You can earn a graduate degree in many areas of study, including real estate. In this field, degrees are usually intended for professional practice rather than academic research. A master’s degree in real estate isn’t a requirement to work in the field and isn’t for every agent or broker, but if the focus and curriculum of the degree will help you achieve your individual career goals, graduate education can be worthwhile.
Who Should Consider a Master’s Degree in Real Estate?
You might think that a master’s degree in real estate would be ideal for career changers. Certainly, these programs often accept students with a wide variety of backgrounds, whose undergraduate majors range from real estate to business, architecture to accounting and communications to finance. If you want to use a master’s degree program in real estate to transition into this career path, you should look for a program that doesn’t require relevant work experience for admission.
However, a master’s degree is far from your only option for a career change. While these degrees often take one to two years of study to complete, you can take prelicensing real estate courses and get your real estate license in a matter of mere weeks. Many real estate sales agents make a gradual career switch, preparing for their licensure examination and beginning their real estate work part-time and continuing to work in other fields as they learn the ropes of this career. Until you are sure that you are committed to a future in real estate, spending considerable tuition money on a graduate degree in the field may not be the right decision for every student.
If most master’s degrees in real estate aren’t meant for career changers, who are they meant for? Often, applicants to a master’s degree program in real estate are expected to have professional work experience in a related field. Some students are early- through mid-career real estate agents and brokers who want to gain specialized knowledge in the challenging field of commercial real estate, network with fellow students who are established professionals in the field or make more money faster.
A wealth of on-campus and online study options, from part-time programs to accelerated programs, makes a master’s degree program in real estate more convenient than you might expect.
The Focus of a Graduate Education in Real Estate
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In many fields of study, a master’s degree program is where students begin to narrow the focus of their education from a broader category to a more focused one. That is the case for certain master’s degree programs in the field of real estate, such as a specialized course of study in real estate development. These programs often focus on matters such as property development, construction, finance and investment and real estate law. You probably wouldn’t choose a program in real estate development if your career plans revolve around the buying and selling of private residences by your clients.
Other graduate real estate programs are more general in nature, covering a breadth of topics related to the real estate industry, including everything from sustainable urban planning to handling real estate contracts and transactions. You can also find general programs in real estate that allow for a specialized concentration in an area such as global real estate, construction management or real estate finance.
While many master’s degree programs in real estate are part of a business school or department, others are housed within a department of architecture. The field in which your program is based may also affect the focus of its curriculum.
Coursework in a Real Estate Master’s Degree Program
The core coursework of a master’s degree program in this field will likely focus on the foundations of different aspects of real estate, including real estate markets, finance for real estate, accounting for real estate and real estate law. You might study the techniques of financial modeling for real estate, negotiation and conflict resolution. Other courses are more varied. In a class in alternative assets, you may look at unconventional types of real estate, including self-storage, cell tower and student housing. Studying construction estimating and procurement gives you a closer look at the budgetary challenges of real estate construction and development. The options for elective courses in graduate-level real estate topics are varied, including the taxation of real estate transactions, entrepreneurship in real estate development, financial decision-making in the real estate market, mortgage securitization and international housing economics.
You may have the opportunity to complete a real estate internship as part of your studies. The field experience you gain from an internship, working under the guidance of experienced real estate professionals, can be valuable particularly if you are new to the field.