For those who are thinking about entering the world of real estate, what type of degree should you get while in college? The good news is that there are many different degrees that you can get that will benefit you when you start working in the real estate industry. Let’s take a look at your options to see which one might be best for you.

best degree for real estate agent

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What Is the Best Degree for Real Estate Agents?

If there’s one career that immediately springs to mind when considering the real estate industry, it’s real estate agent. Real estate sales agents are the ones who are directly involved in representing buyers, sellers and landlords in the sale or renting of property. A step up from real estate sales agent, in terms of advancement, is real estate broker. Brokers are the real estate professionals who own and manage their own real estate business, so they may perform the same work that real estate agents do in addition to managerial duties. Real estate agents work under real estate brokers.

Although having a college degree is becoming more common across most industries, real estate sales agent is still an industry that doesn’t typically require a degree. According to O*NET, a high school diploma is the most common level of formal education among real estate sales agents, with 43 percent of the profession reporting this education. Almost one-quarter of real estate sales agents report earning a post-secondary certificate—a level of study beyond high school but shorter and less comprehensive in nature than a full-fledged college degree.

While there are bachelor’s and even master’s degree programs available in real estate, neither of these educational backgrounds is part of the top three most common levels of study for the real estate sales agent profession. Instead, the third most common level of education, accounting for 10 percent of the occupation, is a level of education that does not culminate in a high school diploma or a GED.

A college education is somewhat more common among real estate brokers than real estate sales agents. There are more real estate brokers who have at least some amount of college education than real estate brokers with no college education, according to O*NET, but that doesn’t mean having a degree is essential or even popular in this industry. While a bachelor’s degree was the single most common level of education reported for real estate brokers, this educational background only accounts for 37 percent of the profession.

The second most commonly reported level of education, which is some college study but no degree earned, accounts for nearly one-quarter of the occupation. A high school diploma is the third most common level of education reported among real estate brokers, with 12 percent of the profession having completed only this level of study, according to O*NET.

If you are going to go to college for a real estate career, you might consider an associate’s degree or a technical or professional degree to become a real estate sales agent or a bachelor’s degree to prepare for a future as a real estate broker.

The reason most real estate sales agents don’t earn a college degree is that they are generally required to undertake a different kind of education. Real estate agents must be licensed, and the licensure process typically includes the completion of state-accredited licensing courses, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). These courses are usually taken independently of a college degree, although some college real estate programs cover pre-licensing coursework as part of the curriculum. 

The Best College Degree for Real Estate

If you know for sure that you want to work in real estate, you might as well jump right into the industry by choosing a real estate major. Real estate is a relatively new college major, and you won’t find dedicated real estate programs at nearly as many schools as you would find broader fields of study with a more longstanding history. During the 2017 through 2018 school year, just 977 bachelor’s degrees in real estate and 60 bachelor’s degrees in real estate development were awarded to students in the United States, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

However, more colleges and universities are starting to offer degrees in this subject specifically. Real estate degree programs are usually offered out of a school or department of business, but the curriculum of a real estate degree is often interdisciplinary, drawing from fields as far-flung as land use, architecture, policy, marketing, civil engineering and project management. 

Real estate majors can expect to take classes in real estate fundamentals, real estate practice, real estate finance and financial modeling, real estate asset analysis, real estate investment, real estate mortgage markets, real estate development and the management of residential properties and corporate real estate assets.

Is There a Realtor Degree?

There is no “Realtor degree,” because the commonly used term “Realtor” is not the same as a real estate agent. “Realtor” is specific to real estate agents who belong to one particular professional organization, the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

That said, an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in real estate may fulfill the same function as a real estate sales agent degree. If you want your degree to prepare you for real estate licensure, be sure that the curriculum encompasses the coursework needed to become a licensed real estate agent.

Majoring in real estate will often prepare you to work as a real estate appraiser, the head of a property management company, a desk worker in a real estate office or, with additional training and experience, a licensed real estate sales agent or broker. 

Other Good Degrees for Real Estate Careers

Considering how integral real estate sales agents and brokers are to the real estate industry, it’s no surprise that these job roles are the ones that are most commonly associated with working in this industry. However, plenty of other professionals besides real estate agents are part of the real estate industry and real estate transactions. You might pursue a different program of study if you want to work in a position such as:

  • Real estate appraiser, a career that revolves around quantifying the fair value of real estate property. Real estate appraisers typically have a bachelor’s degree, most often in areas like real estate, business or finance, according to the BLS.
  • Property or real estate manager, an occupation that pertains to the management of rental properties, including job duties such as showing properties that are available for rent, overseeing the signing of leases, inspecting properties, coordinating repairs and maintenance work and collecting rent. Around 55 percent of property managers report having a bachelor’s degree, according to O*NET.
  • Title searcher or examiner, a role that is involved in the transfer of real estate property. Although a title searcher or examiner can typically find employment with only a high school diploma and on-the-job training, according to the BLS, some title searchers have an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in a field like finance or business administration.
  • Mortgage loan officer, an occupation that encompasses the job duties of originating mortgage loans by gathering borrower information, reviewing and approving applications and educating borrowers about the mortgage loan process. According to O*NET, 69 percent of loan officers have a bachelor’s degree, often in areas like finance or general business administration.
  • Home inspector, a career involving the inspection of real estate property for compliance with building codes and regulations. While most construction and building inspectors can get started in this career with only a high school diploma or a post-secondary certificate, some home inspectors instead earn an associate’s degree in building inspection technology or a bachelor’s degree in architecture or engineering.
  • Real estate lawyer, an occupation that involves representing clients in legal matters involving real estate transactions, such as drafting or reviewing the contracts for real estate sales transactions and leases. Like other types of attorneys, real estate lawyers must go to law school to earn a Juris Doctor degree and pass the bar exam.

The degree you should pursue in college depends on what real estate career you hope to have.

The Best Non-Real Estate Majors for Real Estate Work

If you’re not completely sold on a real estate career yet or you don’t want to have to seek out one of the comparably few schools that offers a real estate major, there are plenty of other programs of study you could pursue. Consider majoring in an area such as business, finance, communications, building inspection technology, architecture, engineering, or pre-law.

Business

A business degree may be worth pursuing for aspiring real estate professionals because you need good business skills if you are going to do well as an investor, a real estate sales agent or any other of the jobs you can get in the field. Obtaining a business degree can help you learn about concepts such as how to make a profit and reduce business operating costs, as well as the tax implications of working for yourself or hiring employees.

Business majors will also learn how business contracts work and what happens if those contracts are broken. This is extremely important to know when working in the real estate industry, as there are many occasions when you have to sign a contract or have someone else sign a contract to close a deal. While working toward your degree, you may get the opportunity to meet other businesspeople and make contacts that will help you when you get out on your own.

Finance

A finance degree may be beneficial if you are thinking about becoming a real estate investor, a mortgage loan officer, a property manager or a real estate appraiser. Knowing how to finance a transaction, how to project your profit or loss from a transaction and how to calculate the profit or loss from each unit both now and in the long-term can help you make more money. Getting a degree in finance can also help you learn more about the different types of mortgages available, such as FHA mortgages, jumbo loans and more. Studying finance helps you develop the skills for managing the financial aspects of real estate leasing, as property managers do, and understand how to calculate the value of assets, as appraisers do.

Communications

If you’re interested in building general skills for real estate work, consider majoring in the more general area of communications. Learning how to use tools such as social media or your own blog to communicate with clients or find new clients is vital for today’s real estate professionals. Communications majors may also learn more about public relations and how to position themselves in front of the public.

Communication skills are among the most important qualities for workers in a variety of different real estate roles. O*NET lists skills in active listening, speaking, writing and reading comprehension as some of the top requirements for several different jobs in real estate. Having strong skills in written and oral communication can also help you decipher the legal contracts used in real estate sales transactions and property leasing, as well as explain what these contracts entail to your clients.

Building Inspection Technology

Most commonly offered at the associate’s degree level, building inspection technology programs tend to cover coursework in residential and business building codes, construction materials and other safety codes and processes and methods for conducting specific types of inspections.

Architecture or Engineering 

Architecture is the design of buildings, while engineering encompasses the design of all different kinds of solutions, including building structures. Generally, architecture approaches building design from more of an artistic perspective, compared to the math- and science-based approach involved in engineering design. Having a background in either area may help you in a role as a building inspector, according to the BLS.

Law (Or Pre-Law)

If you want to be a real estate lawyer, you’re going to need a Juris Doctor degree—but first, you will have to get into law school. Any undergraduate college major can prepare you for law school, according to the American Bar Association, but some of the most popular majors among law school applicants include political science, psychology, criminal justice, English and economics. Students in a variety of majors can choose to follow a pre-law track of academic advising, coursework and professional development and experience opportunities.

Whether you want to be a business major, a finance major or a communications major, you will learn many or all of the skills that you need to succeed after graduation. While you do not need your degree as a prerequisite for getting your real estate license, going to college gives you a strong base of knowledge upon which you can build your career. 

Additional Resources 

Are There Bachelor’s Degrees in Real Estate?

Are There Master’s Degrees in Real Estate?

Do I Need to Have a College Degree to Become a Real Estate Agent?

If I Want to Become a Real Estate Agent, How Much Will a Degree in Real Estate Finance Help Me in Being a Better Agent?

20 Non-Law Firm Jobs with a Law Degree