The real estate business encompasses the development, management, and transfer of residential, commercial, industrial, and retail properties and represents one of the major areas for capital investment, economic growth, and commercial activity in the US and abroad. Working in real estate as a developer, broker, manager, and/or investor typically requires knowledge of real estate law, an understanding of different property classes, and familiarity with various financial instruments that facilitate the acquisition, transfer, and development of land, buildings, and other properties. An online master’s in real estate degree program can equip students with this knowledge and prepare them for the challenge of navigating the complexities of real estate markets, financing real estate projects, and managing real estate assets.
A master’s in real estate degree program is a graduate program that leads to the conferral of a master’s degree and that provides students with coursework in the fundamentals of the real estate business. Students in these programs study legal and financial issues associated with the purchase, sale, development, and management of various types of real estate, including residential housing, commercial and industrial properties, and retail spaces. They also learn about the various types of mortgages, investment trusts, partnership arrangements, and tax credits that are used to facilitate the financing of real estate acquisitions and property development, as well as the market forces that can impact the value of investment properties. The training provided by master’s in real estate programs is designed to prepare graduates for careers in property management, corporate and residential development, and other areas of the real estate business.
Online master’s in real estate programs offer students the opportunity to learn about the real estate business and earn a graduate degree in real estate without having to commute to campus-based classes. They are often a good option for students who would otherwise have to relocate in order to be near a college or university that offers a master’s in real estate program. Online programs deliver all or most of their coursework using distance learning platforms that can stream live and pre-recorded lectures, host discussion groups, and facilitate other instructional activities. Students in these programs are able to access lectures and course materials from any place with a secure Internet connection. They typically communicate with instructors and submit assignments online as well. While some online master’s programs require students to attend a limited number of campus-based sessions, many master’s in real estate program are offered 100% online with no campus-based instruction.
Through independent research of online degree programs, OnlineEducation.com identifies programs that offer master’s-level training and instruction in real estate management and development. In order for an online program be listed on the site, it must be offered by an accredited, non-profit college or university and it must offer all or most of its coursework online. Programs that require students to attend more than two campus sessions per year are not currently included on the site. Among the formal designations for the types of programs classified as online master’s in real estate programs are the following:
Online master’s in real estate programs are designed to prepare students for careers in the real estate business. A typical curriculum provides students with knowledge in four key areas: real estate law; real estate finance; real estate markets; and property development and management. Some of the topics explored in these programs include real estate investment trusts (REITs), real estate limited partnerships, mortgage investment entities (MIEs), rental and other income-generating properties, the laws and regulations pertaining to residential, commercial, industrial, and multi-use properties, and the management of building and construction projects.
Students in a master’s in real estate program also learn the fundamentals of accountancy for real estate businesses, and may take courses in project and human resource management, communication and negotiations, sustainable development and construction, and international real estate markets. Finally, some online master’s in real estate programs require students to complete an applied capstone project in which they demonstrate their knowledge of the real estate business, real estate markets, and the structure of real estate investments.
The table below provides a representative overview of courses that are typically part of an online master’s in real estate program curriculum. It is important to note that curricula vary by program, as do course names and descriptions. However, the courses included in the table are drawn from actual online master’s in real estate programs.
|Course Title||Course Description|
|Real Estate Fundamentals||An overview of the commercial real estate business, including tools for property valuations and transaction decisions, as well as strategies for financing and developing commercial and residential properties.|
|Real Estate Law||An examination of federal, state, and local laws pertaining to the acquisition, development, and management of real estate properties.|
|Real Estate Finance||An in-depth exploration of financial concerns in real estate, including the time value of money (TVM), discounted cash flow analysis, commercial lease structures, financial modeling, and capitalization rates.|
|Real Estate Accounting & Taxation||Tools for analyzing financial statements related to real estate investments, with a focus on management, operations, and income tax concerns.|
|Real Estate Valuation & Feasibility Analysis||Income, market, and cost approaches to real estate investing and the principles of cash management in real estate development.|
|Corporate Finance||The elements of corporate real estate projects, including capital stock, venture capital, initial public offerings, investment banking, convertible securities, and corporate dividends.|
|Negotiation & Dispute Resolution||Theories of negotiation applied to real estate and construction project transactions and disputes, including the use of mediation, arbitration, and litigation.|
|Sustainable Development & Construction||An overview of sustainability issues in real estate development and construction planning, including the financial benefits of sustainability and how to incorporate green building practices into construction projects.|
|Global Real Estate Markets||An overview of the global market for real estate, legal and financial concerns in international property sales and acquisitions, and other issues pertaining to foreign real estate holdings.|
Like their campus-based counterparts, online master’s in real estate programs require applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university and to submit official academic transcripts for admissions consideration. Some programs may prefer candidates who have one or more years of experience in the real estate business, while others are designed to accommodate a broad range of students, including those who who have and have not worked previously in real estate. Similarly, some programs prefer applicants whose cumulative undergraduate grade point average (GPA) meets a minimum threshold of 2.5, 3.0, or higher on a four-point scale.
In addition to undergraduate transcripts, programs may require candidates to submit one or more of the following as part of the admissions process: standardized tests scores from the GRE or GMAT; a written statement of purpose; answers to one or more essay questions; and letters of recommendation from academic advisors, professors, and/or professional contacts. Admissions criteria vary by program so potential applicants should examine admissions criteria carefully to ensure they submit the required materials and meet the program’s eligibility criteria.
Online master’s programs are typically designed to accommodate students who intend to continue working while earning their degree or who have other commitments outside of school. However, the relative flexibility and convenience of an online program varies depending on several key factors. Among the factors potential applicants should consider are the method of online instruction (synchronous vs. asynchronous instruction), enrollment formats (full-time vs. part-time enrollment), and whether a program is offered 100% online or requires a limited number of campus visits. Each of these factors is discussed in greater detail below.
Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Instruction: These are the two primary modes for delivering online lectures and coursework. Synchronous instruction is analogous to traditional classroom-based instruction as it takes places in real time and requires students to be logged on to a program’s online learning platform for regularly scheduled classes. Students who prefer a structured learning environment may benefit from a program that utilizes synchronous instruction, although they must be prepared to attend virtual class sessions a specified times. In contrast, asynchronous instruction has no real-time component and allows students to access lectures and other types of instructional materials at their own convenience, 24-7. Students in a program that utilizes asynchronous instruction for all or most of its coursework have more flexibility than students in a program that uses synchronous instruction. However, asynchronous instruction typically requires students to exercise a greater amount of self-discipline in order to meet course requirements and complete assignments by set deadlines.
Full-Time vs. Part-Time Enrollment: The number of credits earned per term and the average number of hours a student is expected to spend on coursework per week while classes are in session determines whether a student is enrolled on a full-time or a part-time basis. Some online programs have a set plan of study that requires students to commit to a full-time or a part-time course load, while other programs have flexible enrollment, allowing students to choose the number of courses they take each term. Students who can commit up to 40 hours per week to coursework may want to look for a program that supports full-time enrollment, which typically leads to graduating in one to two years. Students who would prefer a part-time schedule should look for programs that offer enrollment flexibility or that are designated as part-time programs. Part-time enrollment in a master’s program typically involves taking one or two courses per term, devoting 15 to 20 hours per week to coursework, and can extend the time to completion beyond two years, depending on the structure of the program.
Campus Visits: While most online master’s in real estate programs do not require students to attend campus-based sessions, some online master’s programs incorporate a limited number of campus visits into their curriculum. These visits, often referred to as immersion sessions, intensives, or residencies, may be used for orientations, lectures, workshops, or seminars, as well as for networking and professional development. They may be a short as two to three days or last for as long as a week to ten days, depending on their purpose and on the design of the program.
Campus-based sessions can be a valuable component of an online master’s program, providing students with opportunities to meet face-to-face with instructors and interact with classmates. However, students may incur expenses in addition to a program’s tuition and fees while attending campus visits, and formal campus-based sessions can pose scheduling conflicts for students who have work and/or other commitments outside of school. Potential applicants to online master’s in real estate programs should examine program requirements carefully to determine whether or not a program requires campus visits.
Note: OnlineEducation.com classifies programs that offer online courses but that require more than two campus visits per year as hybrid programs and does not currently list those programs on the site.