Moving from Architecture to Real Estate Development

Rank: Chimp | 5

Hello WSO,
I am at a crossroads right now and would appreciate a bit of information/guidance/anything. I graduated in 2012 with my B.Arch(professional bachelor in architecture) and then went on to work for 2 years as a junior designer. I am back in grad school now finishing up my M.Arch II(Post professional Masters in Architecture) at Harvard's Graduate School of Design. I have always been interested in development, but taking a handful of courses in real estate and being exposed to financial modelling have cemented my desire to make the move away from design and into the financing of projects.

What would be the ideal way for me to make this transition? Try and find an analyst position at a smaller shop and get an MBA from a top 10 in a few years? Or continue working in architecture, finish my license, and do an MSRED? Any alternate paths?

My end goal would be to move into Hines, Blackstone,(or something similar) if possible and work my way up in the development groups.

Undergrad GPA 3.75 from top 5 school of architecture. Thesis prize. Distinction.
Lecturer, Design Critic at schools in the area
Masters in Architecture - Spring 2016
Awards, publications, etcc for design work.
Slightly under 30 years old.

Thank you for your time!

Comments (18)


You would have fit in well at the NYU info session last weekend. Seems like half the kids there were architecture majors. Although, I hear Columbia is the place to go for RE development programs.

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I'd look at local real estate developers (with varying sizes). Say you're local to Boston--look into a junior project management role for a Boston real estate developer. They love architects. They especially love architects with project management experience, so you'll probably be looking at the junior level roles. But junior project manager is probably someone who is about 27 to 33-years-old, so it wouldn't be like you're over- or under-qualified.


You have a functional background for nuts and bolts RE Development project management.

I would table the idea of going back to school (amortizing ~/+70k of debt when you don't have to would be painful), and look aggressively at junior pm roles.

Experience is much more valuable than any degree or cert when it comes to real estate (i.e., you can get a solid role with just good experience under your belt, but you cannot get much with just a degree).


Unfortunately the majority of my experience so far has been on the schematic design, design development and detailing of buildings. I have not spent much time on the PM side. Do development firms expect junior pm's to come in with solid experience, or is it similar to the architectural world where the majority of learning comes on the job?


They expect some experience in real estate. I'd say an architecture degree + master's degree + 2 years of design work experience would be sufficient for obtaining interviews. Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but the junior project manager is basically the right-hand man of the project manager and learns on the job.


What would the job description of a Project Manager on the Development side be? And what would be a typical compensation package be at the junior and the junior plus 5 years?


OP, you could 100% get into a MRED program and it would be a great experience for you. I have two architects in my class and they're a great addition to the program. A surprising amount of the top guys at Hines are MRED grads too.


Regional construction or dev firm as PM or Dev analyst, respectively. Network with the right people. Work your way up.

PMs manage the construction of new developments. Bidding, scheduling, etc.

Pedigree (education) doesn't matter as much in RE, so save yourself the money.

Pay depends highly on market and shop but Most PMs are probably in the 50-75k range with small bonus based on successfully completed projects/other metrics.

Other way to break in is a couple years of commercial brokerage exp.


Thank you everyone for the information! Very helpful. @coolhandlucas What are typical salaries for Dev Analyst in comparison to PM rolls for regional firms?


@Insomniarch I would say dev analyst pay falls in the same range as project managers -- i.e. 50-75k + small bonus. The key difference is there are MUCH MUCH fewer dev analyst positions.

Feel free to PM me for me detail.


Your carreer is very important and this sounds like a good carreer move. Always think about what is best for your carreer even if it means your boss may be slightly upset with your carreer choice. In the end it is your carreer and not their carreer so make choices accordingly. Overall sounds like a good carrerr opportunity


If you got above a 3.5 undergrad gpa, Miami has an accelerated real estate mba. It's an 18 month program that has you do an internship before you even start, and then a second internship before your last semester.


Thanks! I don't have the GPA but might be able to be accepted anyways. Could you elaborate on the pros / cons of the MBA vs MRED?


Others might be able to add more color. I haven't attended grad school but I'm still weighing MBA vs MRED (or even going at all). Recruiting stories vary depending on how much networking individual students do and prior work experience, but MBA typically carries more weight in recruiting with institutional firms due to requiring prior work experience and being more competitive to get into. At Miami for example, the accelerated MBA page advertises that Related Companies recruits from the program. Related will most likely look to hire associates from the MBA program and analysts from the mred program (if at all) because the mba requires work experience. If you've got significant work experience or want to switch careers, MBA starts to make more sense.

To contrast, there are also 18 month mred programs that give you internship experience and mred programs that require work experience like an MBA does. I would say those can be as reputable as an MBA.

If anyone else has any additional color or contrast, please add.


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