The real estate industry is more complex than it once was, and much bigger, too. According to some estimates, the market will generate more than $4 trillion in revenue by 2025. Its total value is much higher: over $200 trillion, according to HSBC.
Real estate cycles are moving faster than ever before. Technologies like artificial intelligence and new data science techniques could soon make some roles in real estate obsolete.
Succeeding in this field is no longer merely a matter of building a network and making deals. The laws around buying, renting, and selling are changing. Real estate finance is more complicated than ever before. So is real estate valuation. Everything related to real estate sales, development, and investing is now trackable.
In other words, no matter how long you've been working in real estate or how much you think you know, there's probably still plenty you don't know. That's where the best real estate master's programs come in. These programs—which include Master of Science in Real Estate programs, MBA in Real Estate programs, and several programs that fall in between—are designed to give real estate professionals and aspiring real estate professionals the skills and knowledge they need to thrive in a rapidly changing landscape.
In this article, we list some of the best real estate master's programs and cover the following:
Real estate professionals have traditionally learned everything they need to know on the job. That's changing as the industry changes. No longer is success in real estate limited to excelling in traditional realtor or developer roles. It can also mean handling capital for commercial development or maintaining real estate funds. Some of these professionals work in the real estate fund arms of investment management firms. Others are asset management advisors or analysts. Most of these roles—which involve complex data analysis and advanced calculations—require graduate degrees.
Today's real estate market is more competitive than ever. Employers can afford to be choosy when hiring. The students in master's-level real estate programs have various professional goals and career aspirations. However, they all want the advantage that a graduate degree provides.
Will you get an excellent education in the best real estate master's programs? Absolutely. You'll learn a lot about real estate, business and management fundamentals, entrepreneurship, construction, finance, and more. You'll also graduate from both full-time and part-time degree programs with a more robust professional network, have more to offer potential employers, and, most likely, enjoy a higher lifetime earning potential.
The two main master's-level real estate degrees are the Master of Science in Real Estate (MSRE) and the Master of Business Administration in Real Estate. These aren't your only options, however. You might also pursue a:
Naming conventions can vary considerably among schools; any of the above degree pathways can be nearly identical to the MSRE or real estate MBA—or very different. Don't rely on degree names alone when choosing between programs. Look at program guides carefully as you think about whether you'll get the most out of a real estate MBA program or an MSRE program, or whether a different degree might help you advance into senior roles in real estate development, finance, or management more quickly.
You should also think about curriculum and commitment when researching real estate master's programs. While program format and core courses will vary from school to school, MSRE and similar programs can often be completed more quickly than real estate MBA programs (one year versus two). Real estate MBA programs tend to be finance-focused and cover more business fundamentals. In contrast, other kinds of real estate master's programs devote more credit hours to entrepreneurship, capital markets, and development. Students in both types of program usually have to complete some forms of capstone course, internship, or experiential learning project. What that project or practicum looks like might be very different from institution to institution.
Graduate schools approach real estate master's programs differently, which means that coursework can vary considerably among programs—and that's doubly true when you're looking at MSRE/MSRED and real estate MBA programs. In the former, you'll take courses focused on topics like:
In some Master of Science in Real Estate programs—a category that can include the master of real estate development program and similar degrees—students can pick a concentration like sustainable development, finance, construction management, affordable housing, asset management, or public-private partnerships.
The curricula in real estate MBA programs may touch on some of the same topics but often devote more credit hours to business and management fundamentals than to real estate management, investment, financing, and development. That said, the best MBA in Real Estate programs are laser-focused on real estate concepts, and they cover business fundamentals in the context of real estate from day one. Students in the Southern Methodist University Cox School of Business' two-year real estate MBA program, for example, take courses like:
Some of the top-ranked real estate graduate programs can be found at these business schools:
Yes. Depending on your interests and goals, a real estate MBA might be the preferable alternative to MSRE and similar programs. While real estate isn't one of the most popular MBA specializations, this Master of Business Administration concentration is tailor-made for those whose minds turn to stocks and bonds whenever they drive past a building site.
Students who choose these programs tend to be most interested in real estate investing and the business side of real estate development (and may already have bachelor's degrees in business or finance). They might aspire to run a real estate hedge fund or a real estate investment trust (REIT) or work on the finance side of large-scale projects funded by big corporations and Wall Street investment banking firms.
Chances are that they're more than a little bit driven to outearn their peers. While salaries for real estate MBAs may not be as high as salaries for consulting MBAs, marketing MBAs, or technology management MBAs, it's still considerable. The average real estate MBA graduate salary is more than $100,000.
Unsurprisingly, lists of the best real estate MBA programs are dominated by the top business schools. You can find highly ranked MBA in Real Estate programs at:
How much you earn after earning 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's quite a lot of overlap in the lists of roles open to MSRE holders and real estate MBA holders.
After earning a master's degree in real estate, you might become a/an:
With an MBA in Real Estate, you might work in:
If maximizing income is among your primary reasons for looking into real estate master's programs, opt for the MBA. While MSRE salaries aren't always lower, the average salary for Master of Science in Real Estate holders is $74,000, which sounds pretty good until you compare it to the $100,000+ that real estate MBA grads typically make.
Advancement in real estate doesn't always happen in a straight line. That said, more employers in this field are seeking out employees with graduate degrees—and that means pursuing a master's degree in real estate is almost certainly worth it.
As to which one, that's up to you. The MSRE might be the better choice if you're passionate about real estate, while the MBA might be a better fit for someone who isn't sure they want to stay in the field for their entire career. On the other hand, a real estate MBA program could be the better fit if you're passionate about real estate finance and investing.
The bottom line is that 'best' is subjective. There are the best real estate master's programs as determined by rankings, and then there are the real estate master's programs that are the best fit when it comes to your career aspirations, your passions, your financial situation, your circumstances, and your needs. Both MSRE programs and real estate MBA programs offer a firm foundation in different aspects of real estate markets—and both can be expensive—so it's worth looking at both to see which ones most likely have courses that you'll find interesting and will support your long-term goals. Carefully examine curricula, concentration options, and program requirements before applying.
Don't forget about the importance of facilitating network-building. Success in real estate is often based on relationships, and one of the most valuable benefits of enrolling in a real estate master's program can be the connections you make with like-minded industry professionals. Spencer Burton, a specialist in real estate acquisition and development, chose MSRE program he did in part because he saw future career opportunities built right into it: "Every Thursday, a distinguished real estate industry leader came to campus to speak personally to the 50 graduate real estate students in our master's program. We had a real estate career advisor, whose sole job it was to connect real estate students with top real estate companies. Twice a year, we attended the Cornell Real Estate Council conference, where members of the 1500+ strong council meet to network, learn from industry titans, and have a little fun. Dozens of real estate companies every semester posted jobs to the program's job board, specifically looking for real estate students, and several times a year our program organized a real estate career fair where 20 to 30 real estate companies interface with Cornell real estate students."
Not every real estate program is as robust as Cornell's, but that's what you should be aiming for. If a real estate master's program you're considering doesn't have at least some networking opportunities like those built into the curriculum, keep on looking.
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