I'm thinking about getting a Real Estate Development Certificate that my school offers. It's four extra classes and wouldn't delay my graduation. The only downside is I pay an extra $2000 for tuition, and it might hurt my already fragile GPA.
I'm also thinking about getting my MBA or MSRED if need be. I'm targeting Columbia, MIT, and my undergrad as a last choice.
- Is there any way I can jump into real estate development with my civil engineering background and real estate development certificate straight out of undergrad?
- If not, what would be the best career path to take to get into real estate development or to get accepted into an MBA/MSRED program?
- As far as civil engineering careers, I've already ruled out transportation and structural engineering. Would being a project manager/engineer for a General Contractor be my best? What about land development for a civil firm?
How To Get Into Real Estate Development
When pursuing a career in real estate development, a strong understanding of finance is essential. Doing a Real Estate Development Certificate that provides this or other courses during your undergrad will be key to breaking into the industry. There is a lot of room for generalists in the development industry and you can play on these strengths.
Real Estate Developer Joe Armato, shares his perspective on how to break into the industry.
An MBA may be overkill in this case. It is common for people in their undergrad to feel like a master's program is required but for real estate development, a firm foundation in finance is sufficient. An MBA is extremely expensive and time-consuming. In this particular case, it won't do much to give you an edge. If down the line, your career path transitions or you feel you would benefit from more experience, you can always go back to school.
My background is not all too far from yours--I got my undergrad degree in architecture and opted to pursue construction management at a large GC/developer right out of school. This experience will give you a great perspective on development as you'll understand how projects are bid out, costs are managed, and buildings are delivered. You'll also be one of the few developers who has actually built a building. You'll be on the other side of the table as a developer but think about the questions you'll be able to ask your GC after getting 3-5 years of experience as a GC or developer? Working at a civil firm doing land development could be good too if you're working with developers and seeing the entitlement process through your work.
Experience always prevails in this industry--I work with quite a few undergrad interns who all seem to think that getting a master's degree is a golden ticket and I don't think this could be further from the truth. You can always go back to school to improve your business knowledge but if you have an opportunity to get experience in the field you want now, absolutely do it. Just think, if/when the cycle turns (many feel the next two years will bring this) you can go back to school and hopefully time it so you come out when the bottom has cleared out.
Getting Into Real Estate Development
Real Estate Developers come from a variety of backgrounds including engineering, design, construction, and finance. It is an industry where prior experience is essential. You will want exposure to the industry in some capacity. You can approach this from a variety of ways.
Watch the video below about how to become a real estate developer.
A popular way to get experience is through an internship, either paid or unpaid, before or after graduation. Working in construction is also very beneficial as it's great to have on-the-ground experience and understand the ins and outs prior to the development route. Even previous experience as a real estate agent has been known to help get your foot in the door for developing.
There's no set path. Everyone at my company has a unique path whether it was starting on the tenant side, working in brokerage, working in banking, engineering, and multiple others. The best way is to get exposure to the industry in some capacity, learn as much as you can so you know what you're talking about when you land the interviews, and most importantly, show your passion to work in the industry.
Read More About Real Estate Development On WSO
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