I know a very little amount about NY. I never looked into it myself, but a friend did (and got his license). You will need to complete a 75 hour course (which you must pay for), then take a test and receive at least an 80 on it. At this point you will be licensed, but cannot do anything. To do anything (show properties, list properties - make money), you must be sponsored by a broker. This means that you must find a broker willing to take you on, in some capacity.
Once at the brokerage, you will have a chance to answer the phones in a circulating manner...I believe. I am not certain on this point. Basically you will take turns with the other agents, hoping to land a client, either buying or selling a home/property. It may significantly up your chances of being sponsored by a broker if you have something to bring to the table, such as a property to list for sale, either yours or a friends.
The licensing course costs a fair amount, but is not completely unreasonable, if memory serves. Real estate can be the easiest profession in the world - if you're good at it. It can also suck monkey balls. Because of the large amount of money that can be made VERY easily (read, with very little work), many, many people dabble. As such, you may go a very, very long time without a single sale/listing. You only earn commission, no salary.
You will need to be able to stay afloat financially for many months initially. It is a word of mouth business primarily. You want clients to recommend you to their friends, their co-workers, etc. As such, you build up a client base over a very long time. The first years will suck tremendously, for sure. You also need to have a nice car to drive your clients around in, and a respectable wardrobe. Appearances are important. Would you ever hire a banker dressed in tatters? Of course not. The same holds true for a realtor.
Trust me, there are good and bad realtors, just as there are good and bad lawyers. I have participated in the purchasing of a great many properties, and have worked closely with a good many realtors. All have sucked. I mean, truly SUCKED at their jobs. I fired one who had been working with me for several months. We had gone and seen a great many properties together. The problem was, I was doing all the work. I was able to access the complete area listings myself, and found the properties I was interested in. He failed to help in this department. The reason I needed a good realtor was to find properties before they hit the mainstream listing I was able to view.
Well, Mr. Sucky Realtor dropped the ball. A property came up that I would have bought, for sure. This is in a very competitive area, with a great deal of demand. I told him previously how I needed to buy NOW. He failed to alert me to this property, and it sold before I was able to go see it with him. I got another realtor and bought a house the following week. I received an angry phone call from Mr. Sucky Realtor. He wondered why he missed out on that tremendous chunk of change that he was counting on. He just couldn't cut it as a realtor. I did all the work for everything, and I missed out on the property I wanted.
Anyway, the point is, you need to think long and hard about this. It is NOT an easy career, especially initially. My friend, a super, super intelligent guy, ended up doing absolutely nothing with his license. He tried briefly, and found it was not for him. Money wasted.
Link to licensing requirements and information for NY: