The Best Real Estate Graduate Degree Programs [For You]

Going back to school can be a great way to shortcut the process of landing a job in commercial real estate, especially for people who are transitioning from a different industry.

A Master’s degree can help you build your network quickly, open up doors at some of the top companies in the industry, and give you a significant bump in pay just for having this on your resume.

But even though graduate school can be a helpful tool to break into the business, there are a lot of options out there, and not all programs are created equal.

So if you’re considering going back to graduate school for a Master’s in Real Estate or general MBA, this article covers three of the biggest things to focus on when choosing a graduate school program, and how to find the best fit for you.

If video is more your thing, you can watch the video version of this article here:

Alumni Networks in Your Target City

Your peers and university alumni are very likely going to be the people who end up helping you find internships and full-time job opportunities, which means that where these people are working and the companies these people are working for should be weighed heavily in your decision.

LinkedIn is a great resource to get a sense of a program’s alumni presence in a given market, and LinkedIn’s advanced search feature can help you find commercial real estate industry professionals that have graduated from the specific universities you’re considering who are also located in the specific city you want to end up in.

From there, once you’ve narrowed down this list, you can get a much better sense of the caliber of firms that these people are working for, what their career trajectory has looked like after graduation, and whether or not you would want to follow a similar career path yourself.

The goal here is to get clear about where you want to end up, and then identify the schools with alumni that are already doing what you want to be doing in the city you want to be working in after graduation.

Comb Through Employment Reports

Even if you’re clear on the general part of the country you want to end up in, the best schools in the United States tend to be clustered in core, gateway markets like New York, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., so it’s very likely that you’ll have more than just one option within your target city.

And to get a better sense of which school might be best for you if you have multiple different options, the next thing I’d recommend is to review the most recent employment reports published by each school you’re considering.

Every program will put this document together in a slightly different way, but in most cases, an employment report is going to show things like salary statistics, signing bonuses, industry disciplines, and even specific companies that have hired from the school.

Differences in graduate pay can also be significant between universities, and having a certain pedigree on your resume can sometimes result in tens of thousands of dollars in additional compensation in your first job out of graduate school, that you wouldn’t have otherwise received if graduating from a second or third-tier program.

Many employment reports will also clearly show the different cities or geographic regions their graduates have gone on to work in, the average or median salary in each region, and even the percentage of students that accepted job offers within six months after graduation. This can also give you a great sense of how in-demand graduates are from each of the schools you’re considering, and how quickly you can expect to find a job coming out of each program.

Assess Your Commitment To Commercial Real Estate

Aside from each school’s geographic presence and alumni employment data, we can’t end this list without addressing the decision around which type of graduate degree to pursue.

And on this note, my recommendation is to make sure you’re choosing a program based on your level of commitment to the real estate industry, and how much time you’re willing to dedicate to further your education.

If you’re going to graduate school with the intent to break into the commercial real estate industry after graduation, your options are a general MBA or a dedicated Master’s in Real Estate.

As a first glaring difference between the two, not every school will offer a Master’s in Real Estate degree, so going this route can narrow down your pool of potential programs significantly. If you’ve had your sights set on a graduate degree for a while, this can end up taking some of the top schools in the country completely off the table, which you might have otherwise wanted to target when pursuing a general MBA.

Another thing to think about is that, while many people go back to school with the intent to go into real estate, many of these people decide to pivot and shift their focus while in school. If you think you want to go into real estate, but also think you might want to work in sectors like investment banking, private equity, or consulting, a general MBA program is going to give you significantly more optionality if you decide to go a different route.

With that said, for people who are sold on a career in commercial real estate and want to minimize their time out of the workforce, a specialized Master’s in Real Estate degree can be an excellent option to pursue.

Dozens of Master’s in Real Estate programs have popped up across the country over the last decade, and many of these offer accelerated degree tracks that can be completed in just 12 months (or less). This can make the “hit” from both a tuition and lost salary perspective significantly easier to swallow, and pales in comparison to the time and financial commitment you’d have to make when enrolling in a traditional, two-year graduate degree program.

These programs also tend to cut out a lot of the core curriculum requirements that would otherwise be mandatory when pursuing a traditional MBA degree, which is a big plus for people who want to get through the academic portion of school quickly and focus their attention on landing internships, building their networks, and forming relationships within the real estate industry.

Ultimately, if you’re committed to a career in real estate, you want to minimize your time out of the workforce, and there’s a reputable Master’s in Real Estate program in the general region of the country you want to build your career in, this could be a great option to pursue.

However, if you’re not completely sold on real estate as a career, you want to open yourself up to schools like Harvard and Stanford (that don’t currently have a dedicated Master’s in Real Estate degree program), and you also don’t mind the extra time and cost that often comes along with a traditional two-year graduate degree, a general MBA may be a better option.

How To Break Into Commercial Real Estate

Whether you’re planning on going to graduate school or not, if you want to make sure you have the technical skills you’ll need to land a job at a top commercial real estate investment, development, or brokerage firm, make sure to check out our all-in-one membership training platform, Break Into CRE Academy.

A membership to the Academy will give you instant access to over 120 hours of video training on real estate financial modeling and analysis, you’ll get access to hundreds of practice Excel interview exam questions, sample acquisition case studies, and you’ll also get access to the Break Into CRE Analyst Certification Exam. This exam covers topics like real estate pro forma and development modeling, commercial real estate lease modeling, equity waterfall modeling, and many other real estate financial analysis concepts that will help you prove to employers that you have what it takes to tackle the responsibilities of an analyst or associate at a top real estate firm.

As always, thanks so much for reading, and make sure to check out the Break Into CRE YouTube channel for more content that can help you take the next step in your real estate career.

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