I've had mine for a long time. In NY you have to take and pass the initial course and then the state tests. Laws vary by state so the process does as well.
There were definitely people who failed both and there are a lot of people who get into it thinking it will be easy or being involved part-time they can still make a lot. Unless you have an enormous built-in network of contacts, it can be very difficult. Clients don't just come from nowhere.
The market in my metro is very solid overall, it slows down here in the winters no matter what due to the weather but activity has remained very strong.
I don't rely on articles or national statistics but in certain areas, investors can and have been really taken advantage of prices + rates:http://homes.yahoo.com/news/the-best-cities-in-america-for-flipping-a-house.html