I'm starting to take courses for the real estate license examination, for knowledge, but I am not entirely interested in exactly being an agent. Do you think I need to take the exam/obtain the credential to start investing?
No. You don't need a real estate license to be an investor.
It would actually cost you money to hold a license and not actually use it.
To get access to the local MLS, you have to pay money to the local Realtor board. Near me, it's around $700 per year. Plus ongoing data access to the MLS each month (about $30). You have to hang your license with a local broker in order to get that access, so you would have to pay a technology fee each month. And you would also have to do 22.5 continuing ed courses every 2 years, so more money out of pocket.
And there are fees for the state license every time you renew.
There isn't anything preventing you from buying and selling your own real estate as an investor without a license.
@Jen Nguyen You don't need a RE license to be an investor. Or in other words, 99% of the RE investors are not RE agents :)
You don't need the exam to develop credibility. The exam is a license that allows you to operate in a certain market similar to licenses by securities brokers, attorneys, physicians, plumbers, barbers and the like. A practitioner's level of competence is not always linked to their qualifications.
@Jen Nguyen I became a real estate agent so that I could pay myself when I buy houses. Although you don't need your license to invest it has helped me a lot by obtaining it. Having it allows me to not only to buy, sell and pay myself but it helps us on our taxes since we are investors (ask your CPA about being a "real estate professional"), allows us to view homes when we want, I can lease property in my state and it allows me to be a property manager. All in all though you don't need it. Depends on if the cost and time are going to be worth it for you. Good luck!
HI @Jen Nguyen I was in the same boat as you, never really wanted to be an agent but just figured I would get the license. I can tell you that what @Christopher Phillips says is true, it starts to feel like a very unnecessary cost to maintain it if you're not actively using it.
I know some investors are able to utilize their license to save themselves money, but unless that's your plan I don't know how useful it is.
Oh and as far as the knowledge and education goes, the main thing that I learned while studying for the test...was how to pass the test. A few interesting tidbits here and there but it is definitely not geared towards investors.
The investing education available here on BP and in good books will give you all the preparation you need in my opinion.
What kind of investing are you interested in?