Real Estate Careers Job and Education Information for Working With Properties

This guide was written by

MoneyGeek Staff

If you want to pursue a career in real estate, you have the option of working within two groups: commercial and residential. Within those groups, however, there are several different career paths. This guide will explore various real estate careers and their standard salaries, discuss the skills and education needed to get into the industry, and offer resources to help with the job hunt.

Real Careers in Real Estate

Though not back to the highs of the mid-2000s when roughly 375,000 people worked for private real estate businesses, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the real estate workforce is working its way back up after the housing bubble burst. Why? Home prices have stabilized and the market is steadily seeing homes for sale. Commercial real estate, too, is on the upswing.

Below are some real estate career paths that show signs of growth:

Real Estate Broker

Although people could sell, buy or rent a property on their own, real estate brokers are better equipped to navigate the complicated process.

  • Job Outlook (2014 to 2024): 2%

  • Minimum education requirements:

    High school diploma, numerous hours of real estate course and a licensing exam.

Real Estate Sales Agent

A real estate agent works under a broker doing much the same job. He coordinates sales, works either with sellers or buyers and keeps up to date on real estate laws and financing options to put the right buyer in the right property.

  • Job Outlook (2014 to 2024): 3%

  • Minimum education requirements:

    High school diploma, numerous hours of real estate course and a licensing exam.

Real Estate Appraiser

How much is an extra bedroom worth? How does that new overpass nearby affect selling price? How would double-glazed windows change a property’s value? These are all questions real estate appraisers can answer. They look at a building — or a piece of land — and put a price tag on it. typically before it is sold, developed, mortgaged, taxed or insured. They base their values on how other nearby homes or commercial properties have recently sold.

  • Job Outlook (2014 to 2024): 8%

    (grouped with real estate assessors)

  • Minimum education requirements:

    Bachelor’s degree and license or certification.

Real Estate Assessor

Real estate assessors are similar to appraisers but generally work for a city, county, township, etc. and might estimate the value of a whole neighborhood, typically for tax purposes.

  • Job Outlook (2014 to 2024): 8%

    (grouped with real estate appraisers)

  • Minimum education requirements:

    Usually a high school diploma, but criteria vary from state to state.

Property and Real Estate Manager

Often, houses and properties are leased, not sold, as a way of generating passive income for owners. Owners who own many properties delegate oversight of the day-to-day operations to a property and real estate manager, who coordinates rent and bill collection, advertises vacancies, and ensures the property is being appropriately used.

  • Job Outlook (2014 to 2024): 8%

    (grouped as property, real estate and community association managers)

  • Minimum education requirements:

    Bachelor’s degree, with licensure required in some states.

Real Estate Asset Manager

Real estate asset managers are not involved in details but in long-term investment strategies involving land and property. They work on behalf of companies to determine what to buy or sell based upon their assessment of the property or land value.

  • Job Outlook (2014 to 2024): 8%

    (grouped as property, real estate and community association managers)

  • Minimum education requirements:

    Usually a Bachelor’s degree, but some introductory management jobs may only require a high school diploma. Others may require a real estate license.

Senior Asset Manager

Senior asset managers oversee the day-to-day operations of a portfolio of real estate investments.

  • Job Outlook (2014 to 2024): 8%

    (grouped as property, real estate and community association managers)

  • Minimum education requirements:

    A bachelor’s degree, plus several years of real estate asset management experience. Some employers may prefer MBA candidates.

Senior Project Manager, Commercial Real Estate

These professionals manage the renovations of commercial real estate space, construction of new offices, and other issues related to infrastructure projects.

  • Job Outlook (2014 to 2024): 5%

    (grouped as construction managers)

  • Minimum education requirements:

    A bachelor’s degree and several years of experience in project management, architecture, or construction.

Construction and Building Inspector
  • PROJECTED OUTLOOK (2014 to 2024): 8%

  • Education and Training:

    High school diploma with license or certification in many states.

Insurance Sales Agent
  • PROJECTED OUTLOOK (2014 to 2024): 9%

  • Education and Training:

    High school diploma with on-the-job training.

Loan Officer
  • PROJECTED OUTLOOK (2014 to 2024): 8%

  • Education and Training:

    Bachelor’s degree in business or finance area plus pass a license exam.

Lodging Manager
  • PROJECTED OUTLOOK (2014 to 2024): 8%

  • Education and Training:

    Usually high school diploma. Larger properties may require a bachelor’s degree and smaller properties with fewer services an associate’s degree or certificate in hotel management or operations.

Urban and Regional Planner
  • PROJECTED OUTLOOK (2014 to 2024): 6%

  • Education and Training:

    Master’s degree from accredited planning program.

Data Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014

Real Estate Jobs: What Are They Worth?

Although salaries for brokers have leveled off over the last decade, other real estate professionals are catching up. Sales agents’ pay has risen 15 percent in the same period, assessors and appraisers’ pay is up 21 percent, and sales agents are making 36 percent more. Take a peek below to get national figures for different real estate professionals.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015

Going into real estate as a career requires a combination of sales expertise and financial management experience, not to mention in-depth knowledge of how to pair a good buyer with the right home or business property. See how experience can affect annual salaries for real estate sales agents:

How Experience Affects Salaries for Real Estate Agents

  • Experienced +64%
  • Mid-Career +20%
  • National Average $41,000
  • Entry-Level-5%

Source: PayScale.com

Deciding to Get a Job in the Real Estate Market

Just about everyone can appreciate stepping into a beautiful home or office, but it takes a particular type of individual to help close a real estate deal. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before moving into real estate as a career:

Do you like your car?

Real estate agents, brokers, appraisers, and assessors spend a lot of time in their vehicles driving to different locations. If you enjoy jetting from place to place, real estate may be for you.

Can you handle market volatility?

In the last decade, the U.S. underwent one of the worst economic collapses in recent history, thanks to the mortgage industry. The real estate market is recovering, but the bursting of the housing bubble is a reminder that steady paychecks and home appreciation are not guaranteed.

Are you positive?

Every property has its faults. When representing a seller, you have to draw a potential buyer’s attention to the best attributes and repair or minimize downsides.

Can you be critical?

At the same time, you owe it to clients to pay attention to little things. How old is the plumbing? What state is the roof in? When were the floors replaced? These types of details have price implications that prospective buyers should be aware of.

Can you keep up with new developments?

The industry moves fast. A neighborhood is revitalized, affecting prices of nearby properties. New local regulations go into effect, changing how mortgages are calculated. You have to keep up to stay relevant.

Do you have sturdy ethics?

Several certifications in the industry require coursework in ethics. You can get by in the industry for a little while without strong ethics, but negative word of mouth will most likely catch up with you.

Skills You’ll Need & Tools You’ll Use

Interpersonal skills

At the end of the day, brokers, agents and managers work with people just as much as they work with buildings. Without tenants, a building is merely an empty space. So those who are personable and communicate do well.

Reading comprehension

Fine print is ladled generously into contracts and financial paperwork. Real estate pros need a keen eye to make sure nothing is missed.

Persuasion

Real estate is a profession for salespeople. If you can’t persuade a party to go for any of the properties you show them, you can’t make money.

Judgment

For appraisers and assessors especially, judgment is necessary because they put a dollar figure on a building or plot.

Car

Brokers spend much of their time driving to different locations so a car often serves as an office away from the office.

Tape measurer

Each square foot is worth money. Real estate pros need to accurately understand and convey to tenants and owners the space they will have.

Digital camera

Real estate brokers take and post photos for marketing purposes. Photos must be good enough to attract buyers, but they cannot misrepresent the space.

Carbon monoxide detector

Buildings need to be safe for occupants. This is just one gadget used to measure safety.

Education Requirements for Real Estate Careers

In order to start a real estate career, a postsecondary degree isn’t necessarily required. According to the Occupational Information Network, more than 50 percent of sales agents didn’t have education beyond a high school diploma. However, as with most industries, employers increasingly prefer the knowledge and skills gained through a degree program. Below is an overview of real estate degree programs by level to give you an idea of what to expect:

Associate Degree in Real Estate

The associate degree in real estate offers rigorous education to prepare students for a broker’s license or to transfer into a four-year degree program. Curriculum covers fundamental real estate principles and the provisions of real estate codes and laws. Students also learn how to perform valuations for residential and investment properties and how to conduct real estate-related research, analysis, and reporting. After completing the degree, graduates should be prepared for a range of careers such as brokerage management, property management, appraisal, real estate sales, and home inspection. Examples of courses include:

  • Real Estate Fundamentals
  • Technology for Real Estate
  • Real Estate Fraud
  • Commercial Real Estate
  • Land Use Principles and Practice
  • Sales and Marketing
Bachelor’s Degree in Real Estate

A four-year degree offers a mix of liberal arts education, business, and real estate knowledge. At this level, students develop a firm understanding of real estate finance, law, market analysis, sales, leasing, portfolio management, and current trends in real estate, such as sustainability. The goal is to provide students with the knowledge necessary to keep up with the rapidly changing real estate market. Required courses typically include:

  • Comparative Real Estate Markets in a Global Perspective
  • Market Analysis in Real Estate
  • Real Estate and Sustainability
  • Real Estate Law
  • Real Estate Finance
  • Real Estate Valuation
Master’s Degree

At the master’s degree level, aspiring real estate professionals – or those currently in the field who are looking to advance their careers – can pursue either a Master of Science in Real Estate (MSRE) or an MBA with a concentration in real estate. An MSRE delivers knowledge and training specifically for the real estate industry by blending studies in business, geography, architecture, and engineering. Sample core courses may include:

  • Advanced Financial Management
  • Real Estate Decisions
  • Research Methods for Urban and Regional Planning
  • Real Estate Investment

In an MBA program with a concentration in real estate, students receive a broader business and management education, and take three to five courses specific to real estate, usually as electives. Examples of real estate electives in an MBA may include:

  • Real Estate Finance
  • Law of Real Estate Transactions and Land Use Regulations
  • Real Estate Valuation and Market Analysis
  • Advanced Real Estate Investment Analysis
Doctorate Degree

Ideal for those interested in teaching at a college or university or pursuing high-level roles in government and business, the PhD in real estate may be offered as a stand-alone degree program or as a concentration area within a business administration program. Core coursework gives students an opportunity to master micro- and macro-economic theory, urban economics, real estate finance, and research methodologies to address today’s most pressing real estate problems and issues. Students are required to work with a committee of advisors to complete a research dissertation. Required courses may include:

  • Advanced Urban Land Economics
  • Theory of Finance
  • Economic Statistics and Econometrics
  • Microeconomics
  • Macroeconomics

While real estate degrees are offered at all levels, other related disciplines can also help you prepare for a career in the field. If you want to obtain a broader education, or compliment your real estate knowledge, consider any of the following related fields:

Business Administration

A bachelor’s or master’s in this field is seen as a big plus by commercial real estate businesses that often hire interns who are enrolled in a business degree program. Many employers of property and real estate managers also look for a business degree. Additionally, business courses are useful for independent brokers who want to start their own business.

Accounting

Mortgages, taxes, and interest rates are all numbers-driven so, an accounting degree — or at least bookkeeping coursework — is valuable knowledge.

Finance

For people who view real estate as an investment in a portfolio, finance degrees cover investment banking and financial planning.

Public Administration

For people planning to work in urban planning or with government-owned properties, a public administration degree mixes coursework in government, finances, and management.

Types of Real Estate

Real estate workers can specialize by focusing on different property types. Properties can be divided into two general areas: residential and commercial. Both can be subdivided into further specialties:

Residential:

Homes

Many real estate professionals stick to selling homes, and why not? There were 5.25 million existing homes sold in 2015 alone, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Apartments/Condos

Some agents work at getting renters into apartments and condos, capitalizing on commission from apartment complexes.

Commercial:

Office

These are your typical corporate parks and downtown offices where people spend their weekdays from 9:00 to 5:00. Aside from hospitals, office space attracts the highest price per square foot, making it a valuable commodity.

Retail

Retail spaces include everything from strip malls to “power centers” anchored around a big box store. Its price per square foot is almost as high as office space, but there’s more than five million extra square feet of it.

Industrial

Warehouses, assembly plants, and storage space make up the largest share of the real estate market in terms of space.

Lodging

Hotels switch hands less often than other commercial spaces, but this area is of interest to real estate investors who can bet on the lodging industry.

Undeveloped land

Before buildings go up, it’s just land. Working with undeveloped land is often the realm of assessors and appraisers.

Specialty real estate

Schools, prisons, churches, and stadiums are just a few of the specialty sites on the market.

Licenses and Designations for Real Estate Professionals

Generally, people working in the real estate sector need a license because they’re handling other people’s money and need to show they understand industry regulations. Here’s the breakdown of what’s required per job:

Real Estate Sales Agent

Sales agents need a license from the state in which they work. This requires them to complete several courses and pass an exam. It may also include a background check. States set continuing education requirements and renewal standards.

Real Estate Broker

Like sales agents, brokers need a license. The steps are very similar, but brokers will first probably need work experience as a sales agent, although some states waive this requirement if the broker holds a bachelor’s degree.

Property, Real Estate or Community Association Manager

Managers must first have a state real estate license. If they deal with federally subsidized public housing, they must be certified. Residents of Alaska, Colorado, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Nevada, Virginia and D.C. must also hold special license or earn credentials — and maintain them for recertification — through a group such as:

Real Estate Assessor

This is one of the few real estate jobs in which a license is not typically needed, although some states do require it.

Real Estate Appraiser

State certification is mandatory for appraisers who work on deals involving the federal government in any way. Such licenses are broken down into the following grades, the last three of which require passing an exam:

  • Licensed Trainee Real Property Appraiser. Most states require at least 75 hours of relevant education to earn this license.

  • Licensed Residential Real Property Appraiser. Requires 30 hours of college credit, 150 hours of appraiser-specific education and 2,000 hours of recent training. This credential allows its holder to appraise one-to-four unit homes and apartments.

  • Certified Residential Real Property Appraiser. To appraise properties worth more than $250,000, candidates must gain this certification by earning a bachelor’s degree, taking 200 hours of appraiser education and logging 2,500 hours on the job.

  • Certified General Real Property Appraiser. The ultimate credential earned with a baccalaureate, 300 hours of appraiser education and 3,000 hours of recent work experience.

Where Real Estate Pros Work

One of the most-often used tools for real estate professionals is a car — that’s because they’re often either going to or leaving a property. When they’re not onsite, however, where are they?

Home office

Many independent brokers and sales agents telecommute. It’s also a popular option for property and real estate managers as well as assessors and appraisers, 40 percent and 25 percent of whom, respectively, were self-employed in 2014.

Small office

Agents and brokers may choose to invest in a small office if they generate a lot of business through walk-in clients.

Franchise office

Brokers and agents can pay a franchising fee to be affiliated under the umbrella of a recognizable chain such as Century 21 or RE/MAX. Practically speaking, there is not much difference between being a franchisee and working at a small office, though there may be some standards the franchisee is obliged to meet to continue operating under the company’s name.

Large firm

The big commercial real estate players have headquarters and branch offices, as they are handling millions of dollars in transactions each year.

Local government office

Thirty percent of appraisers and assessors in 2014 worked for local governments in a more standardized 40-hour workweek with stable pay and benefits, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Onsite

Some property managers work onsite, where they show apartments or buildings, meet with staff and look into problems residents or renters face.

Job Boards for Real Estate Job Seekers

According to a 2015 report by the National Association of Realtors, the percentage of homes for sale by owner (instead of a real estate professional) has dipped to eight percent, its lowest figure in more than three decades. This means the overwhelming majority of sellers are using real estate agents. Meanwhile, a separate report by Deloitte showed that in 2013, more than $300 billion worth of commercial real estate changed hands, up over 300 percent since 2009. All this means there are clearly opportunities in the real estate industry. To find jobs, use some of the following job sites specific to the sector.

  • American Real Estate Society

    ARES promotes the teaching of real estate as an academic discipline. In keeping with its mission, it maintains a job board for faculty teaching and research positions in real estate.

  • Appraisal Institute

    Appraisers who become members of the Appraisal Institute become easily findable by people looking for appraisers, with their name and business details added to the group’s searchable directory.

  • iHireRealEstate

    Candidates can upload a resume to quickly apply for jobs posted to this site. Positions are grouped by title, city or state.

  • Institute of Real Estate Management

    Specific to real estate managers, IREM’s job board lacks the volume of other real estate job boards, but more than makes up for it in the relevance of its posts.

  • Select Leaders

    Select Leaders’ job network powers many of the professional associations’ job boards. Post a resume to begin applying to jobs on its site and sign up for job alerts to maximize the chances of getting hired.

  • Top Floor

    Billed as “your career concierge in commercial real estate,” Top Floor is in Beta and looking for new users. Candidates create a profile and are shown customized jobs Top Floor thinks are compatible.

Real Estate Internships

Colleges with real estate programs typically offer and/or require students to do internships. Students are best served by using the department’s placement program, which have working relationships with area (and sometimes national or even international) employers. Go-getters, however, are welcome to find their own internships, and a few of the more prominent ones are listed below.

Allianz Real Estate Internship

Location: Munich or national office

Allianz has an international portfolio and requires English speakers interested in real estate to fill its ranks for at least three months. To be eligible, applicants must be current undergraduates or about to embark on a master’s degree. Seven out of ten interns currently work for the company.

Brixmor Real Estate Internship

Location: Corporate office in New York or one of Brixmor’s regional offices

Brixmor owns shopping centers across the country, and interns get to spend the summer in one department, learning how commercial real estate works before heading back to college.

Disney Real Estate Controls Intern, Corporate

Location: Burbank, CA

Undergrads and recent graduates with a background in real estate finance or real estate development are ideal for this position, which requires financial management and working with data sets.

Edens Summer Internship Program

Location: Boston, New York, D.C., Charlotte, Atlanta, Miami or Houston

Undergrads and MBA students interested in retail real estate can spend the summer in a paid internship at an Edens regional office in one of six departments: marketing, development, investments, construction, leasing or finance. Interns will, among other duties, attend weekly meetings with department heads.

HFF Internship Program

Location: Corporate or regional offices

Interns will visit commercial sites and research the market as they prepare to lease or sell properties. A strong financial or business background is a plus.

State Farm Investment Intern – Mortgages and Real Estate

Location: Bloomington, IL

Interns at this 10-week paid internship will look at real estate as investments as part of customers’ retirement funds. The ideal candidate is a junior in college with coursework in finance

Professional Associations for Real Estate Pros

In many industries, including real estate, joining a professional association can provide valuable networking opportunities. But more importantly in real estate, membership can open up access to new clients and properties. Below are a few organizations to consider joining, depending on your focus:

American Society of Appraisers

To become ASA members, appraisers must first pass an ethics exam and a 15-hour course on appraisal standards. Once accredited, members join a referral network, can use the organization’s job bank, and receive discounts on conferences and insurance.

American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers

ASFMRA members are highly specialized, understanding land value for farms, vineyards, rural estates, tree farms and conservation easements.

Commercial Real Estate Development Association

NAIOP, which takes its acronym from its former name, the National Association for Industrial and Office Parks, is the main commercial real estate industry association. It facilitates networking events, pushes for legislation that serves its members’ interests, provides continuing education, and conducts research.

CREW Network

This organization caters to women in commercial real estate. It has chapters in 33 states, plus Washington, D.C. The organization funds scholarships, facilitates a mentoring program and runs a job board.

National Association of Real Estate Brokers

NAREB advocates for fair housing laws and equitable homeownership regulations for African Americans and other minority groups.

National Association of Real Estate Investment Managers

NAREIM advertises itself as “a place to think out loud, to refine strategy, improve operations, and provoke new thinking.” Membership benefits managers by furnishing them with industry insights so they can compare their companies to others.

National Association of REALTORS

NAR welcomes membership from most groups in commercial and residential real estate, including appraisers, brokers and sales agents. Members get access to financial benefits, such as education discounts and specialty insurance, in addition to standard offerings such as resource materials. Membership dues go, in part, to funding advertising campaigns, but the biggest advantage of membership is the ability to put homes on the Multiple Listing Service.

National Association of Residential Property Managers

NAPRM sees itself as a standard bearer for industry ethics, certifying members so property owners who hire a credentialed NRPRM professional can be certain they will have quality renters.

Updated: July 27, 2017