College Undergrad Looking for Career Advice in CRE

Hello WSO, I am currently an undergraduate student at a large public university in Texas. I don’t have any experience working in CRE but my interest has allowed me to have a very basic understanding of the industry.

At my university, I’ve networked with individuals who’ve spoken at our school who work in all different sectors of CRE, professors, current/former students, as well as hiring managers at career fairs. I’ve also been able to get involved in my universities real estate organizations and programs.

Reading posts/threads here has brought up many questions about what my future holds in CRE. My end goal/dream is to dip into my entrepreneurial spirit and start my own fund with a partner. I understand this takes 10-15+ years of experience, a proven track record, and of course funding, but I cannot see myself not starting something of my own one day.

If you were in my shoes, knowing you wanted to branch off on your own one day, what path would you take? Starting with what internships, and what companies you would look at in college, to what specific roles (acquisitions, REPE, etc). Would you do REIB →REPE → leaving to start your own fund or maybe REIB → MBA → REPE? (Just Examples). Small Firm vs Big Firm? Many hours aren't an issue.

I understand this post comes off as very naive, and dumb to most people but I’m genuinely curious as to what I should be setting my goals at so I can work towards and achieve them.

Thank you, and if there is any other advice you can give me I would be very thankful.


Working at a small GP is the best way to prepare for owning your own business. But you will be sacrificing a lot of $ compared to working at a large institutional LP.

Ultimately, real estate isn't rocket science. So you can start your own firm coming from pretty much any background, wouldn't worry too much about it at this early stage.


Thank you, from what I understand from your comment; a small gp means less $ but more opportunities to learn meaning you can start a company earlier versus a large gp with more $ but it will take you longer to get the experience required.


Similar path and region but in development.

Realistically, any internship that is geared toward RE works to at least show interest (I worked as an O&G landman for some summers before jumping to intern at my current shop only tying factor there is a baseline understanding of land and legal docs and only was doing that when I thought I was going to go for O&G IB). UT's RE program is good and I'd try to go to any and all events you can since a lot of firms only hire out of that program for RE slots (myself included for UT recruiting).

Your question overall is pretty broad on what exactly you are wanting, but I wouldn't worry too far in advance (10-15+ time horizon a lot can change and so can your plan). The best thing you can do right now is get some experience at a firm that at least partially aligns with what you are wanting but don't worry about being pigeonholed at all this early in the game.

You're not really a born and bred, traditional aristocrat if you work hard enough to get into Harvard.- Prospie

Thank you I appreciate it. I agree my question was a bit broad regarding what type of company I want to start. Again I've never got to experience personally what it's like at different companies so interning will help me decide what I like and don't like.


Absolutely for sure and don't take anything I said as inherently negative.

For instance, my path I was deadset O&G banking had offers, and then COVID stuff came up and had all my offers pulled at once. I lucked out getting a development job and, through that experience, I learned that it was what I wanted to do. So the moral of the story is to just keep open to any and all opportunities that come your way (especially considering that the junior market is rough right now) and it'll all work out. While it is good to put yourself on a path for your future, the best thing you can do now is get any kind of experience and be someone that other people like to be around.

I'll take the person who I can tolerate being around outside of work and is willing to learn/try new things versus the tryhard gunner (coming from someone who could have aligned with that in the past).

You're not really a born and bred, traditional aristocrat if you work hard enough to get into Harvard.- Prospie

I will definitely keep my options open thank you for letting me know your experiences.

Last 2 questions I promise,

1. Is company loyalty valued in CRE, staying with a company long-term v.s. moving every few years?

2. Do you personally see VP's and MD's with MBA's? I know in Finance people typically get an MBA and then are able to keep progressing through their career where they otherwise hit a ceiling. But I know CRE is more based on experience versus education in that aspect.

Thank you.

Most Helpful

No worries and feel free to ask more questions happy to answer.

As a caveat: my answers are heavily skewed towards development and won't apply the same to other sectors since dev is a bit of an oddball in CRE

  1. Company loyalty in dev matters because the timeframe for projects is so long and if you hop between firms in 1-2 year spans you won't see cradle-to-grave action on the deals you work on. On the EXTREMELY optimistic timeline, let's say pre-construction you get everything squared away with funding, permits, approvals, and planning in one year (lol) then allocate 24 months to construction (also unlikely due to everything going on) that right there is 3 years eaten up before you are even putting the development online. Then another year of stabilizing and keeping the project active and maybe you eventually reach a sale point. If you are only working for a firm for 1-2 years you will only see spurts of each section for each active project making your knowledge base in the process a bit limited. Also in terms of carry/% stake, there is more justification to give you it if you are managing the project cradle-to-grave.
  2. In development, not really. Most of my experience has been with smaller or more niche dev firms so can't speak to the mega-developers but there is heavy weight put on experience rather than more titles. I'd take someone with 1-2 years of direct dev exp over an MBA with no dev exp any day of the week because the process is pretty atypical and something you can't exactly teach in a classroom.

I'd ask someone else to chime in for other sectors but I'd say jumping between firms/MBAs will be more applicable to other positions but it all really depends. I considered an MBA but given I don't want to pivot from dev nor do I want to disrupt what I have going on right now, it didn't seem like a great value proposition given the opportunity cost.

You're not really a born and bred, traditional aristocrat if you work hard enough to get into Harvard.- Prospie

Development professional here with post-graduate degrees:

IB->REPE->MBA->REIT at a very high level, just below C-Suite.  Get to the C-Suite, then start your own REIT.  The equity you can acquire in the public markets will outstrip anything you think you may do as an independent operator, with certain exceptions (you are not Rick Caruso).


Do you think, if you wanted to take the entrepreneurial route, that starting your own acquisitions firm would be easier/more lucrative than a development firm?

Definitely not easier to go off on your own in "acquisitions" (I assume you mean purchasing stabilized assets and operating them).  Posters here in the RE section romanticize going off on your own.  It is far more work and usually does not pay out.  Those going into RE to make big bucks or for the independence of being an entrepreneur should pursue other industries.  


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