If you find yourself interested in pursuing a real estate career, you're not alone. Due to the ubiquity of real estate agencies, home sellers, commercial property buyers, and renters looking to own a home, the real estate profession remains a popular choice not only for working adults seeking a career change, but also for young people pursuing their first industry job. To help you achieve your personal and professional goals, this page features information on potential career paths to a real estate bachelor's degree, including skills you will gain in the process and factors to consider when selecting a program and school.
Overview of Real Estate Degrees
The business of real estate involves the sale, purchase, and rental of land or buildings for private or commercial use. In a developed, large-scale economy like the United States, the processes required to make a real estate market function can be quite complex, involving national and state law, local policies, unpredictable economic fluctuations, changing property values, and even social factors.
While a high school degree and completion of non-collegiate licensure courses may lead some people to entry-level jobs, an undergraduate degree in real estate better prepares professionals to meet the challenges of the industry. An online real estate degree suits self-motivated, hardworking individuals with a passion for working with others and an interest in business, finance, and analysis. In-person requirements are generally not part of an online degree in this field; however, to work in certain occupations you must obtain licensure upon graduation.
Although the status of local markets can vary widely from one location to another, as long as people remain interested in buying and selling properties, jobs continue to be available in real estate. Meaning the career outlook for real estate degree graduates remains positive, with plenty of room for promotions and high earning potentials in growing markets.
The application process for any bachelor's degree, including online real estate degrees, typically involves a standard set of requirements. Student applicants must submit an online or mail-in application form, providing their personal information and other relevant details. Additional required documentation includes the following: high school transcripts; transcripts from any college attended, including dual-credit high school courses, an associate degree, or incomplete bachelor's; SAT or ACT scores; and in some cases, a personal essay or one or two letters of recommendation from a non-family member. Minimum GPA and test score requirements vary depending on the school you plan to attend, but averages for students accepted to public universities in the United States are around 2.5-3.0 GPA, 1100-1400 for the SAT, and 25-29 for the ACT.
Aside from gathering all required documentation and striving for great test scores, one of the most important factors in applying for college is strict adherence to application deadlines. Begin your application process far in advance of the final deadline, allowing plenty of extra time for requesting and receiving official transcripts from previous schools, and complicated processes like evaluation of transfer credits. Reach out to an admissions adviser with any questions during the process.
What Will I Learn?
Those interested in pursuing a real estate degree online can choose from several program options, including bachelor of science degrees in business administration or finance with a real estate concentration, or a bachelor of arts in real estate studies. Business administration and finance degrees typically offer a closer focus on quantitative and qualitative subjects, including economics, investments, and financial analysis, while a bachelor of arts in real estate studies offers an interdisciplinary approach: a mix of courses in accounting, management, organizational ethics, and law.
While the type of degree selected, as well as the school in which one enrolls, can impact specific program objectives, course offerings, and learning outcomes, all bachelor's programs require the completion of about 120 credits. Degree plan breakdowns can vary widely from one school to the next, but they commonly require 45-60 credits in general education, 30-45 credits in a major, including concentration courses, and 16-27 credits in elective courses.
Principles of Accounting
Nearly all online real estate degrees feature an introductory or elementary course in accounting. Lectures and coursework teach students the basic principles and procedures of general financial accounting. Topics may include the preparation and use of financial statements and accounting reports, the regulatory environment, and technology use and ethics in accounting.
Principles of Marketing
Introductory marketing courses examine how producers of goods and services use marketing methods and strategies, how internal and external factors may impact marketing decisions, and what basic elements make up a marketing program. Students develop a basic understanding of marketing concepts and functions.
Legal Environment of Business
In an introductory course on business law, students gain an understanding of the United States legal system as it pertains to business and industry. The course curriculum often explores topics like business taxes, contracts, and administrative law, along with specific cases of legislation and judicial decisions.
Real Estate/Property Management
A basic course on property management teaches students about the framework of managing and developing an inventory of properties, both commercial and private. These courses may consider property manager functions, qualifications, and responsibilities, as well as landlord policies, leases, maintenance, and insurance.
Principles of Real Estate
Essential to all aspiring real estate professionals, this course introduces students to the basic concepts and principles of the real estate industry. Students gain knowledge of terminology and ethics, as well as an understanding of titles, deeds, listing and purchase agreements, contracts, and factors that affect local and national markets.
Real Estate Appraisals
This introductory course explores the function of, and approaches to, real estate appraisals. Students learn the fundamentals of appraising property types through cost, income, and direct market comparisons. Coursework may also cover the social and economic factors that can affect appraised values.
What Can I Do with an Online Bachelor's Degree in Real Estate?
The curriculum of a real estate degree provides an array of general and specialized knowledge and skills vital to aspiring real estate professionals. Many of these skills may also transfer to outside industries. Wherever you choose to pursue employment, the foundation of your bachelor's degree will come into play. In the subsections below, discover more details about potential career paths and the competencies you can expect to possess as a real estate degree online graduate.
Students completing an online real estate degree gain interdisciplinary knowledge and skills in finance, accounting, economics, business law, data analysis, and decision-making, as well as a thorough introduction to real estate concepts like appraisals, marketing, contracts, property listings, negotiation, and management. General education classes promote additional development of skills in critical thinking, interpersonal communication, and problem-solving. Everything gained in an undergraduate degree can prove useful in real-world applications as real estate professionals and business professionals outside the industry.
Careers in real estate -- whether as a commercial or residential agent, property value appraiser, analyst, or manager of an organization -- require an in-depth understanding of real estate law, market-specific economics, financial analysis and policy, and the buying and selling of properties. These vital degree competencies prepare graduates to complete licensure examinations needed to practice, but many of these skills can also be transferred to employment in other business occupations, especially in the case of business administration real estate degrees, which feature a core block of business courses in conjunction with a real estate concentration. Whether your future leads to buying and selling properties or working in business or finance, the value of your real estate degree won't diminish.
Potential Careers and Salaries
Upon earning a real estate degree online, graduates can find entry-level employment in a variety of careers, work their way up to a managerial position, or continue directly to an advanced degree in order to pursue specialized careers within or outside the real estate industry. While the most obvious areas of employment feature careers as real estate agents, brokers, and analysts, the skills and knowledge one gains from a real estate program can apply to positions in sales and business occupations too.
In the list below, view a selection of common and less-common potential careers for real estate graduates, including job descriptions and salary information. Note that some real estate industry jobs require working professionals to secure and maintain current state licensure, which may carry additional requirements beyond a college education. Check your state requirements and the qualifications on prospective job ads for specific information.
Real Estate Agent
Annual Median Salary: $46,562
Real estate agents work with clients and intermediaries to help facilitate the buying and selling processes of residential homes and properties. This occupation requires frequent travel to site locations, excellent interpersonal and documentation skills, and the ability to negotiate with various parties.
Commercial Real Estate Agent
Annual Median Salary: $94,500
Commercial real estate agents complete many of the same functions as residential agents, albeit on a larger scale. Agents act as intermediaries and negotiators between buyers and sellers of commercial buildings and properties intended for commercial use, ranging from small retail shops to large complexes.
Business Development Manager
Annual Median Salary: $70,971
Business development managers work to develop day-to-day and long-term solutions for an organization while also managing realistic expectations. Common job functions include brainstorming with others to evaluate, create, and improve business plans to increase revenue or customer satisfaction.
Real Estate Analyst
Annual Median Salary: $58,658
Real estate analysts help manage their organization's property holdings through continuous monitoring of markets, ensuring an ability to anticipate change and determine the opportune time to sell. Analysts also investigate new markets in search of investments, meet regularly with management, and work with buyers.
Vice President (VP), Underwriting
Annual Median Salary: $117,698
As a board-level executive, a VP of underwriting possesses extensive education and experience and carries the responsibility of developing and adhering to an organization's cost- and risk-benefit systems, managing relevant departments and teams, and monitoring cash flow, investments, and company liquidity.
Will I Need a Graduate Degree for a Career in Real Estate?
Traditionally, motivated, outgoing individuals could enter and succeed in the real estate industry with only a high school diploma and the completion of select pre-licensing real estate courses. This pathway to employment is still valid and achievable in certain markets; however, in today's growing and highly competitive industry, many employers prefer entry-level job candidates who hold a collegiate real estate degree. Furthermore, those hoping to secure leadership and management roles or work in certain areas may decide to pursue an advanced degree after their bachelor's.
A graduate degree can provide a competitive edge in the job market, but real estate students who don't intend to pursue additional education shouldn't write off all potential advancement opportunities. In real estate, a successful track record and demonstrated commitment to growth can help you climb the employment ladder regardless of which education credentials you possess.
Accreditation for Real Estate Bachelor's Programs
No current organization provides or evaluates programmatic accreditation for undergraduate real estate degrees. Instead, students should focus on the accreditation status of their prospective institutions: either regional or national. Accreditation is voluntary for institutions but necessary for students, as it ensures the quality, value, and consistency of a university and its educational offerings through frequent, unannounced evaluation of faculty qualifications, budgets and expenses, the stated institutional mission and principles, and availability of student services. Schools who apply for evaluation and adequately meet all standards receive accreditation.
Accreditation also frequently affects the transferability of college credits, as most regionally accredited schools only accept credit from other regionally accredited schools. The same rule regarding transfer credit holds true for schools with national accreditation. Look for legitimate accrediting agencies like the Higher Learning Commission or those approved by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
Real Estate Professional Organizations
Professional organizations provide an excellent way to network and access the latest industry information and resources, regardless of one's profession. In a large industry like real estate, which requires lifelong learning and adaptation, having a professional organization on your side can mean the difference between scraping by and excelling. While some organizations and associations limit membership to licensed real estate professionals, others allow students and non-licensed individuals to join and partake in benefits, including industry publications access, professional development opportunities, and networking.
National Association of Realtors
America's largest trade association, NAR represents more than one million members involved in all aspects of the commercial and residential real estate industries. Membership for licensed realtors includes national affiliate partner discounts and benefits through one's local association.
National Association of Real Estate Advisors
The NAREA works to elevate the knowledge and earning potential of real estate professionals. Membership benefits include discounts on classes and programs, online tools, media center access, and the opportunity to receive a Certified Commercial Advisor designation through course completion and an annual fee.
Commercial Real Estate Women Network
More than 11,000 individual members make up the CREW Network, the leading networking organization dedicated to the global advancement of women in the commercial real estate industry. Membership benefits include local and global networking and business opportunities, exclusive community and forum access, and professional development.