Should I major in real estate?

Hi all,

Plain and simple – I feel like I am kind of screwed. I have a 3.0 GPA and I am currently majoring in finance. I have tried networking my ass off to try to secure an internship next summer since I'm now a junior, but I get the sense that my grades are not doing me any favors. I have one trick left up my sleeve though, and that is the fact that I go to UW–Madison and I have heard our RE program is highly regarded. Should I declare the major and would this boost my chances to get an RE internship at this point? I just do not want to be stuck doing cost accounting and really want to work in finance of some kind.


Comments (19)

UndercoverNerd, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I'm an acquisitions analyst at a new but fairly prestigious, high AUM (for its size) firm. Been here about 2 months and started right out of school. The UW Madison RE program is well-regarded, but that's partly because the number of schools offering such a program is SO small, especially to undergrads. Don't let the US News rankings fool you, because no decision makers are going to put you anywhere near the level of a Penn grad if you're against them for the same role.

Having said that, it might improve your GPA, but not necessarily your chances of getting an offer. With the 3.0, and ESPECIALLY considering it's a 3.0 at an "easier" school and not a "target" school, you might have to consider something not directly in finance at first, build a network and then break in when you're a little more seasoned. At the end of the day, if you're non-target they're likely expecting a 3.85+ just to be willing to talk to you in most cases. I don't think a little bit of a boost by switching will do much for you at this point.

A big part of me thinks you're better off staying as a finance major and working your ass off to REALLY learn the finance and improve your GPA that way. You'll never get a BX offer, but if you bump up to a ~3.2 by having a ~3.8+ in your final few semesters while taking hardcore finance classes, there are definitely some smaller shops you could position yourself to and end up breaking in right out of school. The fact that you struggled at first but were able to buckle down and learn it by…(you come up with this part of the story) could end up resonating to the right people and get you that "out of reach" offer. 

At the end of the day, that's what the analyst role is. It's being thrown in to a bunch of data and finance that you can't really grasp right away, and just figuring it out while doing a good job in the process. If you're having a hard time doing that in an academic environment, how could you expect a hiring manager to believe you could do it professionally? I would STRONGLY consider staying the course in finance and foregoing anything close to a social life for your final semesters if finance is where you want to be.

All RE firms are different, but pretty much all the shops actively hiring nowadays are technical-heavy. They LOVE burnt out IB interns. I didn't have an IB/traditional financial services internship, so I struggled to break in even with a solid GPA at a target school. I knew what I was doing from a technical perspective, though, and was able to practice demonstrating that enough times in enough interviews that eventually I got the right offer.

I found the entry-level academy courses from breakintocre to be extremely helpful when I first started learning. Good luck! PMs are open if you wanna ask me anything privately.

Badger-Monkey, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thanks for the advice! Currently, I'm working on the GPA issue so I can have at least a 3.2 by next semester and a 3.8 major GPA. Hopefully, this will help me be a bit more competitive and I can look for internships this January since I'm not having a lot of luck right now.

I know nothing will be handed to me so at this point I am just focused on grinding as hard as possible to try to get a decent job. I was really surprised by the sheer number of real estate firms at my college's career fair so that's what drew me to ask this question.

UndercoverNerd, what's your opinion? Comment below:

At the end of the day they do have one of the best undergrad RE programs, regardless of how small the pool is. And RE is becoming increasing technical and financial, so I have no reason to think their finance program wouldn't be solid. There's probably a lot of overlap, any chance you can pull off a double major? If not, minor in RE if you can (I'd still major in finance if you can only do one).

If you KNOW you wanna do real estate and they don't have it available as a minor, maybe make that your major and minor in finance, which should be super easily since you've probably taken a lot of classes already. I wouldn't switch to RE just to get your GPA up if traditional finance is your goal, but if RE is the real goal that you want to pursue, than it would certainly make sense.

What firms were there recruiting? Drop me some names so I can get an idea, and based on who's there recruiting I should be able to suss out how useful the connections that degree gives you will be.

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Most Helpful
redever, what's your opinion? Comment below:

So, I am not a UW-Madison alum and have never even visited the state of Wisconsin.... BUT I can 100% tell you that their real estate program is one of the best/highly recognized in the nation (in part because I think it is one of the oldest). Their alumni association is legendary for being well connected and powerful (I'm in NYC, and a lot of alum here and I think they have actual meetings here due to the number of grads). I've also worked for some UW-M grads so that is how I learned some of these details.

All that said..... just switching your major won't change your essential "resume/GPA" issue. The top real estate firms/jobs are just as competitive (maybe more due to size) than finance. So, if you are curious/interested in real estate, def take some courses, maybe do the major switch (not sure if you like need to commit like ASAP if you want to stay on schedule for graduation, I'd assume a lot of overlap with finance and real estate) BUT..... really only consider this if you like/want to do real estate. 

I'd doubt you will find it much different or easier to get jobs in this field than finance. HOWEVER... CRE does have more small/regional firms that 100% are legit, have/do cool deals, and even pay pretty well.... so to that end.... CRE may be easier from a perception basis. But at the top/big name firms, doubt that will be the case. 

Badger-Monkey, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thank you for your advice. I am glad to hear that the program's reputation is actually really good, and I think I will do more soul searching to see if I want to go down this career path. I am working on the GPA issue and will hopefully have a 3.8 major GPA and a 3.2 cumulative by this winter. Luckily, the RE major overlaps quite a bit with finance so I should be able to graduate on time.

Financial Analyst 2.5, what's your opinion? Comment below:

If you're in the Midwest, you can work for pretty much whatever real estate company you want coming from UWs program.

Still have to compete for the role, but there's no ceiling for UW RE grads in Chicago, and other Midwest cities. Take a look on LinkedIn and you'll see what I'm talking about.

cre-23, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Program is as good as it gets for Real Estate basically outside of the top targets. Plenty of alums across top PE firms and AM firms. Only switch if you are interested in real estate because you'll get grilled in interviews from these top firms and it'll be very apparent you have no interest and you'd have switched your major basically for nothing 

Isanyonehome, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Unfortunately it's tough to network in Madison given the size (source: I live in Madison).

The other posters are right tho, focus on your grades from here on out, momentum/trends matter.

  • Associate 3 in RE - Comm

I am a UW real estate alum and was at the RE career fair you mentioned last week on behalf of my company. As plenty others have mentioned, the program is well-regarded and the alumni network is strong, but some thoughts:

  • Majoring in RE certainly helps, but not some silver bullet to getting an RE job - i.e. if I'm between two candidates, someone having real estate as a degree would not be the tie-breaker. Most schools don't have a RE degree anyways, so hard to compare apples/oranges. When recruiting/hiring I look more for the student's demonstrated understanding and interest in real estate, soft skills/how well they interviewed, experience, etc. Personally, I don't really care whether your GPA is 3.2 or 3.8 but that's my personal opinion. Plus my firm isn't super hardcore about GPA as long as it's at least 3.0-3.2.
  • Perhaps you can take the intro RE 306 class first, before declaring. Might be too late in the semester to add a class though. I was undeclared until sophomore year after I took the intro class, which got me interested in real estate.
  • Start going to the Real Estate Club meetings each Thursday, listen to the speakers, network, etc. Maybe even go on the annual RE trip they do (assuming they do it this year). When students tell me they went on the REC trip, that's a green flag because it demonstrates some interest in the field.
  • Consider applying to banks and/or insurance companies in their RE groups. The firms you listed above are mostly straight REPE or development firms which is desirable but more difficult to get into. Every commercial bank and a most insurance companies have a real estate lending division which opens up a lot of options that are less competitive, but still very much real estate focused (with some finance too, could be a good mix for you). Wells and PNC usually recruit for RE at UW Madison, but there are 100's of others out there (and don't skip over the smaller regional banks). 
Badger-Monkey, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I truly appreciate the advice as a fellow Badger. Working in real estate has not been on my radar until recently, but the responses I have gotten here have really made me consider diving in headfirst to this sector and trying to learn as much as I can. Unfortunately, it is too late to add RE306 to my schedule, and I am already taking 18 credits as it is. I paid my dues for the Real Estate Club today and will definitely attend the trip - thanks for the tip. The insight you gave regarding what real estate firms are looking for is extremely helpful. I need to read as much as I can these next few months about CRE so I can be well-positioned to demonstrate my interest to someone like yourself at the next career fair/networking event. Also, I will keep PNC and Wells Fargo on my radar as well as those opportunities may be more in my reach, for now. Thank you so much!

pudding, what's your opinion? Comment below:

No one cares what school you went to or what your major is/was once you open the door to the interview. Major in what you are interested in. Network your tail off. It's a really hard market right now as half the major asset classes are effectively shut down - office & retail. Therefore, less hiring. Once you open the door to the interview, it's fair game for everyone and a level playing field. Don't listen to the kid who posted that they graduated two months ago and you won't be as highly regarded as a Penn Kid. Sure, Penn is a great school, but so is UW Madison and everyone knows it. Just keep focused on the right items and it'll happen - network. 

747202, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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