavor, with dozens of hours of preparation for every hour of the actual sale. Auctioneers often call on family members to help handle sale logistics and staff auctions.
In addition to long hours, an auctioneer’s annual income depends upon the effort and time devoted to the business. There are auctioneers who have become wealthy after establishing their business. But, often, beginning auctioneers get their start working as a part-time auctioneer and holding down another job. Like any business venture, the return in income is largely dependent upon the amount of time and effort spent making a go of the business.
Like many professions, auctioneers may need a professional license to conduct business in a particular state. Currently, 27 states require auctioneers to hold a professional license.
Licensure requirements vary from state to state, from simply registering and paying fees to more exacting educational requirements and professional standards. In general, states that have licensing laws require applicants:
- Have a high school diploma or GED;
- Complete a course of study at a state approved auction school or program, or complete an apprenticeship under a state-licensed auctioneer;
- Pass a written exam and a criminal background check;
- Submit fees to a state recovery fund or hold a bond; and
- Complete a determined number of hours of continuing education during the licensing period.
- Many auctioneers conduct sales in more than one state. Many states, through reciprocity agreements, allow auctioneers with licenses in other states to conduct sales there. Reciprocity agreements are reached when two states have similar licensing requirements for auctioneers.
- There are additional statutory requirements auctioneers must meet depending upon the commodities they specialize in. For example, all 50 states require real estate transactions be handled by a licensed realtor.
- Auctioneers must also meet the licensing requirements for realtors in order to handle all aspects of a real estate sale.
Finally, city and county governments can require auctioneers to apply for a permit or local license before conducting an auction.
At the present time Utah does not have a state licensing law but the auctions are controlled by the local city and county governments. For more information please contact a member of the Utah Auctioneers Association.