The study of real estate at the graduate school level has taken many forms, giving rise to various educational models in different countries. The decision for individuals pursuing higher education in this field often comes down to choosing between a traditional degree with a focus on real estate (e.g., MBA with concentration in real estate) or an interdisciplinary, comprehensive degree (e.g., Master of Real Estate) focused wholly on real estate studies.
Students who opt to study in a full-time Master of Real Estate program, should expect to take courses in topics such as financial analysis, market analysis, contracts and deal-making, construction, design fundamentals, asset (property) management, construction management, building technology and design fundamentals. Some programs offer studio, capstone, or workshop courses in which students engage actual real estate development projects. Some also provide access to internships. There is no established accreditation system in the United States in real estate development education, so students should investigate offerings in each program.
Historically, graduate level coursework in real estate was limited to a major or minor in business, or training in architecture and urban planning schools. While Business school programs might emphasize the business side of real estate, MBA students typically lack adequate understanding of real estate principles and processes. Over the last several decades, the real estate industry has matured to one with great complexity and an increasingly institutional ownership structure. The increased complexity of the industry created a demand for practitioners who possessed a comprehensive knowledge of real estate beyond that of traditional MBA generalists. One and two-year graduate level real estate degree programs originated with the founding of the New York University Real Estate Institute in (1967) (now known as the NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate) and in 1983 with the formation of the MIT Center for Real Estate. Soon after, other schools followed with Harvard University (1983) Texas A&M University (1984), Columbia University (1985), the University of Southern California (1986), Johns Hopkins University (1989), and Cornell University (1996) all forming professional graduate programs focused solely on real estate education.
According to the Urban Land Institute, during the mid-1990s strong academic interest in real estate "was never greater, whether for repositioning products, redeveloping inner cities, or developing more affordable housing. Students seemed to be acting on the notion that it's a temporary downturn and graduate school is a good place for the moment." As enrollment grew, real estate programs responded by adding more course offerings to satisfy the demand..
In the early 2000s, prior to the Great Recession, the industry again acknowledged increasing need for graduates with superior qualifications — providing the research-based expertise necessary to solve complex problems in contemporary real estate development..
The late 2000s saw significant expansion of real estate programs to second-tier universities such as George Mason University, as well as additional coursework added by MBA programs that commonly did not have an emphasis on real estate. To deal with the complexity of the field and its far-reaching effects, today's industry professionals require advanced training to prepare them to operate in increasingly technical and interrelated areas..
As education needs have changed, business schools such as the University of Wisconsin, University of Pennsylvania, and University of California, Berkeley continue to cater to students interested in the flexibility of an MBA. Wharton's real estate program, for example, takes advantage of being housed in one of the top business schools in the United States and having some of the top real estate professionals in the world as advisers.
Rankings for graduate level education are not specifically formal as other professional disciplines. MBA programs with concentrations in real estate may be ranked according to organizations such as U.S. News & World Report or Business Week, but are not relative to the depth of the real estate industry studied in an MBA concentration compared with a specialized master's degree in real estate or real estate development. Real estate education has increased in recent years to fill the demand for well-educated practitioners in the industry. However, there has been a great deal of debate on what elements should be an essential part of a graduate program in order to help students succeed in the industry. Rankings have been conducted by editorial board representation of faculty members at university real estate departments, however, these results prove to be ineffective in judging the program as a whole. Many graduate programs utilize adjunct professors or guest speakers from the industry, which do not sit on editorial boards of scholarly real estate journals.
Currently there are no rankings of graduate degree programs in real estate development. The best method to evaluate the various degree programs is through due diligence by individual applicants, including a review of each program's curriculum and how it applies to the students academic and career goals. While there are no formal rankings for graduate real estate education, and programs are subject to greater locational impact factors than are MBA programs (due to regional and local policy influence).
A separate metric to evaluate the success of graduate real estate programs is the review of past winners in the Urban Land Institute Gerald D. Hines Student Competition. The Urban Land Institute is a non-profit research and education organization with membership by real estate developers, urban planners, architects and allied professionals. Each year graduate-level students form their own multidisciplinary teams (from real estate, urban planning and business schools) and have two weeks to devise a comprehensive design and development program for a real, large-scale site full of challenges and opportunities. Submissions will consist of boards that include drawings, site plans, tables, and a myriad of market-feasible financial data.
Multidisciplinary teams are not limited to including students from real estate development graduate programs. Students may also come from Master of Landscape Architecture, Master of Architecture, Master of Urban Planning, Master of Urban Design or MBA.
|2010||UNC Chapel Hill||Harvard||Maryland|
|2015||Maryland||Harvard||Harvard||University of Wisconsin||
|2016||Harvard||Georgia Tech||University of Miami|
An additional measure of the reputations of graduate real estate programs is the ARGUS Software University Challenge, which has been held in 2009, 2011 and every year thereafter. In the challenge, participating teams from universities around the world are required to simulate a comprehensive real-life development analysis of a fictitious commercial real estate project by modeling the provided assumptions specifically using ARGUS software. Team submissions are judged by a panel of industry and academic professionals. The winning teams receive cash prizes.
|2009||University of San Diego||Arizona State University and Baruch College||University of Colorado and University of North Carolina|
|2011||University of San Diego||Emory University||University of North Carolina|
|2012||York University||University of San Diego||New York University|
|2013||York University||University of San Diego||Florida International University|
|2014||University of San Diego||University of Pennsylvania||York University|
|2015||University of San Diego||University of New Brunswick||Florida International University||University of Edinburgh|
The Kellogg Real Estate Conference and Venture Competition is hosted by the Guthrie Center for Real Estate Research and the Kellogg Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative. The Conference will provide industry and research updates and relevant market information. The Venture Competition showcases MBA students, who have the opportunity to pitch to a high-profile panel of judges. The winning team not only receives $100,000 in cash and prizes, but also the opportunity to secure as much as $10,000,000 in equity funding. The primary purpose of the competition is to encourage entrepreneurial real estate ventures. The event also serves as an opportunity to promote top student talent before prominent industry professionals.
|2015||University of Chicago||$25,000|
The National Real Estate Challenge, a 20 team invitation-only real estate case competition hosted annually by the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin, is yet another metric to compare graduate real estate programs. The competition tests teams from universities across the United States on issues regarding real estate finance and private equity. The event is sponsored by firms such as JP Morgan, Equity Office Properties, and Hines. The 19 universities that competed in 2014 included: Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon, Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, Georgetown, Michigan, MIT, Northwestern, NYU, Rice, UCLA, UNC-Chapel Hill, USC, UT, Vanderbilt, Wharton, Wisconsin and Yale.
|2011||University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill||University of California, Berkeley||University of Virginia||University of Michigan|
|2012||Columbia University||University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School||University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill||The University of Texas at Austin|
|2013||University of Southern California||University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School||University of Texas||Cornell University|
|2014||Columbia University||University of Southern California||Cornell University||University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill|
|2015||University of Texas - Austin||Cornell University||University of Chicago||University of Wisconsin|
|2016||University of Texas - Austin||Northwestern University||Columbia University||University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill|
Arguably the most prestigious competition to gauge the quality of graduate real estate programs in the world, the CASE is an annual real estate competition that provides current graduate student teams from the world's top universities an opportunity to compete against one another, showcase their knowledge, and learn from each other through the analysis of a complex real world development site. The CASE is organized and hosted by the Alumni Association of the MIT Center for Real Estate.
Unlike other masters degree competitions, The CASE focuses on real estate acquisition, development programming and financial underwriting at the asset level. The competition mimics the professional circumstances and assignments that students interested in real estate finance, acquisitions and development are likely to encounter after graduation. Past finalists included: Harvard, Georgetown, Columbia, Yale, NYU, MIT, Cornell, Wharton at UPenn, London Business School, Cambridge and Hong Kong Institute of Technology.
|2011||Cornell University||Massachusetts Institute of Technology||Columbia University|
|2012||York University||Columbia University||Dartmouth College|
|2013||Cornell University||Massachusetts Institute of Technology||Georgetown University|
|2014 ||Georgetown University||Columbia University||Harvard University|
|2015||Cornell University||Massachusetts Institute of Technology||New York University|
|2016||Georgetown University||UCLA||Cornell University|
As with many MBA programs, undergraduate real estate education is commonly offered as a concentration, or focused area of study. Very few universities with varying academic reputation offer a bachelor's degree with a concentration in real estate (typically two courses during the senior year). An undergraduate degree in real estate is not a prerequisite for admission to a graduate real estate development program. Students from diverse backgrounds in geography, urban planning, business, economics, liberal arts, architecture or seeking a career change are encouraged to apply.
There are twenty-one multi-disciplinary real estate programs which focus on the academic study of real estate primarily, the Master of Real Estate Development, while the majority of the other programs typically housed as part of a business school offer a more focused degree on finance and investment. Graduate real estate programs may award any number of degrees (e.g. Master of Real Estate Development, Master of Science in Real Estate, Master of Professional Studies in Real Estate, Master of Design Studies in Real Estate), however, the key is to review each degree curricula independent of their respective naming conventions, as there are broad differences in their content and foci that may not necessarily be reflected in the degree's name.
Two examples of graduate real estate degree naming conventions include:
The Master of Real Estate Development degree (MRED) (or sometimes called the Master of Science in Real Estate Development (MSRED)) largely focuses on specific areas within real estate rather than taking a more generalist approach. Areas of concentration may include: real estate development, finance and investment, planning and policy, infrastructure and construction, market analysis, and real estate law. Students are generally exposed to the full range of functions and most real estate product types (e.g. residential, retail, office, hospitality, and industrial). MRED programs typically teach the subject matter through case studies and field experiences and by way of traditional class lectures. Whether in the context of urban redevelopment, historic preservation, or suburban growth, MRED students learn from both the investor's and developer's perspective, the importance of relevant issues in law, economics, finance, market analysis, negotiation, lease analysis, architecture, planning, and management. Many focus on the entire spectrum of the real estate development process-from dirt-to-deal, finance to façade-and include industry topics presented by leading local and national developers, financiers, and other players in the market. Included in this is the analysis of existing real estate assets and partnership structures.
The Master of Science in Real Estate degree (MSRE) often combines learning comprehensive business management skills with the understanding of how real estate markets work. Graduate programs that award a Master of Science in Real Estate degree are sometimes the expansion of real estate courses in a Business school into a degree of increased specialty or they are organically formed real estate centers within a larger college. Students who complete Master of Science in Real Estate degrees oftentimes go on to careers as real estate "project managers, asset management advisors, analysts, planners, and others."  Most Master of Science in Real Estate degrees are completed in one year though two year options with the opportunity to complete a summer internship between the first and second year are available (e.g. the University of Washington)  The Master of Professional Studies in Real Estate is also similarly found here, as it is simply a naming convention at Georgetown University and Cornell University.
The course work in real estate programs varies among universities. Many programs utilize HBS-style case studies of complex real estate scenarios to heighten the student's knowledge and strategic decision-making skills. Program lengths range from 30 to 72 credit hours. Programs that have more than 33 hours will sometimes allow its students to add a concentration. A required core curriculum is typical with the core curriculum's size and makeup being largely dependent on the length and focus of the program.
Example core curriculum:
In addition to the core curriculum, most two-year programs and some one-year programs offer students the opportunity to pursue a concentration, a focus on a specialized area of interest within the real estate industry. Concentrations differ between programs and universities.
Example areas of concentration:
Some programs, such as the MS in Real Estate Development at George Mason University, offer students the opportunity to combine elective coursework from several disciplines including business management, public policy and civil engineering.
The practice of real estate development requires practitioners to work with selecting building types and designs, determining appropriate dimensions, programming internal spaces, shaping the site, and appropriately fitting the project to surrounding contexts. Some programs, including Harvard University's Master of Design and Columbia University's MSRED include design education in the study of real estate development. A new program established at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, in 2015 emphasizes a capstone studio-workshop in which a multidisciplinary group of students under faculty supervision engage an actual real estate development problem for organizations acting as clients.
Executive degree programs in real estate offer practicing professionals the opportunity to learn while they are working. These programs are distinguished from distance programs through their uniquely blended model of residency classroom experience, distance education modules, and executive field study courses. Classes meet at the beginning of every semester, usually from five to seven days, and then complete the coursework through synchronous webinars, asynchronous discussion boards, and video lectures. Executive education in real estate is taught at numerous accredited institutions such as Auburn University.
|American University||Master of Science in Real Estate||30||Washington, D.C.||Flexible|
|Arizona State University||Master of Real Estate Development||2006||33||Tempe, AZ||Full-Time|
|Auburn University||Executive Master of Real Estate Development||2009||39||Auburn, AL||Part-Time|
|Baruch College||Master of Science in Real Estate||30||New York, NY||Flexible|
|Clemson University||Master of Real Estate Development||2004||54||Clemson, SC||Full-Time|
|Columbia University||Master of Science in Real Estate Development||1985||45||New York City, NY||Full-Time|
|Cornell University||Master of Professional Studies in Real Estate||1996||62||Ithaca, NY||Full-Time|
|DePaul University||Master of Science in Real Estate||36||Chicago, IL|
|Florida International University||Master of Science in International Real Estate||2006||30||Miami, FL||Part-Time|
|Georgetown University||Master of Professional Studies in Real Estate||2010||30||Washington, D.C.||Part-Time|
|Georgia Institute of Technology||Master of Real Estate Development||2017||30||Atlanta, GA||Part-Time, Full-Time|
|Georgia State University||Master of Science in Real Estate||30||Atlanta, GA||Part-Time|
|George Mason University||Master of Science in Real Estate||2010||36||Arlington, VA||Part-Time|
|Harvard University||Master of Design Studies (Real Estate)||1983||48||Cambridge, MA||Full-Time|
|Johns Hopkins University||Master of Science in Real Estate and Infrastructure||1989||36||Washington, DC||Flexible|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology||Master of Science in Real Estate Development||1983||27||Cambridge, MA||Full-Time|
|New York University||Master of Science in Real Estate ||1967||42||New York City, NY||Flexible|
|New York University||MSRED||2010||42||New York City, NY||Flexible|
|Nova Southeastern University||MSRED||40||Fort Lauderdale, FL||Part-Time, Full-time|
|Pepperdine University||MSRE||2017||34||Malibu, CA||Full-Time|
|Portland State University||MRED||2012||55||Portland, OR||Flexible|
|Roosevelt University||MSRE||2002||31||Chicago, IL|
|Texas A&M University||MSRE||1985||38||College Station, TX||Full-Time|
|Texas A&M University||Master of Land and Property Development||1984||36||College Station, TX||Full-Time|
|Tulane University||MSRED||2010||43||New Orleans, LA||Full-Time|
|University at Buffalo||MSRED||2015||48||Buffalo, NY||Flexible|
|University of Arizona||MRED||2013||36||Tucson, AZ||Part-Time|
|University of Central Florida||MSRE||2011||30||Orlando, FL||Part-Time|
|University of Denver||MRECM||1947||50||Denver, CO||Flexible|
|University of Florida||MSRE ||34||Gainesville, FL||Full-Time|
|University of Illinois at Chicago||MARE ||35||Chicago, IL||Part-Time|
|University of Indianapolis||Master of Professional Studies||2016||30||Indianapolis, IN||Part-Time|
|University of Maryland||Master of Real Estate Development||2006||33||College Park, MD||Flexible|
|University of Miami||Master of Real Estate Development and Urbanism||2009||36||Coral Gables, FL||Flexible|
|University of Missouri Kansas City||MERE||2012||36||Kansas City, MO||Flexible|
|UNC Charlotte||MSRE||2012||32||Charlotte, NC||Flexible|
|University of Saint Thomas||MSRE ||36||St. Paul, MN||Flexible|
|University of San Diego||Master of Science in Real Estate ||2003||32||San Diego, CA||Flexible|
|University of Southern California||Master of Real Estate Development||1986||44||Los Angeles, CA||Flexible|
|University of Texas at Arlington||MSRE||36||Arlington, TX||Part-Time|
|University of Utah||MRED||2010||42||Salt Lake City, UT||Flexible|
|University of Washington||MSRE||2010||60||Seattle, WA||Full-Time|
|University of Wisconsin–Madison||Global-REM||2010||15||Madison, WI||Full-Time|
|Virginia Commonwealth University||MSRE-Valuation||28||Richmond, VA||Part-Time|
|University of Colorado Boulder||MSRE||36||Boulder, CO||Full-time|
A number of universities around the world offer graduate degrees in real estate and related subjects. See the list in Graduate real estate programs outside the United States.
Real estate programs and alumni donors sponsor research by real estate faculty in numerous areas of real estate including the economics of property markets, the impacts of regulation, and the sources of equity and debt financing. Additional research, in the form of faculty-supervised student thesis work, contributes to a growing inventory of new information. The research program is essential to promoting new knowledge, advancing teaching techniques, and bridging the gap between theory and practice. Not all graduate real estate programs conduct research.
|Guthrie Center for Real Estate Research ||Northwestern University|
|Center for Urban Real Estate (CURE) ||Columbia University|
|Real Estate Academic Initiative ||Harvard University|
|MIT Center for Real Estate ||MIT|
|Fisher Center for Real Estate & Urban Economics||University of California, Berkeley|
|The Center for Real Estate and Finance (CREF) ||Cornell University|
|Center for Real Estate Entrepreneurship ||George Mason University|
|The Richard H. Pennell Center for Real Estate||Clemson University|
|NYU Schack Center for Sustainable Built Environment, NYU Schack REIT Center NYU Stern Center for Real Estate Finance Research ||New York University|
|The Graaskamp Center for Real Estate||University of Wisconsin-Madison|
|Lusk Center for Real Estate ||University of Southern California|
|Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate ||University of San Diego|
|Colvin Institute of Real Estate Development ||University of Maryland|
|Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies ||University of Washington|
|The Center for Real Estate Education and Research||Florida State University|
|Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies ||University of Florida|
Professionals in real estate often hold degrees in related fields such as city planning, construction management, accounting, property management, architecture or law. One of the most common programs continues to be a Master of City Planning, regional planning, or urban planning degree with a real estate emphasis. Planning programs tend to emphasize land use planning, transportation or infrastructure development, land use law and policy and other planning topics; students who take a concentration in real estate development will learn how it relates to planning.
Business degrees with real estate concentrations generally provide students with the opportunity to pursue a general management degree, but to specialize in real estate development or some segment of the real estate industry through a sequence or group of electives. For a long time, those wishing to study real estate had to content themselves with primarily pursuing a Master of Business Administration degree, perhaps with the option of concentration in real estate, and usually with a focus in finance. These MBA programs typically only include one or two courses focused in real estate. Many MBA programs do not specialize in real estate.
For those weighing an MBA versus graduate real estate education, there are some issues to consider:
|MBA||Graduate Real Estate (MSRE, MSRED, MRED, MPS/RE)|
|Timeframe||2 years full-time||1 or 2 years; part or full-time|
|Curriculum||1st year - Business Basics; 2nd year - Specialization largely focused on finance-related areas||Real estate focus and specialization throughout|
|Specialization||Real Estate in MBA programs is very rare. Specialization tends to be finance focused||Broad-based real estate education in design, management, law, development, economics and significant focus on finance, e.g., real estate finance, capital markets|
|Program size||Typically, the programs are large with real estate students representing a relatively small (2% - 3%) percentage||Small groups, with commonly 25 to 50 students|
|Industry Commitment||Students pursuing an MBA may not be committed to a real estate career; therefore they are seeking a broader base||All students are committed to the real estate industry and many have real-estate related experience prior to coming to the program. An important part of the programs are the learning between students.|
|Career opportunities||Varied but with a heavy concentration in finance-related areas of the real estate industry||Significant representation in project management, development, finance-related areas, acquisitions, entrepreneurship and government|
|Thesis||Generally, not required||Typically required, usually as a professional publication or a real-life capstone competition|
|Alumni network||Usually extensive, but predominantly outside of the real estate industry||Alumni are involved in all facets of the industry and located throughout the world|
|Recruitment||Limited recruitment by real estate companies||Many students seeking employment find opportunities through peers, professors or on-site recruitment|
A limited number of MBA programs offer courses in real estate as part of the typical study in business.
|Cornell University ||Ithaca, NY|
|Columbia University ||New York, NY|
|Florida State University ||Tallahassee, FL|
|George Washington University ||Washington, D.C.|
|Georgetown University ||Washington, D.C.|
|University of California, Berkeley ||Berkeley, CA|
|Hofstra University ||Hempstead, NY|
|Johns Hopkins ||Baltimore, MD|
|Longwood University ||Farmville, VA (online)|
|Northwestern University ||Evanston, IL|
|Pacific States University ||Los Angeles, CA|
|Roosevelt University ||Chicago, IL|
|University of Georgia ||Athens, GA|
|University of Missouri Kansas City ||Kansas City, MO|
|University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ||Chapel Hill, NC|
|University of Pennsylvania ||Philadelphia, PA|
|University of Texas at Austin||Austin, TX|
|University of Texas at Dallas ||Richardson, TX|
|University of Wisconsin ||Madison, WI|
|University||Name of Certificate||Credit Hours||Description|
|Boston University||Certificate in Commercial Real Estate ||8 classes |
|Boston University||Certificate in Real Estate and Finance |
|The Catholic University of America||Certificate in Real Estate Development |
|Cornell University||Certificate in Hotel Real Estate Investments and Asset Management ||18||Certificate offered by the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration|
|Florida State University||Certificate in Real Estate Development ||12||Offered jointly by the Department of Urban and Regional Planning and College of Business|
|University of California, Berkeley||Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in Real Estate ||Offered jointly by the Haas School of Business, the UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design, and Berkeley Law.|
|University of Louisville||Certificate in Real Estate Development ||18||Offered by the Department of Urban and Public Affairs|
|University of Michigan||Certificate in Real Estate Development ||17 ||Offered by the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning|
|University of Pennsylvania||Certificate in Real Estate Design and Development ||18||Certificate offered by the University of Pennsylvania School of Design, with participation by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.|
|University of San Diego||Real Estate Finance, Investments and Development Certificate||Certificate offered by the University of San Diego’s Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate in collaboration with the University of San Diego's Professional and Continuing Education.|
|University of Southern California||Certificate in Real Estate Development ||12||Certificate offered by the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy.|
|University of Texas at Arlington||Certificate in Property Repositioning and Turnaround Strategies ||13||A unique program offered by the School of Architecture and College of Business. Participants in this graduate-level certification course learn how to reposition distressed properties and participate in workout teams in four months of concentrated sessions.|
Loyola University of New Orleans offers a Real Estate Investment Course as an elective.
A sample of careers include large public real estate companies; small private entrepreneurial organizations; regional investors; companies that specialize in a single product (e.g. office/retail/multi-family); non-profits involved in areas such as affordable housing; corporations that own real estate; companies that finance real estate; and companies that provide services such as design and architecture firms, brokerage companies, investment banks, REITs, and various consultancies. Careers in the public sector at the city, county, state, federal or military level offer interesting and rewarding career opportunities related to real estate. The skill sets are also transferable to other industries and sectors of the economy.