Does Real Estate Require College? Guide to Education Requirements for Real Estate Industry

Does being a real estate agent require college? We'll answer this question and many more in our comprehensive guide.

Does Real Estate Require College? Guide to Education Requirements for Real Estate Industry
The Agent

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), there are approximately 562,100 Americans employed as real estate brokers and sales agents. Over the 10-year period 2021 to 2031, the growth in employment for these workers is expected to be 5%, about as fast as average, and equivalent to an increase of 30,100 in absolute numbers. Although you may think 562,100 Americans out of a national population of over 334 million is a drop in the bucket, when we’re talking in terms of occupations and employment, that 562,100 is very large.

And indeed, it doesn’t take an expert to notice that real estate is a very popular professional route for Americans of all types. It doesn’t hurt that working in “real estate” can mean a bunch of different things, such as being a real estate agent, real estate broker, real estate investor or banker, and so forth. However, for this BrokeScholar article here, we’re focusing on a burning question asked by many Americans: Does real estate require college education to get into the industry?

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Does Real Estate Require College? 

The answer to this question depends on what type of occupational role you’re looking for when you ask, “does real estate require college?”. For example, according to the BLS’s OOH, it states that typical entry-level education for real estate brokers and sales agents is a high school diploma or equivalent, such as having a GED. But the OOH’s classification of “real estate brokers and sales agents'' combines what are actually different professional roles into one occupational category. 

So, let’s break down real estate into its component parts and see whether that aspect of real estate requires a college degree.

Does Being a Real Estate Agent Require College?

The role of a real estate agent typically does not require a traditional four-year college degree. Instead, the profession demands state-specific licensure that comes from passing a real estate exam after attending a certain number of course hours, often ranging from 60 to 120 hours, depending on the state's regulations. The courses involved provide the basic foundational knowledge necessary to operate as a real estate agent. They generally cover topics like property ownership, real estate law, contracts, ethics, and basic property management.

While a college degree isn't technically required, obtaining one can certainly be beneficial in this line of work. A bachelor's degree in fields such as business, finance, law, or marketing could provide broader industry knowledge and important skills that can help real estate agents succeed. For instance, a business or finance degree can be valuable for understanding the financial aspects of the real estate market, while a degree in marketing can help agents more effectively promote their listings and attract clients.

Moreover, in a competitive marketplace — and the real estate industry is competitive in multiple senses — having a college degree can serve as a point of differentiation and signal to clients that an agent is highly qualified. It also opens the door to further specializations or certifications that can enhance an agent's credibility. For example, some agents may choose to pursue a graduate degree in real estate or a related field to deepen their knowledge of the industry and increase their expertise. Therefore, while being a real estate agent doesn't require college, higher education can certainly contribute to a more fruitful and versatile career in real estate.

Does Being a Real Estate Broker Require College?

Just like real estate agents, becoming a real estate broker does not generally require a college degree. However, the process to become a broker is more involved and requires a higher level of knowledge and experience. 

Real estate brokers need to acquire a specific broker's license, and this typically necessitates additional coursework beyond that required for a real estate agent's license. The required coursework covers more advanced topics, providing prospective brokers with a deeper understanding of the real estate business, including more complex transactions, legal issues, and property management. Additionally, most states require that a person work for a specified period as a real estate agent (usually 1-3 years) before they can apply for a broker's license.

Even though a college degree is not strictly required to become a broker, not unsurprisingly, having a degree can enhance one's understanding of the business and lend credibility in the marketplace. Degrees in business, finance, real estate, or law can be particularly useful. For instance, business or finance degrees can offer brokers the skills to navigate complex financial transactions and understand market trends. A law degree could offer insights into contracts and negotiations, while a degree in real estate might cover all these areas. What’s more, some brokers who wish to own and manage their own firms might find value in pursuing degrees in business administration or entrepreneurship to gain skills in business management, marketing, and human resources.

In the end, holding a college degree could provide a competitive edge in this demanding industry. Clients often view brokers with a degree as more credible or professional, and it can demonstrate a commitment to ongoing learning. Advanced certifications or degrees in real estate or related fields can further deepen brokers' expertise and enhance their reputation. As such, while college education is not a prerequisite to become a real estate broker, it can offer valuable benefits that help brokers excel in their roles.

Does Being a Property Manager Require College?

Becoming a property, real estate, or community association manager often involves a more complex set of requirements than those of real estate agents or brokers. While in some cases, individuals can enter these fields with just a high school diploma, the increasing complexity of the industry has led to a greater emphasis on post-secondary education. Often, employers prefer candidates with a bachelor's degree, and sometimes even a master's degree, particularly for commercial real estate management positions. These degrees are typically in business administration, real estate, finance, public administration, or a related field.

The coursework involved in these programs provides a comprehensive understanding of the complexities involved in property management. It includes topics such as real estate law, financial and property management, marketing, leasing, commercial property, and tenant relations. Additionally, certain states require property, real estate, and community association managers to hold a real estate license. This licensing process involves education, an exam, and often requires a certain amount of practical experience.

Practical experience is, arguably, the most highly valued educational qualification in this field. Property and real estate managers often learn on the job and can advance in their career by demonstrating proficiency and a deep understanding of the operations of property management. Moreover, there are also professional certifications available from trade organizations, such as the Community Associations Institute, which provide additional training and certification to property and real estate managers. While these certifications are typically not mandatory, they can further enhance the credentials of a manager and provide them with an edge in the competitive real estate market.

The Bottom Line on Does Real Estate Require College

While a college degree is not a strict requirement for a career in real estate, whether as an agent, broker, or property manager, pursuing higher education can certainly provide benefits. It equips professionals with a broader knowledge base, deepens their understanding of the industry, and provides valuable skills that can enhance their career. Moreover, having a college degree or advanced certifications can set a real estate professional apart in a competitive marketplace and increase their credibility in the eyes of clients.

Considering the potential benefits, many individuals may find it worthwhile to further their education in real estate. However, the cost of education can often be a barrier. That's where scholarships can play a crucial role. Various institutions and organizations offer scholarships specifically designed for students interested in pursuing a career in real estate, aiming to support their educational journey. These scholarships can significantly reduce the financial burden of college, making it more accessible for aspiring real estate professionals. In this way, scholarships can provide the pathway to a more advanced and rewarding career in real estate. Thus, even though college is not a prerequisite in the real estate industry, the advantages it offers should not be overlooked, especially when financial aid options like scholarships are available. 

Andrew DePietro

Author: Andrew DePietro

Senior Researcher, and Content Strategist

Andrew DePietro is a finance writer covering topics such as entrepreneurship, investing, real estate and college for BrokeScholar, Forbes, CreditKarma, and more.