Do you need college degree for real estate career

Do You Need College Degree For Real Estate Career

Published by Kartik Subramaniam

Reading Time : 8 minutes

College campus real estate


A question I've been getting a lot lately: "Do you need a college degree to practice real estate?"

Whether you're exploring a new career path in the real estate industry or you're a high school student contemplating your future, understanding the educational requirements to become a real estate professional is critical. The answer is more complex than you might think, as conditions and expectations can vary. I wanted to write an article to clarify these ambiguities, equipping you with the knowledge you need to navigate your real estate career path successfully.

Navigating the world of real estate presents a wealth of opportunities. Gaining insights into whether or not a college degree is crucial for success in this field could significantly influence your career trajectory and future endeavors. Stay tuned as I break down the historical and current educational prerequisites, the role a degree might play, and alternative pathways to success in real estate.

Historical Perspective

The real estate industry, like many others, has seen considerable evolution over the years, including its educational requirements. In the early 20th century, there were few formal prerequisites to becoming a real estate agent. Anyone with a knack for sales and a strong network could enter the industry. The profession needed to be regulated, and the concepts of licensing and formal education in real estate were virtually nonexistent back in the day.

However, as the industry grew and the transactions became more complex, it became apparent that a certain level of knowledge and professionalism was necessary to ensure fair and ethical dealings. The U.S.'s first real estate license law was established in California in 1917, primarily responding to fraudulent land sales.

In the years that followed, more states joined in, implementing their own licensing laws and progressively ramping up their educational demands. By the mid-20th century, it had become commonplace for states to mandate that aspiring real estate agents undertake courses covering a range of subjects, including real estate law, ethics, and practical applications.

The focus shifted towards formalizing the industry and improving its standards. However, it's essential to note that while the requirement for pre-licensing education and passing a state-specific licensing exam became common, obtaining a college degree was, and still is, generally not a prerequisite for practicing real estate in most jurisdictions.

In the 21st century, educational requirements have continued to evolve, with increased emphasis on continual learning, professional development, and ethical behavior. Today, real estate education focuses on transactional knowledge and a holistic understanding of the industry, including market analysis, property management, real estate financing, and more. This progression showcases our industry's commitment to ensuring that its professionals are well-equipped to serve the best interests of their clients.

Current Educational Requirements

The educational requirements to practice real estate in the United States differ from state to state. There is no such thing as a “national real estate license” that would allow the holder to practice in every state. However, one common thread across all states is that a college degree is not a requirement to obtain a real estate license. Instead, each state requires a specific number of pre-licensing education hours and completing a state licensing exam.

To give you a snapshot: In California, aspiring real estate salespersons need to complete 135 hours of pre-licensing education, while in Texas, the requirement stands at 180 hours. In In New York, only 77 hours of pre-licensing education are required. While each state sets specific pre-licensing education hours, it's essential to research your state's requirements to ensure you meet the criteria.

In terms of baseline education, in some states, you must have a high school diploma or a GED to be eligible to obtain a real estate license in some states (not California). This requirement underscores the industry's commitment to a basic level of literacy and numeracy skills needed to operate in the real estate world effectively.

Pre-licensing courses are a critical aspect of the real estate licensing process. These courses, often offered by real estate schools like ADHI Schools have offerings both online and in-person that cover a broad range of topics. They include property law, real estate financing, contracts, property management, real estate ethics, and more. These courses equip you with the necessary knowledge to navigate the complexities of real estate transactions and provide excellent service to your future clients.

After completing the required pre-licensing education hours, the next step is passing the real estate licensing exam. This exam tests your understanding of real estate laws, principles, and concepts. In some states, the exam consists of a national portion covering general real estate principles and practices and a state-specific portion that tests knowledge of your state's real estate laws. California only has a state specific requirement.

While the requirements may vary, the path to becoming a licensed real estate professional doesn't necessitate a college degree. Instead, it calls for a dedication to learning, understanding, and applying real estate-specific knowledge and skills.

The Role of a College Degree in Real Estate

While it's clear that a college degree is not required to obtain a real estate license, the question remains: Does a degree confer any advantages in the real estate industry? The answer largely depends on one's career goals, personal learning style, and the specific real estate area they wish to pursue.


A college degree, particularly in fields related to business, finance, law, or marketing, can offer a strong foundation for a career in real estate. Such a degree can provide an understanding of broader economic trends, marketing strategies, negotiation techniques, and legal principles that could benefit the industry. It also often helps develop soft skills, such as critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving, which are invaluable in interacting with clients and navigating complex transactions.

Going to college doesn't just offer textbook knowledge or job-specific skills, it can also provide essential tools for a career like real estate. The social skills and other "soft" abilities you gain during your time in college can be a significant advantage in becoming a successful realtor.

College exposes you to people from all walks of life, different cultures and mindsets. As a realtor, you'll work with a broad range of clients, and understanding diverse perspectives can help you connect with them more effectively, communicate clearly, and meet their needs.

Working on college group projects can also teach you about teamwork and problem-solving, two key skills in real estate. Whether it's negotiating a sale or resolving a buyer-seller conflict, these abilities will come in handy.

Internships, part-time jobs, or volunteering during college can help you become responsible and efficient in managing your time - crucial traits for a realtor juggling multiple properties, clients, and appointments.

Lastly, college helps you to navigate the 'real world' in a supportive environment before stepping into it full-time. So, a college degree isn't just a mark of your academic achievement; it's a sign that you have the social skills, understanding, and work ethic needed to thrive as a realtor.

For those considering roles beyond being a sales agent or broker - such as a real estate developer or a corporate real estate manager - having a college degree may be preferred or even required by some employers. A degree could be advantageous if you aim to work in high-end markets or with a demographic that values educational credentials.

However, many successful real estate professionals have built thriving careers without a college degree. These individuals often emphasize the importance of on-the-job experience, industry-specific education, networking, and sales skills, which they argue are as important, if not more so, than a formal college education. They note that real estate is a results-oriented business, where success is typically measured by your ability to close deals and satisfy clients rather than by your academic credentials.

So, whether you are a high school graduate, have a GED, or hold a Ph.D., remember that your success in real estate ultimately depends on your industry knowledge, dedication to serving your clients, and passion for the profession. Whether or not to pursue a college degree is a personal decision and should align with your career aspirations, learning style, and professional goals.

Alternatives to a College Degree

While a college degree can provide a broad base of knowledge and skills, there are other pathways to success in real estate. Many alternatives can provide specialized, industry-specific knowledge that can prove just as valuable, if not more so, in building a successful real estate career.

One prominent alternative are real estate schools often required to obtain a license in a given state. These specialized institutions offer pre-licensing courses and a variety of post-licensing education options designed to keep real estate professionals updated on the latest trends, laws, and strategies in the industry. Real estate schools can provide a direct route into the profession, allowing you to gain the specific knowledge and skills needed to pass your state's licensing exam and succeed.

Continuing education is another critical aspect of a real estate career. Whether attending seminars, taking additional courses, or subscribing to industry publications, continuous learning is key to staying competitive in this dynamic industry. Moreover, many states require real estate professionals to complete continuing education courses to renew their licenses. Mentorship and on-the-job experience are also invaluable. Working with a seasoned professional can offer insights beyond textbooks, providing practical knowledge about client relationships, negotiation tactics, and local market conditions.

Lastly, certifications and designations can enhance a real estate professional's credibility and expertise. Various organizations offer these credentials in residential and commercial property, property management, appraisals, and more. Some of the most recognized designations include the Certified Residential Specialist (CRS), the Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM), and (for those in the property management industry) the Certified Property Manager (CPM). These designations can distinguish you as a specialist in a particular real estate area, making you more attractive to clients and employers.

At the end of the day, the key attributes for success in real estate go beyond formal education. Critical thinking, effective communication, negotiation skills, a solid work ethic, and a constant desire to learn are vital. So whether or not you pursue a college degree, remember that your skill set, determination, and commitment to your clients and the profession will largely determine your success in real estate.

As we have explored throughout this blog, the role of a college degree in the real estate industry can be variable. While some real estate professionals leverage their college education to enhance their business and analytical skills, others have found equal success by pursuing alternate routes, such as attending real estate schools or relying heavily on on-the-job experience and mentorship.

So, does one need a college degree to succeed in real estate? While many of the soft skills learned in college will certainly be a benefit to the real estate licensee, it’s not a hard requirement. While a degree can certainly be beneficial, it's not a mandatory requirement in most states nor the sole determinant of success. Much of what makes a successful real estate professional boils down to characteristics that aren't necessarily taught in a classroom: persistence, interpersonal skills, integrity, market understanding, and a commitment to continuous learning.

In the end, if you're considering a career in real estate, it's essential to evaluate your goals, strengths, and resources. Whether your path includes a college degree or not, remember that education — in all its forms — is a lifelong journey. In real estate, as in any industry, the willingness to learn, adapt, and grow is the cornerstone of a successful career.

As always, if you are interested in obtaining your real estate license and building a career in real estate visit call us at 888-768-5285.



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