Entry level salaries?

Hi all,

I'm struggling. I want to work with real estate investments. I have been targeting asset management and acquisitions roles. So far I have interviewed for three asset manager analyst and acquisitions analyst positions and they all had salaries ranging from $50k-$70k, no bonuses, no carry, no equity. According to the CEL & Associates National Real Estate Compensation & Benefits Survey the low end total compensation should be $100k+. I don't live in SF, LA or NYC so I expect the low end but I just can't accept a role for that little.

I have been working accounting for a real estate property management company. I have interviewed for a few accounting positions in the last month just to see what I can get and I can confidently say for my experience level salaries range between $90-$120k.

I love working with real estate but I want out of accounting. I have taken the Break Into CRE classes to teach myself real estate modeling. I have a bachelor's degree from an average state school. 

I'm willing to relocate for the job. I have applied to positions all over but I'm not getting any calls back for positions that aren't local. I'm pushing myself to network on Linkedin but coming up dry there too. Is there anything I can do other than getting an MBA if I want more compensation?  Are the salary guides way off base?

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Comments (15)

Most Helpful
Feb 14, 2021 - 12:49pm
emceedrive, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Entry level real estate roles are notoriously low-paid and overworked relative to other verticals in finance unless you're a capital allocator. If you're in a GP environment, there is a really good chance you're at a privately-owned, 2nd or 3rd gen sponsor sort of shop, and their mantra is 'take, take, and take some more'. Some will find its worth it to do it for a few years and then get paid for your experience somewhere else.

Their are a few exceptions to this at very name brand developers like Hines or something, but for the most part, unless you're at an LP/REPE platform, you will make less than your buddies in other verticals at the analyst and associate levels at a GP. I'm guessing this is doubly the case in secondary/tertiary markets.

Those salary guides are almost exclusively applicable to REPE roles in gateway cities, and even then, tend to shade a bit high IMHO.

Feb 14, 2021 - 1:16pm
redever, what's your opinion? Comment below:

If you can get $70k all-in for a legit buyside/front-office style role in a non-major market with just an UG degree, you are doing pretty well. The accounting exp is going to be useful, especially in asset mngt, but unless you have the years of exp for higher grade levels, this "jump" will be a bit of a restart. Still, you can maybe get associate ranking and thus pay bump based on your years of exp (it is related exp for sure). 

Those salary surveys from CEL and the like are showing averages that can be skewed to more experienced people, not "first job", plus little way to distinguish UG vs. grad degree, so all that just get's averaged. I'd say the $50-$70k for non major market is probably market (should have bonus potential of 10-30% on top, to be honest).

Feb 14, 2021 - 5:56pm
RE_Romeo, what's your opinion? Comment below:

thank you for your comment. Do you have any advice for someone in this position? 

It feels like my options are:

1. take a pay cut and get into AM

2. go to a higher paying accounting job

3. Stay where I am knowing I am underpaid as an accountant but staying in hopes that I can get into an acquisitions analyst role here a year or two in the future and keep my salary.

None of the options are particularly appealing to me. 

Feb 14, 2021 - 6:37pm
aspiringcoolperson, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I came from a Big 4 audit/FP&A background and found an acquisitions analyst role in a regional shop. I took a 12% pay cut, but within a year, my salary went back up to its pre-acquisitions level plus bonus. Redever is right that this is going to be more of a career restart, so you should be prepared for a pay cut. Even though your accounting background will be useful, most people won't see it that way, so you have to clear a higher hurdle than others who come from investments background (e.g. IS brokers, former IB analysts). And ultimately, you might have to take on an entry-level role despite your prior experience.

If you really want to be in asset management or acquisitions, then staying longer in accounting won't really help you. The longer you stay, the more pigeonholed you will be, so you might have to just rip the bandaid sooner than later. Keep networking -- this may just be an extra tough time to connect with people. PM me if you wanna compare notes, etc. :)

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Feb 14, 2021 - 6:41pm
redever, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I think you need to decide how bad you want to go into real estate and out of accounting. You mention grad school, do you want or intend to do an MBA or MSRE/D? That would set your path very well, it's an expensive/time consuming, but consider that your "competition" is doing that. Having a grad degree as minimum entry ticket is just becoming the way of the road for this industry more and more (not to say its always required, or that your accounting background isn't sufficient, but it is an increasing factor).

Beyond that, thoughts on your options... (In reverse order)

3. I mean, this is status quo, not sure the probability of the internal transfer at your firm. These do happen, but frankly, it's often easier to jump fields at a new firm, than internally. Really, you have to navigate this one, the fact that you say "year or two" doesn't make it sound good.

2. I mean, sure if you want to be an accountant. Clearly, honorable field, but I cannot provide further comment. The real question is lifetime earnings, clearly you concerned with your comp (as you should be). But, the difference of $10k a year today, mean's what in 5, 10, 15, 20+ years? More importantly, job satisfaction. If you loved accounting, doubt you would be posting here.

1. My general advice to people looking to get into institutional/commercial real estate is..... jump into it! Gotta start somewhere. Either get a job, really any legit front-office style job in the field will do (best you can get). Or go to grad school with the intent of getting internships and then FT. Jump, if you are going to do this, every year costs against you. A final note, since you didn't post your current pay, I can't really say if you actually should take a pay cut. I'd think getting $55-70k in base (I assume you have a few years of accounting exp) with a 10-30% bonus potential is reasonable in most "real cities", more on base same bonus in the top major markets. 

Feb 14, 2021 - 9:49pm
bac11, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Rip the bandaid. It's clear you don't want to be in accounting. Staying longer is not going to help you. Network like crazy. If you get a role somewhere, learn as much as you can as fast as you can - who knows where that will put you 12 months from now. The nice thing about real estate is it's a meritocracy. If you are constantly honing your skills there will be plenty of opportunity to move up.

Grad school all depends where you go. I'd be cautious if you think going to grad school will open up a lot more high paying job opportunities. It may just open up better opportunities for the same entry level positions you are referencing now (at which point it will suck even worse going backwards). If you are going to a top program it's a different approach. If you are going to a run of the mill program I would try and start a new role and take night classes and just live and breathe real estate. You will be lethal after 12-24 months of that.

good luck 

  • Associate 2 in RE - Comm
Feb 19, 2021 - 10:14am

Adding to the comment about grad school. It will open up a lot more opportunities to higher paying roles, but you also have to realize that the competition pool (both your classmates as well as other MBA's) will probably be more qualified then you as most will have backgrounds in acquisitions/asset management and IB (note: this is in regards to acquisition roles, I find that most MBA's don't target asset management). So you maybe in a similar situation to the one you are in now, just with having spent a lot of money. 

 Maybe making it easier for you psychologically is to think of the transition and pay cut as "paying for a real estate education". If you want to be in this field, take the lower paying role, grind it out for year or two, and look into getting an MBA/MRED. At that point you can then re-evaluate to see if your experience that you built can get you a much better role, or if you need grad school to bridge that gap.

Feb 14, 2021 - 10:12pm
mrcheese321, what's your opinion? Comment below:

It is going to be hard for most firms to want to relocate you since you don't really have any direct experience (very few analyst/associate jobs will offer relocation anyways). But, if you are willing to pay for the move yourself, then you can potentially open more options, but you are going to have to convince people about your dedication to the new city. I've moved 2x, once as an analyst and once as an associate. Both times I was the only non-local candidate, but won out because of past experience and I had a good reason for the move (first was to relocate with an ex, the 2nd was to get to a market I have family/friend and always wanted to live in).

In terms of taking a pay cut, that is pretty common for a lot of career switchers. You take one to move and then after a couple of years either negotiate something higher at your firm or look for a new job. I did it myself when I jumped from valuation to debt and honestly it was THE decision that got me where I am now (10 years later I lead debt AM for a fund).

since it sounds like you don't love accounting, I would encourage you to make the jump sooner rather than later because the longer you go, the more you are going to need a masters to make it happen.

Feb 16, 2021 - 12:11pm
mef, what's your opinion? Comment below:

This may sound like a stupid question, but bouncing off this one... I keep seeing entry level position postings on LinkedIn put the qualifications in the description always say 1-3 years. Is this some kind of front because I'm applying as an UG with a couple internships under my belt but how am I supposed to get into entry level. Should I just apply regardless? Because it doesn't make sense to me tbh

Feb 16, 2021 - 1:09pm
CRE, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Just apply regardless. 

The reality is that companies can afford to be extra choosy with candidates. 

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Feb 17, 2021 - 2:01pm
RunTheThrone, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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