Real Estate Finance Degree Program Overviews

Real estate finance programs are offered at the associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels. Information about the program, employment, and salary can help you make a decision about your education.

Essential Information

Real estate degrees can be earned at the associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral level. Students specializing in real estate or building development learn to plan, implement and analyze real estate finance instruments, including mortgage markets, credit analysis and real estate lending. In addition to coursework, graduate students also typically complete a capstone project or thesis. Doctoral programs require a dissertation. Throughout the programs, students must manage a portfolio. Students can gain careers in areas such as mortgage banking, real estate development, investment, brokerage and appraisal.

Undergraduate students must have a GED or high school diploma. Admission into the bachelor's program requires students to submit ACT or SAT scores. Graduate students require an undergraduate degree and GMAT or GRE scores.

Associate's Degree in Real Estate

Associate's degree programs in real estate provide students with a basic overview of real estate principles, terminology and practice. Students generally take a course in real estate finance, in which they cultivate the technical skills to manage portfolios, perform basic risk analysis and study capital market trends. Graduates from associate's degree programs often pursue advanced study but are also qualified for entry-level real estate positions. Many programs prepare students for state real estate broker license exams.

In addition to general education requirements, the curriculum covers a broad range of basic real estate courses. Less emphasis is placed on the financial aspects of real estate in an associate's degree program, though courses touch on real estate finance.

  • Real estate principles
  • Real estate practice
  • Real estate finance
  • Real estate appraisal
  • Real estate law
  • Escrow procedures

Bachelor's Degree in Real Estate Finance

Bachelor's degree programs in finance or business administration often allow students to concentrate in real estate finance. Degree candidates are introduced to business and finance concepts, such as accounting, business law, operations, economics and marketing. Undergraduate degree programs also teach students the processes of appraising and developing real estate, as well as evaluating real estate investments.

Real estate bachelor degree programs offer more advanced general education courses, particularly in mathematics, as well as a range of real estate courses.

  • Principles of real estate
  • Real estate finance and appraisal
  • Mortgage banking
  • Real estate investment
  • Real estate development
  • Real estate law

Master's Degree in Real Estate

Common master's-level programs offering training in real estate finance lead to a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a focus in real estate or a Master of Science in Real Estate degree. Students in MBA programs typically take 4-5 courses that cover various aspects of real estate, such as finance, but retain a primary focus on business organization, operation and management. Master of Science in Real Estate programs, however, incorporate some courses in business management while emphasizing in-depth technical instruction in real estate finance. Students receive hands-on experience managing real estate investment portfolios, applying advanced strategies for financial analysis and researching a capstone project.

Master's degree programs in real estate finance teach students theory and practical skills in finance and investment, concentrating on fewer topics in more detail. Course topics include:

  • Analysis of real estate markets and transactions
  • Securitization and international real estate
  • Secondary mortgage markets
  • Advanced analysis of real estate investment
  • Real property laws and regulations
  • Real estate development

Doctor of Philosophy in Real Estate Finance

Doctor of Philosophy programs that encompass real estate finance typically focus on business administration, finance or urban development. These programs begin with foundational theory courses in finance, real estate, economics and appraisal, after which students are free to design and pursue a specialized course of study in real estate finance. Some programs may require students to take written exams and advanced seminars before beginning specialized coursework.

Coursework in a doctoral degree program in real estate finance includes theoretical and research methods courses that could prepare students for focused advanced study.

  • Finance theory
  • Capital markets
  • Valuation theory and econometrics
  • Empirical research methods in finance and real estate
  • Microeconomics
  • Macroeconomics

Popular Career Options

Generally, an associate's degree program does not include the depth of study in finance necessary for graduates to have careers in advanced real estate investing. An associate's degree prepares students for entry-level careers in real estate, particularly at a real estate firm. Graduates with a bachelor's degree in real estate finance often acquire positions within corporations, investment firms or banks. Doctoral degree programs in real estate finance train students specifically for academic research and teaching in real estate, finance and related fields, including economics and development. Potential careers for graduates with these degrees are:

  • Real estate salesperson or agent
  • Property manager or mortgage broker
  • Licensed real estate salesperson
  • Real estate appraiser or developer
  • Real estate investment manager or finance research leader
  • Real estate and finance professor

Career and Salary Information

Salary possibilities vary widely depending on the career path within real estate finance that individuals choose. For example, as of May 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that appraisers and assessors of real estate made a median annual salary of $51,860 ( At that same time, the BLS found that loan officers, including mortgage loan officers, made a median annual salary of $63,430. Meanwhile, the 2015 median salary for financial managers was $117,990, per the BLS.

Undergraduate degree programs in real estate provide a basic overview of real estate with some programs offering concentration areas. Graduate students are exposed to in-depth technical instruction on fewer topics to provide more detail and training.

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