You don't need a master's degree if your dream is to sell residential real estate. Anyone with the skills to pass a state real estate license examination (which, by the way, isn't easy) and the tenacity to line up homes to sell can make a go of it. Many do.
Other parts of the real estate business, however—such as commercial and corporate real estate or real estate portfolio management—require more advanced training. While a Master of Science in Real Estate (MSRE) isn't strictly necessary to engage in any of these businesses, the degree does provide numerous benefits to those who pursue it. Not only will you learn about the many intricacies of real estate development, sales, evaluation, financing, and law, but you will also build a network of contacts that can benefit you long after you graduate.
If you want to enter the upper echelons of the real estate business—if you hope to hang with the Donald Brens and the Stephen Rosses of the world—you should consider earning a master's in real estate. It may not catapult you to the top ranks, but it will provide you the knowledge and tools you need to play in their league.
So, how much will you earn with a master's in real estate? This article answers that question and several others, including:
A Master of Science in Real Estate is a business degree focused on how the real estate business works. Programs vary in length from 30 to 70 academic credits, requiring one to two years of full-time study to complete.
A business degree: that sounds a lot like a Master of Business Administration (MBA). So why not get an MBA with a concentration in real estate instead? If what you want is a general business education that covers not only real estate but also economics, finance, operations, supply chain management, and marketing, then the MBA is probably the degree for you. The MSRE is for students who want not only to learn about business principles but also to dig down into such real-estate-specific subjects as:
The MSRE is for students who seek a deep dive into the world of real-estate business; many students in these programs enter with several years of professional experience in commercial real estate. Others bring related skills—a law degree, perhaps, or experience in finance—that they hope to supplement with the expertise in real estate that an MSRE provides. If you want career options beyond real estate after you earn your graduate degree, the MBA might better serve your goals.
Master of Science in Real Estate programs vary considerably from one school to another. The programs are tailored to suit the needs of local markets and the areas of expertise of professors (who are often professionals drawn from local markets). MSRE programs in Texas are more likely to feature courses on oil real estate than are MSRE programs in the Pacific region (which are more likely to offer courses on sustainable development).
Nearly all MSRE programs, however, require students to complete a core curriculum, which typically includes at least some of the following courses:
Many MSRE programs offer students the opportunity to concentrate in an area of specialization. These concentrations may include:
Not all schools offer all of the above-mentioned courses and specializations (in fact, it's reasonably safe to say that none offer them all). Review carefully the offerings of all programs you are considering before you submit an application to ensure that the program covers your areas of interest.
Most MSRE programs provide hands-on experience in the form of field placements and real-world projects.
Many highly regarded universities offer a master's degree in real estate, including those listed below:
A master's in real estate opens up numerous career options. Many involve the development, financing, and management of large-scale real-estate projects. Unsurprisingly, the jobs associated with these high-cost endeavors pay well. They include some of the following:
An acquisitions analyst reviews potential real estate investments, then leads the underwriting, due diligence, and negotiation process. Acquisitions analysts typically focus on existing properties (in contrast to development analysts, who typically focus on properties in development). According to Salary.com, real estate acquisition analysts earn a median salary of $99,200. On average, they receive an additional $5,500 in incentives. Income levels can be significantly higher in urban markets where properties are in relatively scarce supply (the average annual income of a real estate acquisitions analyst in Brooklyn, NY, for example, is $161,000).
A real estate asset manager invests other people's money in real estate and manages existing real estate investments. Asset managers meet with clients to determine goals and risk tolerance, execute investments, and report results to clients. They typically handle portfolios of significant value, and they are paid accordingly. According to PayScale, a real estate asset manager earns an average salary of just over $87,000 plus an additional tens of thousands of dollars in bonuses, commissions, and other incentive compensation.
Commercial real estate agents represent commercial properties, leasing or selling them to businesses, organizations, and other enterprises. Because of the number and complexity of regulations covering workspaces, commercial real estate agents need significantly more training than do residential real estate agents. Like residential agents, they earn substantial commissions that can constitute the majority of their annual income. Salary.com reports that commercial real estate brokers earn an average annual salary between $89,000 and $119,000 plus commissions, bonuses, and other compensation.
Real estate development analysts estimate the costs associated with purchasing and leasing properties in development. Like acquisitions analysts, they work through all aspects of the feasibility of an investment, but their focus is on potential—rather than existing—properties. Glassdoor reports that real estate development analyst salaries average $69,890, with the potential for another $5,500 in additional compensation.
Real estate investment bankers facilitate real estate investments by connecting property developers in need of capital with investors looking for ways to increase their holdings. Real estate investment bankers analyze various sources of capital and compile financing packages to fund property development, acquisition, refurbishment, or recapitalization. According to Glassdoor, real estate investment bankers can earn up to $178,000 annually, with a median annual base income of $95,000 and $83,000 in additional compensation.
Land-use attorneys specialize in the laws governing real estate development. They are experts in zoning laws, construction regulations, building ordinances, land-use ordinances, water rights, permit acquisitions, titling and deeds, and other relevant areas of the law. According to ZipRecruiter, land use attorneys earn an average annual income of $132,000.
A real estate project manager oversees construction projects to ensure that they are completed on time and on budget. Because construction is such an elaborate enterprise, a real estate project manager needs expertise in everything from material acquisition to work permits to union regulations to construction best practices. According to Indeed, real estate construction managers earn an average salary of $132,000.
An appraisal—a third-party estimate of a property's market value—is essential to any real estate transaction; without it, financing would be impossible. A real estate appraisal manager oversees this critical process. The role requires detailed knowledge of real estate markets, tax rates, and financing and insurance options. According to Payscale, a real estate appraisal manager earns an average salary of $81,000, with up to an additional $20,000 in bonuses and incentives.
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