ATLANTA - Kevin Dilbert has been working in private security for 10 years. He's getting burnt out on the long hours, the inflexible schedule. For now, he's keeping his day job. But on the side, he's training to become a real estate agent.

As the housing market goes up, up, up, so does the number of people who hope to ride the wave.

"We have seen a huge influx of new people coming in the business," says Rebecca Fletcher, director at the Georgia Institute of Real Estate. "They're reading articles about how good real estate is. There's a lot of frenzy. They have decided to get in."

Before students decided to get in, plenty got out. The number of people with real estate licenses in the state - a category that includes sales agents and brokers - is 82,400, down 22 percent since 2006, according to Craig Coffee, deputy commissioner at the Georgia Real Estate Commission

Many who were inactive are now restarting their businesses, says Bob Hart, director of education for the Georgia MLS Training Institute.

Not everyone who gets a real estate license intends to use it to sell homes, says Christopher Burell, director of career services at Harry Norman Realtors. The lure of real estate, he says, is the ability to have more control over one's own financial returns.

Pame Childress Hewitt, director of the Barney Fletcher Schools, says she expects to have twice the increase in students in 2014 as she did in 2013.

"'It's definitely picking up, without a doubt," Childress Hewitt says. "It's a lot to do with the economy ... When real estate starts to rise, education follows."

But the industry can be difficult to break into. Tripp Anderson, who has been teaching since 1989, says student caliber has begun to slip as the housing market has improved. The barrier to entry is low, with classes costing $500 or less, and the educational timeframe short. Hart says many students don't realize the amount of work that goes into building their businesses.

Martha Barrera, a project manager for an investor who has been flipping homes, takes Anderson's class at the GIRE.

"'It's been challenging," she says. "It's definitely more detailed than I expected."

In Anderson's classroom, more than 30 students took notes from an overhead projector and answered questions about why a home's cost per square foot is higher on the ground floor than the second (because the kitchen is the most expensive room in a house) or what happens if an appraisal is less than the agreed-upon sales price (the buyer can pay the difference out of pocket, or terminate the contract).

Many of the students Anderson teaches see real estate as a way to make a lot of money very quickly, he says. While that can happen, it is not typical.

"They have unrealistic expectations," he says.

Arielle Kass writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. E-mail: akass(at)ajc.com.

By ALEX VEIGA

AP Real Estate Writer

U.S. homebuilders' confidence in the housing market edged higher in March, reflecting improved demand for new homes as the traditional spring home-selling season ramps up.

But the outlook for sales of single-family homes over the next six months dimmed slightly as builders continue to grapple with a shortage of skilled workers, ready-to-build land and rising building materials costs.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Monday rose to 47. That's up from February's reading of 46. Readings below 50 indicate that more builders view sales conditions as poor rather than good.

The overall index had been above 50 from June through January, reflecting a strengthening housing market. The latest reading, based on responses from 296 builders, comes as the spring home-selling season gets going. The season typically sets the pattern for residential hiring and building construction in the ensuing months.

A surprisingly strong pace of new-home sales in January boosted hopes that the spring buying season will be solid enough to lift the overall economy. Sales jumped 9.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 468,000. That's the fastest pace in more than five years. The strength in purchases followed a slowdown that had been linked to higher mortgage rates and severe winter weather.

Despite the sharp increase in sales of new homes in January, many builders are having trouble finding skilled workers and land parcels cleared for new construction.

"A number of factors are raising builder concerns over meeting demand for the spring buying season," says David Crowe, the home builders association's chief economist. "These include a shortage of buildable lots and skilled workers, rising materials prices and an extremely low inventory of new homes for sale."

Those factors and the lingering impact of severe winter weather weighed on a survey of builders' expectations for sales over the next six months. The March reading fell one point to 53, the lowest level since May.

Even so, builders' view of current sales conditions for single-family homes rose one point this month to 52, while a measure of traffic by prospective buyers increased two points to 33.

Housing, while still a long way from the boom of several years ago, has been recovering over the past two years. Residential construction has grown at double-digit rates over the past two years and contributed about one-third of a percentage point to overall economic growth last year.

Many economists predict that sales of both new and existing homes will rise in 2014, lifted by an improving economy and steady job growth.Though new homes represent only a fraction of the housing market, they have an outsize impact on the economy. Each home built creates an average of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in tax revenue, according to data from the homebuilders association.

In the Charleston area, a recent new-homes report echoed the bullishness of the national home building industry.

Single-family permits and new-home sales both experienced steady increases through 2013, according to the Charleston New Homes Snapshot unveiled by Carolina One New Homes and Real Estate Information Service last month.

Strong permit activity is considered a sign of builder confidence, says Will Jenkinson, broker-in-charge of Carolina One New Homes. He says that new-home closings are up 38 percent in the past two years, and such totals are expected to increase in the next few years as new developments take shape. New-home sales last year accounted for nearly one-quarter of all closings in metro Charleston, according to the report.

Jenkinson acknowledges that the Lowcountry faces shortages of developed lots. But development activity, he says, has returned to pre-recession levels.