Until fairly recently, the bars to entry in the real estate industry have not been particularly forbidding. With enough pluck and grit, anyone could set up shop as an agent, become a developer, or work their way up into real estate finance. Professionals would learn what they needed to know on the job and find new opportunities through their professional networks.
Today’s global real estate market, however, is worth more than ever before—over $200 trillion, according to HSBC, with over $4 trillion in annual transactions. More to the point, it has grown substantially more complex.
It’s also a lot more competitive. Real estate firms on the development side and on the finance side are spoiled with choices. They can afford to be picky in their hiring. Many are now giving experience and education equal weight when vetting potential hires, and they’re giving jobs to master’s degree holders more often than not. Having a master’s in real estate can provide a distinct advantage in your job search.
Getting that master’s degree isn’t always easy. There are actually many degree pathways open to real estate professionals at the master’s level. Choosing the right one can be challenging. Also, the best real estate master’s programs tend to be expensive; taking time off work may be out of the question, given the high cost of tuition.
Studying full-time can also put you behind the curve in terms of career advancement. But even if your circumstances make studying full-time possible, you may not live within commuting distance of the master’s in real estate programs at top colleges and universities.
Luckily, you can earn a master’s in real estate from a highly rated school by enrolling in one of the growing number of programs for distance learners. In this article about the best online master’s in real estate programs, we cover:
Real estate master’s degree programs are designed to help professionals in real estate qualify for more senior positions and advance into those positions more quickly. We know, that’s a pretty broad definition. That’s because there are so many facets of real estate.
Some master’s in real estate programs target developers. Others have coursework designed for future financiers. Still others cater to professionals working in urban real estate markets. Earning a traditional or an online master’s in real estate can lead to a career in portfolio advisement, commercial real estate management, or even land-use policy.
Additionally, every program has different prerequisite requirements. Some require incoming students to have several years of professional experience in commercial real estate or in another related discipline, such as finance or law. Others are geared toward people looking to transition into real estate from unrelated disciplines. Others still cater to students seeking to enroll in a master’s degree program immediately after earning a bachelor’s degree.
Unlike the many graduate degrees designed to prepare students for specific careers with well-established advancement paths, real estate master’s degree programs are appropriate for a variety of professionals. They can take your career in the real estate industry in many different directions, from investment banking to real estate law.
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Students choose online master’s degree programs for many reasons. The most common reason people enroll in online master’s in real estate programs is the need for flexibility. Students in online master’s in real estate programs aren’t limited by geographical distance and can apply to the most prestigious programs or programs that are the best fit given their individual career aspirations. Online master’s in real estate programs are also more likely to be self-directed and have schedules designed with working professionals in mind. This makes it possible to earn this degree without sacrificing income or work experience.
Online master’s degree programs typically charge the same tuition as their on-campus counterparts. Even so, financial concerns do inspire some people to look into the best online master’s in real estate programs. Distance learners avoid expenses like the cost of traveling to and from campus, parking fees, housing in a new locale, moving costs, and on-campus meals.
There are many different types of online degrees in real estate at the master’s degree level, including the:
Colleges and universities use various naming conventions, and all the above degree pathways can be quite similar—or very different. You’ll need to read college and university guides carefully to make sure that the Master of Arts in Real Estate, MSRE, or other programs you’re considering support your career aspirations and offer the flexibility you need.
You should also be thinking about who you want to study with as you research online real estate degrees at the master’s level. While you won’t be sitting in a classroom with the same people every day, peer discussions are usually an important part of these programs, many of which are cohort-based. That’s part of why Spencer Burton, a specialist in real estate acquisition and development, chose an MSRE over an MBA. “I chose a specialized real estate program because I wanted to be around other real estate people. I wanted to interact and engage every day with people who were equally passionate about real estate as I am; people who would one day be the leaders of the industry and to whom I could turn for assistance as my own career progressed… I wanted to be sitting in a room full of students passionate about the built environment, and the business of real estate development.”
There aren’t as many online master’s in real estate programs at top-ranked colleges and universities as you might expect. There are only a handful of top-line online master’s in real estate programs when you’re looking at MSRE degrees and other non-MBA options. These include:
You’ll get more search results when searching for the best online MBA in Real Estate programs because there are a lot more programs at top colleges and universities. You can find 100 percent online real estate MBA programs and hybrid programs at the following schools:
At most colleges and universities, full-time and part-time online master’s in real estate programs are similar to—if not virtually identical to—on-campus programs. In fact, you’re more likely to find that real estate graduate programs differ more from school to school than they do between formats at the same college or university. At one institution, students in traditional and online programs often study with the same professors and guest lecturers, take the same real estate and management courses, and meet the same experiential learning requirements. They may also be able to choose from among the same concentrations (e.g., sustainable development, finance, affordable housing, market analysis, or asset management) and elective courses. They may also have to meet the same internship, thesis, and capstone requirements.
How much you earn with a master’s degree in real estate depends on various factors, including where your career path takes you, what type of degree you chose, and where you went to school. There are many positions you’ll be qualified for after graduating from an online master’s in real estate program—some of which pay more than others. Your earning potential in a residential real estate broker or Realtor position is unlimited, but you also don’t necessarily need to get a master’s degree to succeed in those roles. Having a master’s in real estate will be more helpful in a commercial brokerage or if you want to continue as a sales agent, but the average commercial real estate broker salary is just $62,000.
Most people who pursue real estate MBAs or degrees similar to the MSRE are interested in higher-paying roles in the field like:
If your goal is to earn as much money as possible in real estate, look at MBA programs first. Graduates of real estate MBA programs go on to work for private equity firms like KKR and for the real estate fund arms of investment management firms like Goldman Sachs. The average real estate MBA graduate salary is more than $100,000. Compare that to the average MSRE holder salary, which is $74,000. That doesn’t mean MSRE salaries are always lower, just that your chances of earning top dollar in this field are higher if you opt for the online MBA in real estate.
Yes, because distance learners almost always earn the same degrees as students in full-time on-campus programs. Prospective employers won’t know you pursued your master’s in real estate online unless you decide to tell them.
Be aware, however, that while your degree may be respected, it may not ultimately be as useful as the degree you’d earn in a traditional program. This has nothing to do with program quality. As noted above, most online master’s in real estate programs are virtually identical to on-campus programs. The most significant difference between enrolling in a traditional master’s in real estate program and in an online program may be that you’ll have to work harder to find or to create your own experiential learning opportunities and to build your network.
Students in on-campus real estate master’s programs are often invited to attend on-campus networking lunches or evenings, recruiting events, seminars led by industry leaders, and conferences as part of their studies—none of which online students can attend unless they happen to live within commuting distance. Online learners may also be responsible for finding their own internship and practicum placements. If you already have years of work experience in real estate, this may not be an issue. However, if you’re enrolling in a real estate graduate program to launch a new real estate career, be aware that you might be better off in a traditional program or a hybrid program with a residency requirement—even if you’re accepted into one of the best online master’s in real estate programs.
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