Business Administration

Which Schools Have the Best MBA in Real Estate Programs?

Which Schools Have the Best MBA in Real Estate Programs?
The real estate industry in the United States attracts people from many backgrounds—possibly because real estate itself is such a diverse field. Image from Unsplash
Christa Terry profile
Christa Terry June 9, 2020

You should probably only invest in an MBA in Real Estate if you can enroll in one of these top business schools. Otherwise, it may make more sense to pursue a less pricey Master of Science in Real Estate.

MBA/Business Programs You Should Consider

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Real estate may not be the most popular MBA specialization. Even so, it is certainly a valuable and promising field. Students who pursue this MBA concentration tend to be driven, passionate, and laser-focused on the money-making potential of property.

There’s definitely potential here—especially for students who earn business degrees from the top schools for MBAs; we’re talking about colleges and universities that literally make careers. Students in these programs—if they’re not recruited before graduation—typically have no trouble landing a good job after graduation. And the connections they make in the best MBA in Real Estate programs are helpful for life. Throughout their careers, graduates can tap into alumni networks and the industry contacts they cultivated at school. Add to that the fact that real estate is an important sector of economies all over the world, and you have a recipe for lifelong success no matter where you go.

The top b-school programs in property development and real estate investing aren’t hard to find. In this article about the best MBA in Real Estate programs, we cover:

  • Why do some MBA students choose real estate as a specialization?
  • What do students pursuing real estate MBAs study?
  • Which schools have the best MBA in Real Estate programs?
  • Can I earn an MBA in Real Estate online?
  • What sets the best MBA in Real Estate programs apart?
  • How much do the programs above typically cost?
  • What can you do with an MBA in Real Estate?
  • How much can you earn with this degree?
  • How can I choose the best MBA in Real Estate for me?

Why do some MBA students choose real estate as a specialization?

The real estate industry in the United States attracts people from many backgrounds—possibly because real estate itself is such a diverse field. Success in real estate can mean many different things, from buying and managing properties to funding commercial development to maintaining real estate funds.

MBA students who choose to specialize in real estate are typically looking for a broad education covering business and management fundamentals, finance, real estate, and even law. More importantly, they want to study with other people who are as passionate about the business of property as they are. They don’t want to be in a generalist MBA cohort with students who dream of joining the executive teams at Amazon or Johnson & Johnson. They don’t want to learn about finance and marketing from the perspective of a retailer or a manufacturer. But they also don’t want to enroll in a Master of Science in Real Estate (MSRE) program that’s geared toward real estate entrepreneurs and developers. When they look at property, they don’t see construction. They see money.

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What do students pursuing real estate MBAs study?

Every real estate-focused MBA program approaches this degree differently. Two-year programs tend to devote more credit hours to business and management fundamentals (especially in the first year) before diving into topics specific to real estate investment, financing, and development. Accelerated real estate MBA programs, on the other hand, tend to laser-focus on real estate concepts and to cover business topics as part of a more concentrated curriculum.

Students in the Southern Methodist University Cox School of Business’ two-year real estate MBA program, for instance, complete course work like:

  • Advanced Real Estate Finance
  • Business Strategy
  • Data to Decisions
  • Economics for Managers
  • Ethics, Integrity and Society
  • Financial Accounting
  • Integrated Company Analysis
  • Introduction to Financial Management
  • Leading and Working in Teams
  • Marketing Management
  • Operations Management
  • Real Estate and Investment
  • Real Estate Capital Markets
  • Techniques in Real Estate Valuation
  • Urban Economics

In accelerated one-year and 16-month MBA in Real Estate programs, students often spend less time studying core business concepts and more time in classes like:

  • Analyzing Buyers, Sellers, and Financiers
  • Asset Management in Real Estate
  • Commercial Real Estate Management
  • Financing Real Estate Development
  • Foundations in Real Estate Law
  • International Real Estate Law
  • Investing in Real Estate
  • Real Estate Development
  • Real Estate Market Analysis
  • Real Estate Valuation and Investment
  • Urban Development and Management

In the most robust MBA in Real Estate programs, students are given opportunities to take classes in other related disciplines—like psychology, communications, urban planning, and design—in the core curriculum and when choosing electives. These programs also typically feature one or more internships and/or a capstone project.

Which schools have the best MBA in Real Estate programs?

It probably comes as no surprised that US News & World Reports‘s list of the best real estate MBA programs is very similar to lists of the top business schools. You can find highly ranked MBA in Real Estate programs at:

Can I earn an MBA in Real Estate online?

There are 100 percent online MBA in Real Estate programs, as well as hybrid and remote part-time programs. Some of these are offered by highly-ranked colleges and universities. The following programs might be the best option for you if you need to continue working while pursuing an MBA or you have personal obligations you need to meet that make traveling to and from campus difficult.

Studying for an MBA online can mean missing out on valuable networking opportunities. The trade-off is that you’ll be able to continue working and earning money while pursuing your degree. If you currently work in real estate, you may be able to leverage what you’re learning in your classes to earn bigger bonuses or advance more quickly at your current company.

What sets the best MBA in Real Estate programs apart?

What makes certain on-campus and online MBA in Real Estate programs better than others are the ‘extras.’ You can learn about real estate development, finance, acquisitions, consulting, and investments in any program. The best ones stand out for the connections they have with top-tier real estate investment firms, their expert industry mentors, the robust career support services they offer, and their active alumni networks.

These programs also tend to offer internship placement opportunities with top investment firms and real estate companies, and their post-graduation employment rates and salary numbers reflect that. The value of an MBA lies in large part in the connections students make in school and via school, and real estate MBAs are no exception.

How much do the programs above typically cost?

Expect to spend more than $100,000 on an MBA from one of the top business schools—and that’s just tuition. An MBA from Columbia Business School, for example, will set you back about $75,000 per year in tuition, but when you factor in the cost of fees, books, supplies, and possibly also room and board, you’ll pay more than $110,000 per year.

Also, keep in mind that pursuing a full-time MBA will also mean giving up multiple years of income. When you enroll in a top program, you might make economic sacrifices in the short term. Still, your degree should pay off in the long run. The connections you make in one of the best MBA in Real Estate programs will almost certainly lead to lucrative opportunities immediately after graduation and for the rest of your career.

What can you do with an MBA in Real Estate?

Job prospects for real estate MBA graduates are plentiful because this degree is so versatile. Graduates work for developers like Bechtel, for private equity firms like KKR, and for the real estate fund arms of investment management firms like Goldman Sachs. It might make more sense to look at the different fields that employ real estate MBA grads, like:

  • Acquisitions
  • Asset management
  • CMBS origination
  • Consulting
  • Commercial development
  • Finance
  • Investment banking
  • Real estate finance
  • REIT management
  • Retail development

How much can you earn with this degree?

With a traditional MBA, you may be able to double your salary—especially if you earn that MBA from one of the top business schools. In real estate, you won’t do quite as well, even if you graduate from Wharton or Booth, but you’ll still earn good money. How good will depend on several factors.

Sources disagree on what the average salary for real estate MBA grads looks like. PayScale says $102,000, but other sources suggest that the average base salary earned by MBAs in this field is closer to $124,000. When you add in bonuses, that number jumps to just under $210,000. Both figures might be correct. Calculating total compensation in real estate can be tricky because large bonuses often make up for relatively low salaries, and those bonuses don’t make it into average salary estimates.

As you research business schools, keep in mind that professionals who graduate from top business schools earn more, regardless of industry. That’s because students who attend the programs at those colleges and universities get more than a fancy diploma. They get a level of career support that students at other schools don’t necessarily receive. The name recognition? Yet another bonus.

How can I choose the best MBA in Real Estate for me?

Best is subjective when it comes to degree programs in most disciplines, but when you’re looking at MBAs, there’s not really much debate about which schools have the top programs. The Whartons and the Columbia Business Schools of the world offer students benefits they can’t get anywhere else, whether you’re looking at the real estate concentration or another specialization. As you research MBA in Real Estate programs, look for schools that offer opportunities to connect with industry leaders and real estate industry influencers… often. The colleges and universities above have career mentor programs, frequent events where students can connect with real estate executives, and relationships with industry trade organizations.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be looking for an exceptional business education, because you obviously should. The best MBA in Real Estate programs don’t skimp on courses in organizational change, accounting, or economics. Students take those and other general business courses, along with a significant number of advanced real estate-focused classes that include project-based learning opportunities and real-world work experience—which is as it should be. You wouldn’t even be considering real estate MBA programs if you didn’t want to be immersed in real estate. At the top MBA programs, you’ll get your wish.

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