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The choices for obtaining an education in real estate can feel overwhelming. From two- or four-year college programs to online sessions that can be finished within a few months, those interested in the business can obtain their real estate license in numerous ways. What’s the best route, and does one lead to more success than the others?

According to a Facebook poll by RISMedia, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution; in fact, many agree that self-improvement through continuing education can only help to bolster business regardless of the path taken.

College/University Degrees
There are real estate degrees at nearly every level of education. For example, for those who are looking to gain a foundational level of understanding of real estate and perhaps a direct lead-in to obtaining their license, an associate’s degree may be beneficial. Those who are looking to focus on a specialization and have more specific career goals in mind may find a bachelor’s in real estate more useful.

For a more comprehensive understanding of industry procedures, and an entry way into a career in real estate law, a master’s degree may make the most sense. Lastly, students looking to work their way toward government and research work within the real estate field may find that a PhD in a real estate concentration helps them achieve their goals quicker.

Iris Green, a REALTOR® with Keller Williams Realty and founder and CEO of Military Home Base, obtained her bachelor’s prior to seeking out a real estate license, and does not regret the decision.

“I have a B.S. in Business and Marketing and I took an online real estate licensing course,” says Green. “The degree definitely helped with the business organization side and the marketing was key to the branding side.”

If considering a college or university degree, either before or after obtaining their real estate license (or simultaneously doing both if the program allows), students should first confirm that the program is regionally- or professionally-accredited, offers a specialization that will be beneficial to their future real estate career goals and provides the flexibility they require should they need to attend while working full- or part-time.

Tracie Hasslocher, a REALTOR® and broker/owner of Hasslocher Boutique LLC, earned her master’s in Residential Real Estate Marketing and Management—a move that has helped her elevate her business.

“Getting my master’s degree helped me move my original brokerage into the 21st century by rebranding it to compete in my market,” says Hasslocher. “Also, it has impressed my clients and potential clients that I have invested the time and money to be a professional at my craft.”

Fast-Tracked Licensing Programs
There may, however, be a renewed trend toward attending licensing programs (both online and in-person) instead of pursuing a sometimes costly and time-intensive college degree, especially for the younger generations.

RISMedia surveyed the “Real Estate Agents Under 25” Facebook group. Twenty-five respondents enrolled in an online licensing program to start their real estate career, while 20 selected an in-class program. No respondents obtained a degree from a college or university.

Within the “Real Estate Rockstars” Facebook group, however, results were more varied. Of all respondents, 45 obtained their license via an online program and 41 through an in-person licensing program, while 13 obtained a bachelor’s, four obtained a master’s and four obtained an associate’s in a related field.

Many prefer learning in an online setting as it lends the flexibility they need to obtain their license or expand their knowledge base while still balancing their current career. In addition, these programs can generally be completed in a few months rather than the two-plus years required for a degree.

“I chose an online [licensing program] because it allowed me to work at my own pace,” says MaKay Swanson, a REALTOR® with Maximum One Greater Atlanta Realtors®. “While a two- or four-year degree is a great thing, the expense and experience of college is not essential as a real estate professional or in life.”

What Is the End Goal?
Those interested in working in real estate will need to decide what’s most important to them. Is it jumping right into the field and prioritizing a more flexible program? If so, an online course or in-person licensing program sounds like the best fit. If they have long-term goals that include expanding into other avenues of real estate—such as law, appraisal, consulting, research, etc.—it may be worth it to invest their time and energy into a degree.

For example, for Marco Mallard, managing broker of Comprehensive Solutions, obtaining a bachelor’s degree will help in his pursuit of a career in commercial appraisals.

“I’m currently in pursuit of a Bachelor of Science in Business with a Real Estate concentration,” says Mallard. “I have held my license for almost 20 years now and I believe the degree will solidify me, unequivocally, as an expert. The degree will aide in my credibility when I transfer my experience into commercial real estate, and a four-year degree is a requirement to become a certified general (commercial) appraiser.” 

Staying the Course
The preliminary education sets the foundation for one’s business; however, continuing education is what helps set agents, brokers and other industry professionals apart. This is why it is so important to align with a brokerage that provides support with continuing education, promotes the National Association of REALTORS® designations and certifications and provides resources to tools, such as the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing or Real Estate Express, for those looking to specialize in a certain field.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at