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Interested in a Career in Real Estate?


By DeVry University

May 17, 2023
10 min read

The real estate industry offers a wide variety of career opportunities in the marketing, financing and management of residential and commercial properties. Many real estate professionals are entrepreneurs who enjoy making their own hours, being their own bosses and playing a role in building or strengthening communities. Is a career in real estate right for you? In this article, we’ll provide information that can help you determine if you should pursue real estate as a career, including descriptions of some of the different real estate careers and an exploration of how to start a career in real estate. We will also take you through the licensing requirements for this industry and review some of the skills needed to succeed in this interesting and potentially rewarding field.

Career Outlook for Real Estate Professionals

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that the real estate market is highly sensitive to fluctuations in the economy, which can impact the outlook for job growth. During periods of economic growth and stability, the number of people choosing real estate as a career should grow to accommodate the increase in people looking to buy homes or commercial properties. Conversely, during periods of economic decline or rising interest rates, work for real estate agents and others in occupations related to the industry may decline. 

The BLS projects employment for real estate brokers and sales agents to maintain steady growth at 5% from 2021 to 2031, with about 54,800 job openings each year on average over this period.1 This growth is projected on a national level and local growth will vary by location. It is also not specific to DeVry University graduates and may include earners at all stages of their careers.

Different Careers in Real Estate

Real estate professionals with varying roles and responsibilities work in an ecosystem that begins with a buyer, seller or investor and concludes with a legal, binding transfer of title.

Here are some of the career paths you might consider when preparing to pursue real estate as a career:

Real Estate Agent

According to data from the National Association of Realtors®, 5.64 million existing homes were sold in 2020. Real estate agents work with people who are looking to buy or sell residential properties. They help buyers find the home that fits their search criteria based on their knowledge of the local market and industry trends, and work with sellers to establish the listing prices of their properties based on market conditions. They may provide advice on enhancing or improving the property to optimize its market value and shorten the amount of time the home stays on the market.

Commercial Agent

Commercial and residential real estate agents share some common responsibilities, but the commercial agent specializes in income-producing properties. This may include warehousing or manufacturing facilities, shopping centers, office or apartment buildings, or even sprawling industrial parks. A commercial agent’s clients are typically business owners or investors who want the properties they purchase to provide a favorable return on their investment. That’s why commercial agents typically analyze the demographics of an area, conduct environmental research and typically perform much more financial analysis than the typical residential transaction entails. Statistical analysis techniques help the commercial buyer determine the break-even point, or the point at which the property can be anticipated to begin producing a profit. 

Property Developer

Real estate or property developers buy properties for the purpose of developing new construction projects, like residential communities or commercial parks. They may also buy existing properties and renovate or repurpose them. For example, a developer might buy vacant industrial buildings and convert them to artists’ loft spaces or even residential condominiums. Regardless of the nature of the project, the developer is responsible for complying with applicable zoning ordinances, obtaining permits and overseeing all the construction taking place on the development site.

Real Estate Investor

A career as a real estate investor could involve flipping houses, renting out homes and apartment units or wholesaling, which is buying properties at a below-market price and selling them at a higher price point. Real estate investors may also be landlords, who renovate or develop property to generate income from tenants. You might have seen house flippers on reality TV shows. These investors buy distressed or neglected properties and fix them up and sell them within a very short time, typically just a few months. 

Investors such as these may be a part of a real estate investment trust (REIT), where they can buy an interest in office buildings, apartment complexes, shopping centers and other projects in order to generate a profit, similar to the way investors buy shares of a company or invest in the stock market.

Property Manager

Property managers oversee the management, maintenance and rental income of residential or commercial properties such as multi-family dwellings, apartment complexes, shopping centers, office buildings, commercial business parks and other revenue-producing properties. Their duties may include collecting rents, scheduling repairs, performing routine maintenance and contracting for maintenance and landscaping services.

Real Estate Consultant

Real estate consultants provide investment and financial advice to potential developers for both commercial and residential properties. These consultants provide their clients market analysis based on potential profitability and feasibility and may also offer lease management services.

Real Estate Attorney

Real estate attorneys manage documentation required for real estate transactions, handle disputes and walk buyers and sellers through the legal process of property dealings. During the purchase process the attorney might attend the closing, where the money is paid and the title to the property is transferred to the buyer, as well as write title insurance policies, complete title searches and handle the transfer of funds. 

Home Inspector

Home inspectors conduct thorough reviews of residential properties including the condition of the roofing, plumbing, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) and electrical components to make potential buyers aware of the property’s condition. They may also examine interior and exterior structures, water quality and look for issues like basement water intrusion and other potential problem areas before working up a full report.

Real Estate Appraiser

Working on both the residential and commercial side, real estate appraisers are typically hired by the lender or mortgage financing organization and called upon to inspect a property. Their valuations are used to determine a realistic selling price or how much the owner can borrow against it. Appraisers inspect and photograph the property extensively, evaluate its location and compare it to similar properties in the same area. 

Mortgage Broker

Mortgage brokers help property buyers find the best choices for financing their real estate purchases. Their job is to present buyers with different lending options to find the one that best fits their financial situation.

Pursuing your Broker License

According to the BLS, states typically require real estate brokers and sales agents to be licensed. The minimum licensing requirements can vary by state, but candidates typically must be at least 18 years of age, have a high school diploma or equivalent, pass an exam, have 2 years of experience as a real estate agent and complete some state-accredited pre-licensing courses, though this requirement may be waived if the applicant has some completed some real estate classes at the collegiate level. Many real estate associations offer courses and professional development programs on topics like real estate fundamentals, mortgage financing and real estate law for beginners and experienced agents alike, along with pre-licensing courses. 

Education Requirements for Real Estate Professionals

The minimum number of hours of pre-licensure education will vary from state to state. In Illinois, for example, aspiring real estate agents must begin their journey by completing 75 hours of approved pre-licensing courses comprised of 60 hours of real estate broker topics and another 15 hours of broker pre-license applied real estate principles. Many people choose to undertake this coursework online, but keep in mind that the specifics will vary according to the education provider. DeVry does not offer real estate courses. 

Once your pre-license education has been completed, the next step is to sit for the Illinois Real Estate Exam. 

The final step is to obtain sponsorship from a managing broker and apply for the Real Estate Broker License with the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation. Your passed exam will then be valid for one year.

Learn more about real estate requirements by state.  

Benefits of a Career in Real Estate

Working in the real estate industry allows for a degree of independence not found in many other occupations. The industry offers a wide variety of career options and perhaps even the flexibility to work at your own pace. 

The potential advantages of a career in real estate include:

  • Low barrier to entry: Whether you are exploring it as a career early in your working life or considering it as a second career, real estate is a relatively easy to enter the field in terms of the time and money required. You can complete the education required to obtain your license, which varies depending on the state where you’re pursuing licensure, in a relatively short period of time. The cost of entry, which may include classes, licensing and association fees can often be low as well. 

  • Flexible working hours: Working in real estate allows for flexibility in scheduling, so professionals might have an easier time maintaining work/life balance than in other professions. They also have the freedom to make their own hours – though they may be irregular at times.

  • Professional autonomy: The industry offers a high level of autonomy, meaning you have the freedom to make your own decisions about where, when and how much you work. There is also the freedom to choose the environment you work in, whether that’s on your own, as a listed salesperson in a large brokerage with many associates or a small shop with just a few people.

Helpful Skills for a Career in Real Estate

In their diligence to find the right property for their clients and obtain repeat business or referrals from satisfied clients, real estate agents must use a medley of interpersonal and industry-specific skills. These include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • Communication: Top-drawer communication skills and an outgoing personality are useful to develop bonds with clients and industry associates, and to participate in networking activities to build contacts. Strong verbal and written communication skills enable real estate professionals to get their ideas and opinions across clearly and concisely while being considerate of their clients’ time.

  • Ethics & integrity: For many people, the purchase of a home is the biggest single investment they’ll make in their lifetime. For this reason, the industry is highly regulated to safeguard consumers. Agents must act with honesty and integrity throughout the buying or selling process to comply with state and federal regulations and assure their clients that they are being dealt with fairly.

  • Negotiation skills: The ability to negotiate on behalf of clients is a desirable skill. Sellers often want top dollar for their property, while buyers are often mindful of their budget. Strong negotiation skills on behalf of clients when making offers and counteroffers while being fair to both sides are essential.

  • Organizational skills: Keeping everything organized can be challenging for real estate professionals, especially when things get busy. Nimbly balancing multiple clients, deals, negotiations and transactions requires the real estate professional to organize files, negotiations, schedules, appointments and everything else efficiently.

  • Local knowledge: Home buyers typically hire a real estate agent because they are the ones who knows the local market the best. This means they have thorough knowledge of the different neighborhoods, schools and recreational amenities in a particular area. This local knowledge can make a big difference to buyers who might not have the time or resources to research all of this on their own.

  • Understanding of architecture: It’s important for real estate professionals to have some knowledge of the different architectural styles. Knowing the difference between a cottage-style home and a center-hall colonial, for example, or how to describe certain architectural elements commonly found in homes can instill confidence in clients and help agents meet their expectations and requests.

  • Business skills: The BLS includes business skills in its list of important qualities for real estate agents and brokers for good reason. Agents are self-employed individuals and must have savvy business skills in areas like small business accounting and marketing to promote themselves and cultivate new business, promote their listings and keep the bookkeeping organized.

Develop Your Small Business Skills at DeVry

Real estate is by nature an entrepreneurial career path requiring creativity, motivation and organizational skills. Here at DeVry, we offer several degree programs in small business management and entrepreneurship that can prepare you to pursue a career as a self-employed individual, including our Bachelor’s Degree Specialization in Small Business Management and Entrepreneurship, our Graduate Certificate in Entrepreneurship and our MBA with a Specialization in Entrepreneurship

At DeVry, 100% online learning complements your entrepreneurial spirit, allowing you to balance your commitment to education with work, family, community and other elements of your busy life. Let’s discuss how we can get you started in our next session. Classes start soon.

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