Regardless of where you live, a career in real estate requires substantial knowledge of the real estate market and finances, as well as a familiarity with zoning and tax laws, insurance, and mortgages and banking. Careers in a complex field like real estate demand a thorough understanding of finance, analytical thinking, communication, and collaboration skills, which is why online real estate degree programs emphasize crucial business and finance concepts for real world application in the field. With the housing market not only stabilized since the Great Recession, but reaching record highs in 2015, earning an online real estate degree can be a bold move toward starting a career in the industry.
Graduates of real estate programs are highly sought after by employers for their negotiations, finance, and valuation skills, especially within the fastest-growing housing markets, currently in Colorado, New York, Illinois, Florida and West Virginia. Depending on their specialty, real estate professionals may work in a variety of business, finance, and investment-related fields.
Though housing markets fluctuate according to economic health and vary from state to state, earning a real estate degree online remains a lucrative prospect for aspiring professionals anywhere who are interested in a dynamic career. The field of real estate is expected to grow slowly but steadily through 2024, with millennials, the country's largest demographic group, entering prime working age and becoming heads of their own households over the next decade. Increased investment opportunities are also expected to affect employment for online real estate degree holders in the coming years. Businesses and individuals will likely seek out qualified real estate professionals to help them benefit from the advantages of the current economic market, including low interest rates and property prices. Like employers in the field, clients prefer candidates who earned their real estate degree online from a top ranked college or university, favoring a trained professional whose qualifications they can trust.
Below is the list of the top ranked real estate programs in the nation:
University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA
The University of Pennsylvania, a world-renowned research institution offering innovative interdisciplinary educational programs, has earned its place among the Ivy League institutions. Established in 1881, Penn's Wharton School of Business was the first collegiate business school to become an international leader in business education. Wharton is not only the country's largest business school, but it also boasts the most published faculty members. Students enrolled at Wharton School of Business train to become leaders in their respective fields, prepared to create positive change in the world. The business curriculum, developed in collaboration with business experts from around the globe, prepares students to become successful professionals in a complex and dynamic global market. Wharton incorporates the latest research in business education with experiential learning, the latest technology, and state-of-the-art facilities.
The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania offers a real estate concentration for both undergraduate and MBA students. Undergraduate curriculum in real estate provides a comprehensive, fundamental education combining business, finance, and liberal arts. The real estate concentration requires students to complete a seminar course and entrepreneurship, as well as multiple electives related to the major. A core course in real estate investment: analysis and financing is required. Students may choose three electives from topics including real estate law, urban real estate economics, international real estate comparisons, and more. Students in the real estate concentration of the MBA program will focus on courses in housing markets, real estate investments, and advanced real estate investment analysis, among other topics.
University of Wisconsin Madison, WI
The University of Wisconsin-Madison is a public institution, established in 1848 to become a leader in education, research and public service. The university is part of the renowned University of Wisconsin system which includes 13 universities and a student enrollment of more than 43,000. The institution strives to provide challenging and rigorous programs which examine, analyze and advance knowledge through academic inquiry. Faculty are highly regarded experts in their fields who exemplify the commitment of the University of Wisconsin to the idea of public service, positive and responsible contribution to the academic community and enhancing the quality of life for students around the globe. Notable alumni include Dick Cheney, a state Supreme Court justice, a CBS news reporter, playwrights, poets, authors, film producers, astronauts, and several congressmen and governors.
Real estate degrees offered through the university's School of Business are consistently ranked among the top programs in the United States. The University of Wisconsin hosts one of the nation's oldest business programs concentrated in real estate, earning recognition and high regard from employers for the breadth and depth of the degree. Programs offered include a BBA, MBA, and executive MBA in real estate majors, as well as concentrated MS, MAcc, and Ph.D. degrees. Curriculum encompasses all areas of real estate including finance, appraisal, development, asset management, market analysis, law and the regulatory environment, and urban land economics. Students are required to complete experiential projects in real estate; some have the opportunity to participate in field work nationally and internationally. Both undergraduate and graduate courses for the major include real estate law, the real estate process, real estate finance, valuation of real estate, urban and regional economics, and residential property development. Electives may include computer applications in real estate analysis, green sustainable development and readings, and researching urban land economics.
University of Georgia Athens, GA
Founded in 1912, the University of Georgia was among the country's first institutions of higher learning to establish a business college. Terry College of Business employs a world class faculty, with superior quality degree programs in an environment conducive to academic inquiry and research. A number of degree programs at the Terry College of Business have ranked among the top twenty in the nation. Graduates are instilled with the importance of ethical and social responsibility. The University of Georgia participates in conferences and seminars regularly attended by top individuals in business and academia, offering custom programs, corporate sponsorships, and insight into international strategy planning.
The Terry College of Business first introduced its real estate program in the early 1960s. The college's BBA, MBA, and Ph.D. real estate programs, in such high demand they can only accept a fraction of their applicants, now includes hundreds of undergraduate and graduate majors. The challenging and rigorous programs prepare students for the real estate industry by developing skills in analytical and adaptive thinking, problem solving and flexibility. Its curriculum provides academic training and hands-on experience through dynamic internships and fundamental career training. Required courses for undergraduates include real estate principles, real estate asset management, real estate valuation, real estate finance, real estate law, real estate development, and special topics in real estate. The MBA in real estate focuses on in depth examination of real estate areas such as cash flow analysis, increasing shareholder value, site selection, control and disposition, negotiations, and mortgage financing.
University of California Berkeley, CA
Founded in 1868, Berkeley is a part of the prestigious University of California school system. Renowned for its innovative degree programs, Berkeley consists of 14 colleges and schools and 170 academic departments. The university's 277 award-winning degree programs are nationally and internationally ranked among the top competitors. Graduates of the University of California have continued on to become leaders of industry, government, and the arts. Among the school's esteemed faculty are Nobel Laureates, MacArthur Fellows, and Pulitzer Prize winners. The institution is credited with many substantial academic contributions, discoveries, and advancements spanning numerous fields. Students enrolled at Berkeley have access to the institution's extensive resources, including its top-ranked research library.
The Haas School of Business at Berkeley offers a range of real estate degree options. Students have the opportunity to complete a certificate, an undergraduate program, a full- or part-time MBA, or a Ph.D. The Haas Real Estate Group within the Haas school of Business is a research-focused unit which strives for academic excellence, performs rigorous research, and participates in community-based initiatives. The unit upholds a strong partnership with the local real estate industry, providing substantial opportunities for students as well as the institution. Students have the opportunity to participate in research projects at the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Economics, as well as in the Real Estate and Economics Symposium. Curriculum for the programs includes both academic and applied learning aspects, through internship opportunities and courses in real estate development, real estate finance and securitization, housing and the urban economy, and other special topics.
New York University New York, NY
New York University has been consistently ranked among the top institutions in the nation since its inception in 1831. A pioneer in education, NYU is considered the first global network university¬ù since establishing its campus in Abu Dhabi, and intends to continue its growth in this direction. Boasting 18 schools and colleges and a student body of more than 50,000, New York University continuously strives to provide each student with an individualized experience. NYU provides innovative and rigorous degree programs encompassing a range of majors. Courses are taught by academic and industry experts, experienced in their respective fields. The university is among the nation's leading research institutions.
The Schack Institute of Real Estate at New York University provides both an undergraduate and graduate program in real estate. The Bachelor of Science and Master of Science equip students with the fundamental and advanced skills necessary to become successful leaders in the real estate profession. Programs incorporate both theory and experiential learning within the curriculum. Students are taught to utilize analytical skills to perform the essential tasks of the profession, including negotiating, financing, closing and evaluating. Programs also include coursework on development, investment valuation, project management, law, market analysis, digital imaging, and economics. Graduates gain a thorough understanding of real estate theory and are immersed in the field through internships, projects, and mentoring programs. Real estate students can select from specializations including digital design applications for real estate, finance and investment, real estate development, and strategic real estate management.
University of Connecticut Storrs, CT
Founded in 1881, the University of Connecticut has consistently ranked among the top public universities in the New England region and among the top 30 institutions across the nation. UConn includes 14 schools and colleges and offers seven undergraduate degree programs in more than 100 majors as well as numerous graduate degrees. The School of Business at the University of Connecticut, established in 1941, provides superior academic degree programs in leading areas of business and high quality research opportunities. UConn endeavors to produce graduates who will become leaders in their areas of study through its globalized curriculum and focus on experiential learning. 96% of of faculty are scholars with terminal degrees in their respective fields.
The Center for Real Estate and Urban Economic Studies within UConn's School of Business provides students with an in depth understanding of both professional and practical aspects of real estate. Students are prepared with the skills necessary to become working professionals in the real estate industry. Real estate degrees offered within the department include bachelor, master and doctorate programs in real estate and urban economics. The baccalaureate program provides students with a foundational knowledge of the field, with coursework in valuation, finance, market analysis and real estate property law. Graduate courses may include real estate investments, real estate finance, GIS applications and use of the internet in real estate markets, economics for global business decisions, risk management and insurance, financial risk management and real estate investing. All programs incorporate theoretical studies as well as practical experience.
University of Florida Gainsville, FL
The rigorous and challenging academic programs offered at the University of Florida provide a comprehensive experience to graduates poised to become leaders of industry. UF faculty are award winning, respected research scholars and industry experts. The Warrington College of Business Administration at the University of Florida offers students the opportunity to participate in seminars and various speakers' series. Warrington's real estate programs are regarded for their unique connection to high level industry professionals, a unique attribute among comparable academic programs in the field. Real estate degrees include a mentoring program, participation in the distinguished speakers' series, field trips, company visits, and networking with members of UF's Friends and Alumni of Real Estate. Warrington has been repeatedly nationally ranked among top universities for its real estate, graduate, and MBA programs.
The Department of Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate within the Warrington College of Business Administration at the University of Florida offers an undergraduate minor in real estate, a graduate minor in real estate, an MBA with a concentration in real estate, a master of science in real estate, a juris doctor/MS in real estate, and a Ph.D. in business administration with a concentration in finance and real estate. The curriculum provides a multidisciplinary approach through exploring topics such as building construction, architecture, and urban planning, resulting in a comprehensive, in-depth educational experience. Programs include theoretical study as well as practical application. Courses may include real estate market and transaction analysis, professional communication, real estate law, professional writing, methods and materials of construction, investment property analysis, real estate appraisal, and secondary mortgage markets and securitization.
University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL
The University of Illinois is regarded as a world leader in research, public service, and education. The Department of Finance at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has repeatedly ranked among national competitors for its research productivity, exceptional degree programs and outstanding faculty members. Finance programs are taught by award winning instructors with superior educational skills and research accomplishments; faculty includes numerous Nobel Prize winners and Pulitzer Prize winners. Programs incorporate both practical learning and a theoretical framework to provide a comprehensive, high quality curriculum. Students utilize the most advanced techniques in concept, practice, and technology in a range of innovative degree programs. Real estate majors at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign can even join the university's dedicated real estate fraternity, Rho Epsilon.
The Department of Finance within the College of Business at UIUC offers rigorous and in-depth degree programs in real estate, including a BS in finance with a focus in real estate and an MS in finance with a concentration in real estate and urban land economics. Students receive a broad understanding of the acquisition and management of funds by business firms, governments, and individuals through UIUC programs, including the ability to determine the value of financial and real assets and derivatives. The programs incorporate both theoretical and analytical reasoning skills. Real estate degrees include required courses in the fundamentals of real estate, financial markets, urban real estate valuation, urban economics, property-liability insurance, policy and strategy, and financing emerging businesses, as well as provide an introduction to insurance and legal issues in real estate. Exceptional Students may have the opportunity to participate in the Finance Academy, an enrichment program intended to develop leadership and career skills and enhance internship opportunities for selected students during their junior and senior years.
University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA
The Sol Price School of Policy at USC offers high-quality degree programs, exceptional research opportunities, and extensive public service and support projects. The department is dedicated to improving the quality of life for all people, domestic and international. Real estate degrees are tailored to each student to help them meet the challenges of the profession, and to become trained problem solvers, collaborators, and leaders in their areas of expertise. Its curriculum emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach, with flexible degree programs that can be tailored further to meet the specific career goals of each individual student. Real estate degrees offer students the opportunity to participate in internships, research, and civic projects and to work closely with department faculty members.
The Price School at USC offers a bachelor's degree, master's degree, and certificate in real estate development. All programs provide students with the fundamental academic and practical training required to become successful professionals in the field, including design, finance, and policy coursework. Students explore the areas of market analysis, finance and deal structuring, site planning, project management and operations, real estate law, economics, marketing, and negotiations. Specialized areas of study may include historic preservation, suburban growth, and urban redevelopment. Curriculum covers various types of real estate, including residential, commercial, retail, office, and industrial, as well as includes studies of global interest within the field of real estate, preparing graduates for employment in a globalized society. Students may participate in study abroad programs in various other countries as well as networking opportunities through The Lusk Center for Real Estate at USC, a liaison between the institution and industry professionals.
University of Texas at Austin Austin, TX
Home to one of the top-ranked business schools in the nation, the University of Texas is considered one of the most productive research schools in the country, credited with advancing business knowledge, helping to manage and solve the most pressing challenges to society and pioneering energy sufficiency and sustainability. The McCombs School of Business has earned its reputation through innovative research and its high quality degree programs, designed to train graduates to become leaders of the business world. McCombs degrees are taught by faculty with expertise in various business sectors and with a commitment to teaching excellence. Through the Real Estate Finance and Investment Center at McCombs, students have the opportunity to pursue undergraduate, graduate and executive, non-degree programs in this concentration.
McCombs School of business at UT offers comprehensive and challenging degree programs with a focus in real estate. BBA students can major in finance with a specialization in real estate, while a real estate concentration is available to MBA students; the department also offers an undergraduate certificate in this concentration. Students study resource allocation, financial markets and institutions, the various instruments utilized to transfer money, and the function of finance in relation to business. McCombs is the only business school in the U.S. that offers students the opportunity to manage both public and private real estate investment funds as part of their coursework in this major. Curriculum provides students with the analytical tools essential for aspiring real estate professionals, including theoretical studies and training in the various techniques of managing both finance and business. Students develop skills through collaboration and communication and are instilled with an inherent understanding of ethical responsibility.
Is an Online Real Estate Program Right for Me?
Commonly promoted as convenient, flexible, and accessible, online programs allow students to earn their degree from home while saving money by eliminating commuting costs. Online programs frequently offer distance learning discounts, such as flat tuition rates for out-of-state students. An online real estate degree features the same rigorous content as on-campus degrees, and students acquire the knowledge and skills needed to gain employment in the real estate industry.
Aspiring and current real estate professionals can benefit from real estate degree and certificate programs that emphasize training in the latest practices, including contemporary appraisal methods and the implementation of data analysis software for property risk management. An online real estate college promotes student engagement through interactive tools such as discussion threads, video conferencing, and virtual group projects.
Although an online degree offers many advantages to traditional face-to-face programs, not everyone thrives in this environment. The best candidates for an online real estate program possess self-discipline, the ability to engage in self-directed learning, and strong time-management skills. Online programs require as much time and dedication as on-campus programs, and students complete ongoing assignments with deadlines throughout the semester.
In addition to typing skills and computer application knowledge, successful online students are effective communicators and rely on nonverbal communication skills to convey ideas and concerns. Online students spend several hours per week completing course assignments, including reading materials, responding to discussion posts, and taking online exams. Many online programs feature online readiness quizzes to help students determine their level of self-motivation and commitment prior to enrolling.
How to Choose a Real Estate Program
Once students decide to pursue a real estate degree, they select a program that aligns with their academic and vocational goals. Many factors influence a student's program choice, such as location and available concentrations. A program that offers specializations appeals to students with specific career interests, such as commercial real estate or real estate finance. Students with time constraints can opt for an accelerated program with flexible completion options. Most programs allow students to enroll part or full time, although some programs require students to enroll in a specified number of credits per semester.
A student's primary consideration is often cost. In-state tuition prices are typically lower than out-of-state tuition prices. Students wishing to earn their degree locally find that completing the first two years of their education at a nearby community college saves money. The type of real estate degree a student pursues impacts both cost and completion time. Associate degrees typically take full-time students two years to complete, while a bachelor's degree takes four years.
Students should also consider the course delivery format. Online programs allow students to earn their degree while juggling prior commitments. On-campus programs provide face-to-face interactions, but online programs promote greater accessibility, allowing students to earn their degrees from schools across the country without relocating. Many online programs feature engaging learning strategies that allow students to interact with peers and instructors through live video conferencing. Most online programs allow students to complete fieldwork requirements close to home.
Types of Real Estate Degrees
Although a real estate degree is not required for a career as a real estate sales agent, earning a certificate or degree gives professionals a leg up in this competitive industry. Professionals with a 20-credit certificate in real estate share comparable incomes with those holding a 60-credit associate degree. A significant jump in pay occurs between associate and bachelor's degree attainment, with bachelor's-level professionals earning approximately $17,000 more annually. While a real estate bachelor's degree consists of double the credits as an associate degree, the extended time in school translates to higher earnings.
A graduate certificate in real estate equips professionals with diverse academic backgrounds with the knowledge necessary to lead a real estate career. This brief program generally consists of 12-20 credits. Pursuing a graduate degree in real estate provides the most career opportunities. A 36-credit MBA in real estate takes roughly two years to complete, and professionals with this credential earn an average of $72,120 annually.
Average Salary for Entry-Level Professionals by Degree Level
|Certificate, Real Estate||$36,921|
|Associate Degree, Real Estate||$37,500|
|Bachelor's Degree, Real Estate||$54,803|
|Graduate Certificate, Real Estate||$45,000|
|Master of Business Administration (MBA), Real Estate||$72,120|
What Will I Learn in an Online Real Estate Program?
From appraisal techniques to principles of property management, a real estate degree encompasses many topics that prepare students for successful careers. While colleges with real estate degrees adhere to similar professional training standards, courses differ by program. The following sample curriculum illustrates common courses real estate students take.
- Economics and Finance of Real Estate
- This course familiarizes students with economic and financial issues real estate professionals encounter. Learners study American capitalism, economic principles, and property taxation. Students enrolled in a real estate economics course often examine the economics of both residential and commercial properties. Common topics include market values, investment principles, and growth cycles.
- Introduction to Real Estate
- Providing students with a foundational knowledge of real estate principles, this course exposes students to real estate terminology, professional ethics, and licensure considerations. Students gain the skills needed to assist sellers and buyers in the acquisition and transfer of properties. Course topics include contract writing, sales principles, and home valuation.
- Property Management
- This course includes information on commercial and residential property management. Students examine laws relevant to rental properties, such as the Fair Housing Act and leasing contracts. Exploring the daily responsibilities of property managers, students learn how to manage routine landlord tasks, including scheduling maintenance, developing positive tenant relations, and collecting rent payments.
- Real Estate Appraisal
- Students learn about common home mortgage loans and lending companies, preparing them for careers in real estate appraisal. Course topics include common appraisal approaches, social and economic influences on property prices, and market data analysis. Students learn how to implement mathematical appraisal strategies.
- Real Estate Legal Issues
- This course examines real estate laws, including contracts, zoning, and land use. Students learn how to legally conduct sales and transfer ownership. Other topics include deeds, wills, and environmental laws. In addition to taking a federal approach to legal issues, some programs emphasize knowledge of state-specific laws relevant to licensure.
How to Start a Career in Real Estate
Though each state has its own education requirements for professionals pursuing real estate careers, graduates of an online real estate program may have the greatest access to advanced opportunities in their local market. Many aspiring real estate professionals set their sights on becoming a real estate broker or sales agent, encompassing a unique combination of skills in sales, negotiation, finance, and investment concepts. Those with an online real estate degree in a particular specialization may be eligible for positions that focus on acute aspects of home appraisals and assessments or real estate inspection.
Those with an online master's in real estate development or other advanced degrees may be qualified for top positions or more sought-after listings as a real estate agent. Real estate professionals across the U.S. must have current licensure in accordance with local laws to practice in their area. Some states may also require a degree as a condition of licensure.
What Can I Do With a Real Estate Degree?
A real estate major acquires the knowledge and skills needed to pursue several careers in the property industry. The following table illustrates potential occupations graduates pursue with a real estate degree. These professionals possess organizational and problem-solving skills, and rely on their ability to interpret business jargon and communicate clearly to clients. Interpersonal skills allow them to establish clientele and develop working relationships with real estate attorneys, mortgage lenders, and home inspection agencies.
Average Salary for Real Estate Careers
Assistant Property Manager
Average Pay: $41,902
The first point of contact between tenants and a rental corporation, assistant property managers communicate with renters on issues such as lease agreements and billing, and also manage the daily operations of rental properties. Common job duties include scheduling repairs and inspections, showing available properties, and running credit checks on potential tenants.
Client Services Specialist
Average Pay: $45,656
These professionals typically work alongside project managers to meet client needs. They organize client records, create training manuals, and promote positive client relationships through frequent contact. Client services specialists delineate project tasks and monitor supply inventories.
Senior Asset Manager
Average Pay: $91,238
A senior asset manager oversees all items of value for an individual or corporation. Job duties include executing asset management programs and writing reports on asset performance. Professionals with five or fewer years of experience earn approximately $84,000 annually, and with just 10 years of work experience, this figure jumps to $93,000.
Real Estate Sales Agent
Average Pay: $43,283
Real estate sales agents show houses to potential buyers and assist property sellers. When working with sellers, real estate agents recommend selling prices and identify good offers. They research comparable market prices to inform recommendations. With experience, potential career paths lead to property management or real estate brokerage.
Commercial Property Manager
Average Pay: $61,145
These professionals ensure the daily operations and continued prosperity of commercial properties. They document property data, including the number of tenants, facility maintenance, and rental agreements. Commercial property managers position themselves in a field that offers pay increases as much as 38% with 10 to 20 years of work experience.
To determine the best real estate degree programs, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school's commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the top real estate degree programs. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school's ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category's ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.