MBA after entry-level development role?

I read a lot on here about people using an MBA or MSRED to make the jump from certain real estate roles (IS, leasing, appraisals, property management, etc.) to development, but not much about people getting an MBA/MSRED after already starting out in development.

For those who get entry level roles out of UG at an active developer and who wish to stay in development, what are the benefits of getting an MBA or MSRED? Would this help with career growth and prevent plateauing in middle management? Would it help if you wanted to eventually start your own shop, or is it better to save your money and get 3 years of experience instead of going back to school?

On a semi-related note, do top b-schools like seeing development analyst/associate experience?

Comments (7)

 
Most Helpful
Dec 18, 2019 - 5:51am

If you're already in development, a MRED isn't going to do that much for you. You would definitely become more well rounded with it, but that's not worth exiting the industry for and missing out on a year or two of experience (and income).

There's a slightly better argument for a MBA as a way of "future proofing" yourself, especially if the degree is from a top program, but the situation you described is also one of the few situations in which I would recommend a part-time MBA if there is a good program in your market. You should be making enough of a network on your own outside of the degree that it'll be a counterweight to the network lost doing a program part time. I'd also throw Georgetown's master of real estate into this group if you can do that part time while theoretically working in DC.

Ultimately though, in development, your experience in developing projects is what defines you and allows you to either rise through the ranks or break off and do your own thing. You can't gain experience developing projects at a MBA or MRED program. You gain it on the job.

Commercial Real Estate Developer

  • 5
 
Dec 18, 2019 - 9:40pm

I appreciate the insight. Sounds like an MBA would be a better fit for my career goals.

Do you know how MBA programs view development experience? You hear about consulting, IB, PE, etc being viewed as quality experience by these programs. Would you say the same for development at a top tier shop?

 
Dec 21, 2019 - 12:26pm

CRE:

If you're already in development, a MRED isn't going to do that much for you. You would definitely become more well rounded with it, but that's not worth exiting the industry for and missing out on a year or two of experience (and income).

There's a slightly better argument for a MBA as a way of "future proofing" yourself, especially if the degree is from a top program, but the situation you described is also one of the few situations in which I would recommend a part-time MBA if there is a good program in your market. You should be making enough of a network on your own outside of the degree that it'll be a counterweight to the network lost doing a program part time. I'd also throw Georgetown's master of real estate into this group if you can do that part time while theoretically working in DC.

Ultimately though, in development, your experience in developing projects is what defines you and allows you to either rise through the ranks or break off and do your own thing. You can't gain experience developing projects at a MBA or MRED program. You gain it on the job.

I did exactly what you described @CRE. I had REPE and development analyst experience and opted for a part-time MBA at UC Berkeley Haas (a great program) and got deeper into development as a result. The "future proofing" that CRE describes is exactly what I had in mind in terms of my course selection. I took the great classes on real estate investment, land use entitlements that Haas is known for (esp with ties to Bay Area firms and law school, architecture and planning). I'm involved with the real estate alumni association. But the future proofing, I took courses I was interested outside of real estate: corporate turnarounds, M&A, social impact investing, power and politics, corporate finance, and strategy; which I felt helped me in development and beyond. I never took a course on marketing until the MBA.

The part time program, I was fortunate to have a great school in my MSA. I know of students who fly in from SoCal, Seattle for Haas, so there are more sacrifices but it's doable. I know a couple MDs who did part time at Haas or Kellogg.

I do want to talk about future proofing a bit more though. Having been in the real estate industry for 15 years, I've experienced recession and/or periods of unemployment/finding myself twice over the past 15 years. I've seen the humbling, market-driven pricing of my work (at times great and times not so great), outside the corporate paycheck. I was a consultant with services to the highest bidder (more like I had a network of folks who needed me). I found that you need more than just Vanilla real estate experience to sustain longer bouts of the "jungle" (gig economy). That's why I always push folks to finish their accounting degree (or whatever technical) on WSO.

You have to become multi-disciplinary if you want to rise in the ranks in development (and I believe in acquisitions) or start your own company; and if you can, have some great skills you can piece together (ie financial modeling, do it yourself legal familiarity, accounting, vision, and vision communication via spreadsheet, writing and verbal presentation). You show less value if you are more one dimensional. You'll get lost in the jungle (more like you will settle on a job just to get a paycheck and get derailed)

I don't want to leave out full time MBA completely because I worked with some career ascending folks in the industry. They needed the MBA to get to where they are today.

You don't necessarily need a grad degree to become multi-disciplinary but it's something you can put on your resume and you'll get exposed to different things.

I was asked a couple days ago what I would do differently or what I regret. I said I'm very happy where I'm at in life and career. I defied the odds. The only thing maybe I would have done differently is do things to make my odds better. That's why a MBA from a good school fits in that bucket.

Happy Holidays Monkey

Have compassion as well as ambition and you’ll go far in life
  • 4
 
Dec 19, 2019 - 10:15am

I've been wondering the same thing, although my situation is a little different. I went to UG for a STEM degree and got a job at a major brokerage shop, but have found not having the business background made it tough to transition over to a finance-heavy role.

Mirroring what CRE said, through networking I was able to switch but can't help but wonder if an MBA would be more beneifical in my situation just to have that business school box checked in the future if I want to make the switch over to the principal side.

 
Dec 19, 2019 - 2:05pm

This is all my opinion, but I'd say that unless you can get a full-ride and want the social / personal experience an MBA offers, a full-time MBA or MSRED would not be worth it for you. Someone might be able to make the argument that a part time program would be worth it to get the credential, but personally I would never come out of pocket and would only go back to school if my employer was willing to foot the bill.

You're in the industry and role that you want to be long term. No reason to take yourself out of the workforce and spend $200k to get back to the same place.

 
Dec 21, 2019 - 9:00pm

This is a tricky question. Just my opinion, but top tier MBAs are overrated in the CRE industry unless you're located in NYC, Boston, DC or San Fran. If you want to stay in development and just want to check the box then go part time in your market. I don't think it will make much difference though. You'll learn way more on the job than you would in the classroom and you'll make money doing it. On the other hand, if you want to strike out on your own, a top tier MBA program will open the door to an alumni network that could potentially fund your first deal. Another thought, all the top guys at the top REPE shops have their MBA from top programs. The top guys at most development shops do not.
Weigh the pros and cons and make your choice my man.

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