Become a Commercial Real Estate Developer: Career Roadmap

Find out how to become a commercial real estate developer. Research the education requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in commercial real estate development.

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  • 0:01 Should I Become a…
  • 1:11 Career Requirements
  • 1:45 Obtain Education
  • 2:53 Earn a Real Estate License
  • 3:19 Gain Work Experience
  • 4:32 Consider an MBA Program

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Should I Become a Commercial Real Estate Developer?

Commercial real estate developers oversee property investments that produce financial growth. Day-to-day duties may include overseeing the negotiations surrounding the sale and purchase of commercial real estate, its renovation, or the acquisition of land in order to build new property buildings. Much of their work is focused on long-term strategy of how to make commercial property more profitable. Considerations in decisions include taxes, area demographics and growth, existing property values, and even traffic patterns. For individual properties, commercial real estate developers manage leases for businesses to operate within owned buildings.

Commercial real estate developers, or real estate asset managers, work full-time in office settings. Some travel to property locations and meetings with associates and business partners may be required. The career can be stressful due to the decisions that must be made and the risks associated with making or losing money on property deals. According to, in January 2016, real estate development managers earned a median annual salary of $86,039.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Fields Construction management, business administration, real estate, or a related discipline
Certification or Licensure Must be licensed in state of practice if buying and selling property; some states require license for property management; certification is voluntary but may be required by employers
Key Skills Knowledge of accounting and economic principles, clerical skills, familiarity with office procedures, customer service skills, administrative skills, math skills

Sources: job postings, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net Online,

Steps to Become a Commercial Real Estate Developer

Step 1: Obtain Education

Because commercial real estate developers focus on the monetary value of a company's property investments, many employers prefer prospective developers with a bachelor's degree in disciplines like real estate, finance, or business administration. Students in a bachelor's degree program gain the financial, management, and accounting skills necessary to manage a commercial property. In addition, elective courses within a bachelor's degree program teach students to oversee real estate holdings and offer them the knowledge necessary to properly manage an investor's equity.

Complete a Certificate Program

Complete a certificate program in commercial real estate development. Several colleges and universities offer a commercial real estate development certificate program. This is an intensive program that provides students with an understanding of real estate investment. Although these programs can act as a transition between earning a bachelor's degree and entering a graduate program, they can also be taken by those already in the real estate industry looking to augment their knowledge of investment principles. Some certificate programs in real estate development are offered entirely online.

Step 2: Earn a Real Estate License

In order to buy and sell property professionally, one must have a real estate license. While each state has different licensing requirements, most require that you pass an exam that covers topics involving ownership, government rights, ethics, building codes, loans, and environmental regulations. Continuing education requirements may also be necessary in order for developers to stay up to date in the field.

Step 3: Gain Work Experience in a Related Real Estate Job

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that many commercial real estate developers cross over from other real estate careers, such as property manager or real estate broker. Property managers oversee the continued operation of a location, often through hands-on work. Real estate brokers advise clients on buying and selling property. Both of these jobs allow for a logical transition into the field and provide professionals with the skills necessary to work as commercial real estate developers.

Earn Professional Certification

According to the BLS, some employers prefer or even require that real estate developers hold voluntary professional certification. The Institute of Real Estate Management, for example, offers the Certified Property Manager and Accredited Commercial Manager designations. Each requires at least one examination and one or more years of relevant experience. Holding a bachelor's or graduate degree in property management or real estate is one pathway to each certification, although completing certain required courses or holding other professional certifications are another pathway for those who do not hold these degrees.

Step 4: Consider an MBA Program with a Real Estate Concentration

Although not all employers require applicants to have a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree, a master's degree furthers an applicant's chances of obtaining employment. Some schools offer an MBA program with a concentration in real estate. These programs cover topics in real estate law and development, urban fiscal policy, and real estate investment analysis.

To become a commercial real estate developer, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree and must meet licensing requirements.

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