U.S. News and World Report is known for its annual ranking of top undergraduate and graduate programs, including the best colleges for real estate. But before we get to revealing that list of top schools, let's take a look at why a real estate college degree -- which is not always necessary for a career in this industry -- could benefit a real estate professional's bottom line.
Do you need a college degree as a real estate professional?
Typically, a license is all that's required to become a real estate broker or agent, though the classroom hours and exam prep requirements vary greatly from state to state. From an investor's perspective, it could be argued that all you need is money to break into residential or commercial real estate investing. But there's a stronger argument that to be smart with that money, one needs a firm education in the real estate industry.
A college degree can provide the skills needed to open up additional opportunities in the industry, including those in real estate market analysis and forecasting, property management, urban planning and community development, and more.
A real estate licensure program will provide the necessary foundation in real estate principles. However, many aspects of the real estate industry -- from real estate appraisal to property management to community planning -- go far beyond the sales transaction. For those who want to be an integral part of the development or redevelopment of towns, it helps to study community and urban planning.
Real estate professionals who want to work for large development firms or real estate investment trusts (REITs) would need to study finance and economics to better understand market shifts. For entrepreneurs looking to expand their investment portfolios and break into new industries or sectors, an understanding of accounting, taxation, and budgeting would also come in handy. Then, of course, marketing classes can also help investors and landlords promote vacant properties to potential buyers.
What does a real estate degree program entail?
Dozens of colleges and universities across the country offer real estate curricula, including certification programs, associate degree programs, four-year undergraduate degree programs with real estate as either a major or minor, and graduate programs, with some schools offering a real estate MBA. While all these programs focus on real estate, a prospective degree student can expect a liberal arts education with a solid foundation in business administration coupled with real estate principles.
For example, the real estate program at New York University features an undergraduate curriculum that includes writing courses, quantitative reasoning, economics, statistics, science, and social science. A real estate major will also take courses that include business organization, management, real estate law, real estate finance, valuation, accounting and taxation, real estate market analysis, risk and portfolio management, commercial lease analysis, and capital market and corporate finance.
Aside from a great mix of business and real estate courses -- which likely include real estate licensure somewhere in the mix -- what's great about being an undergraduate real estate major is the access to internship opportunities that offer valuable hands-on experience, as well as an alumni network that can be mined for professional opportunities.
The top schools for real estate
Without further ado, if you are looking to take your knowledge above and beyond a real estate license, here are the top 11 real estate colleges and universities and their locations, according to U.S. News and World Report. Note that all these schools are also ranked for their business administration programs, showing again the correlation between a strong business acumen and a solid knowledge of the real estate industry.
- University of Pennsylvania: Philadelphia.
- University of Wisconsin: Madison, Wisconsin.
- New York University: New York City
- University of California, Berkeley: Berkeley, California.
- University of Southern California: Los Angeles.
- University of Georgia: Athens, Georgia.
- University of Florida: Gainesville, Florida.
- Florida State University: Tallahassee, Florida.
- University of Texas at Austin: Austin, Texas (tied with #8, FSU).
- Georgia State University: Atlanta.
- Cornell University: Ithaca, New York.
While these are the top schools by U.S. News & World Report's standards, they are by no means the only programs you can consider for an undergraduate or graduate degree program. When pondering what type of real estate school would be best for your career goals, there are many things to consider, not the least of which is cost.
Also, choosing an online program instead of an in-person program would allow you to study regardless of location, though it's smart to choose a program in the geographical market in which you will be working and investing.
The Millionacres bottom line
A college degree is neither required to launch a real estate sales career as an agent or broker nor a must for building a real estate investing portfolio. But for those individuals who wish to expand their knowledge of residential or commercial real estate development, a bachelor's degree -- or even a master's degree -- in real estate could be an asset. Consider the tuition as a different type of real estate investment that could pay off.