Online Master's Programs in Real Estate

Updated on: 12/13/2018

As roles for real estate agents continue to grow — the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects nearly 25,000 new positions will be added by 2026 — more students consider this option as a viable career path. Individuals who pursue a master's in a real estate online program already hold a bachelor's degree and likely understand the salary and career growth potential that comes with further education.

As you move through this guide, look for details about common coursework, career opportunities, and ideas on how to pay for the degree without taking on significant debt.

What to Know About Online Master's in Real Estate Coursework

Completing a master's in real estate online program takes time, focus, and commitment, and students need to be certain of their preparedness before enrolling. The majority of degrees require between 33 and 48 hours and take most full-time students two to three years to complete. Those enrolled on a part-time basis may need three to four years.

Throughout the curriculum, learners gain skills in foundational and advanced topics related to real estate finance, marketing, and home assessments. Some classes also focus on the differences in responsibilities of sales agents and brokers, providing concrete information for students still considering their options.

Few differences exist between online and on-campus programs, and learners typically have access to the same resources and lectures. Online degree seekers work closely with their professors and peers to complete assignments and take advantage of learning tools such as online chat features, forums, teleconferencing, and email to communicate.

What's the Difference Between a Master's in Real Estate and an MBA in Real Estate?

There are a few key differences between MBA in real estate degrees and master's in real estate online degrees: Both take 2-3 years and can be obtained online or in person, and both also teach learners about traditional skills associated with business (finance, accounting, ethics, law, marketing). While the MBA mainly focuses on generic business skills with a few concentration classes in real estate, the master's in real estate teaches traditional business skills through the lens of real estate. Rather than simply studying finance, master's in real estate learners study finance laws and applications specific to the industry.

What Common Courses are Offered in a Master's in Real Estate Program?

Given the ever-expanding size of the real estate industry, a wide variety of coursework exists to fulfill individual needs and professional interests. The courses discussed below provide interested learners with a better idea of what to expect, but learners should reach out to individual schools to inquire about specific coursework.

The Economics of Real Estate

Typically taken in the first year, this course introduces students to underlying factors affecting the real estate ecosystem and provides exercises to them response protocol. Specific topics include regional and national market growth, demographic shifts, urban planning, and shifts in desire.

Real Estate Ethics

Relying heavily on case studies and class discussions, this course presents learners with some of the common ethical issues real estate agents and brokers encounter. Specific areas of interest include fiduciary responsibilities, avoiding conflicts of interest, confidentiality, responsible disclosures, and ethical marketing.

Real Estate Accounting

This course introduces learners to accounting systems and structures specific to real estate. Some of the topics include tax credits (low income housing, historic, energy, new markets), tax-free exchanges, analyzing GAAP statements, pre- and post-acquisition costs, capital gains, and other topics clients frequently want to understand before buying or selling.

Understanding Real Estate Markets

Learners in this course delve into topics related to the different types of real estate markets. They learn about information specific to single/multi-family dwellings, retail spaces, offices, industrial buildings, and hospitality spaces before considering the stakeholders in each scenario. Emphasis is given to understanding the roles and expectations of developers, investors, lenders, buyers, tenants, governmental agencies, and landlords.

Analyzing Feasibility in Real Estate

With a focus on due diligence in real estate, this course ensures students possess the tools needed to knowledgeably guide their clients when purchasing property. Specific topics include valuation and appraisals, financial/community forecasts, competition, market risk, and development of new projects in the area.

What Specializations are Available in a Master's in Real Estate Program?

In addition to studying the general concepts of real estate, some learners decide to further concentrate their knowledge in a particular area of the field. Not all programs offer specializations, but the ones highlighted below give students an idea of what to look for. They should contact schools individually to learn about options.

Finance & Investments

Designed specifically for students planning to work in investment, this concentration teaches students portfolio management, risk assessment, investment analysis, and making informed decisions. Learners complete 12-15 credits in the specialization altogether.

Real Estate Asset Management

For students who want to work with large-scale investors or property owners, this specialization teaches real estate portfolio management. Topics include the importance of keeping a diverse portfolio, completing due diligence, and creating a business plan to ascertain goals.

Entrepreneurial Real Estate

Created for the student who wants to invest in real estate themselves, this course teaches practical skills related to conducting feasibility reports, finding the right properties, dealing with ownership concerns, finding sound investors, and building a successful portfolio that continues appreciating and building equity over time.

What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?

As learners wrap up their time in school, most master's in real estate online programs require them to take part in some type of culminating assignment. These projects give learners the chance to showcase knowledge gained throughout the program and contribute a significant piece of research, case study, or portfolio of high-level work to the industry. Degree seekers typically work with a faculty supervisor to develop the project scope and receive helpful feedback throughout the process.

How Can I Choose a Quality Online Master's in Real Estate Program?

When considering any degree program, learners should ensure the school and/or program maintain proper accreditation. Two types of accreditation exist: institutional and programmatic. Institutional accreditation falls into two categories: regional and national. Regional accreditation is considered preferable to national, as students attending nationally accredited institutions can struggle with transferring credits or receiving acceptance from a regionally accredited school.

While the field of real estate does not currently possess a programmatic accrediting agency, learners who opt to follow the MBA path with a concentration in real estate can look for business school accreditation from bodies such as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs, and the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education.

Students should also research topics such as faculty qualifications and work experience, the availability and quality of student resources, year-on-year graduation rates, and diversity of course content.

Career Opportunities With a Master's in Real Estate Degree

Real estate sales agents and brokers may be the most recognized roles in the industry, but many related roles exist for individuals wanting to use the skills gained from a master's in real estate program. The jobs highlighted below help potential students gain a sense of possible careers, but they should remember that completing this degree does not automatically guarantee a job. Most states require real estate agents to obtain licensure; however, they may also need to complete additional education.

Real Estate Brokers & Sales Agents

Real estate sales agents work for brokerages, buying, selling, and renting properties. They advise clients on properties, hold open houses, and negotiate sales prices between buyers and sellers. Real estate brokers complete many of the same tasks but maintain an additional license to run their own businesses.

Median Salary: $47,880 per year

Currently Employed: 444,100

Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years: 6%

Appraisers & Assessors of Real Estate

These detail-oriented professionals are tasked with verifying public record descriptions of properties, evaluating spaces to confirm characteristics and state of upkeep, taking photos of buildings, reviewing other properties in the area to gain a sense of value, and creating reports to share their findings.

Median Salary: $54,010 per year

Currently Employed: 80,800

Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years: 14%

Property, Real Estate, and Community Association Managers

Property and real estate managers oversee single and multi-family dwellings, interview potential renters/buyers, provide required applications, submit materials for background checks, verify income details, collect rent, deal with all maintenance requests, review and settle complaints, accept notices of vacancy, and manage budgets.

Median Salary: $58,670 per year

Currently Employed: 317,300

Expected Job Growth in Next 10 Years: 10%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

What's the Expected Job Growth for Real Estate Careers?

The latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that roles for real estate agents and brokers should continue growing steadily over the coming years. With retirees downsizing, careerists relocating for work, and millennials reaching the age of home ownership, there is an increased need for qualified real estate professionals.

Professional Organizations for Careers in Real Estate

Whether still in school or a seasoned professional, newly minted real estate agents and veterans alike can benefit from membership in a professional organization. These associations provide annual conferences, regional chapters, networking opportunities, career support, and job boards to members. Some even maintain student chapters.

  • National Association of Realtors

    As the country's largest trade organization, NAR represents more than 1.3 million real estate professionals. The group provides a large number of events alongside continuing education opportunities and publications.

  • National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals

    This group empowers Hispanic and Latino real estate agents by providing a national conference, several annual summits and academies, an annual award, and an updated news section of relevant information for the industry.

  • National Association of Real Estate Brokers

    NAREB began in 1947 and continues to bring together real estate brokers who support African American and minority communities in the housing market and in land development. The organization offers training and education services and events.

  • NAIOP

    This national organization for commercial real estate developers exists to provide policy advocacy, continuing education programs, and meaningful networking events that connect leaders in the field. The group regularly shares industry research as well.

How to Pay for a Master's in Real Estate Degree

Many students look for outside funding to help pay for their education. Scholarships and grants are especially worth pursuing because they do not need to be repaid, but students at the graduate level can also seek out assistantships and fellowships to cover costs.

Federal Financial Aid

The U.S. Department of Education offers several financial aid options for students pursuing master's in real estate online programs. A number of grants and work study programs exist for students who do not want to take on debt. For those who must, the department offers several fixed interest rate student loans. Applicants must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to receive consideration.

Professional Organization Scholarships

Numerous professional real estate organizations offer scholarships to offset students' educational costs. In addition to national organizations such as the Pension Real Estate Association, which supplies two scholarships totaling $30,000 annually, students can also look for regional chapters. The State of Illinois provides the Minority Real Estate Scholarship for minority students pursuing this field of work.

Programmatic Scholarships

Many colleges and universities provide institutional scholarships based on area of study. Texas A&M University's Department of Finance offers scholarships of up to $5,000 per semester to master's of real estate online degree students. Contact individual programs to learn about any available scholarship programs.

Student Assistantships

Some schools allow learners to take on teaching and grading responsibilities in exchange for free/low tuition and a stipend during their time in school.