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How to Become a Real Estate Developer

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Are you a fan of TV's home remodeling shows? In the space of an hour, you can watch an outdated, run-down property become the house of someone's dreams. Although it's hardly as easy as it looks, real estate development is a dynamic field that is potentially lucrative for those willing to work hard. Hours are often long in this highly competitive field, so reliable child care is a must.

Job Description

Real estate developers, also called property developers, obtain land, prepare it for industrial, commercial, residential or mixed use development and then manage the construction process. They attend meetings and public hearings, and they may be involved in negotiations. Some real estate developers are self-employed, giving them flexibility in the projects they choose. Others work for development firms and may be required to travel for projects in diverse locations.

Education Requirements

Although there are no formal education requirements, many development companies seek candidates with a master's in business administration (M.B.A.) or, at the very least, a bachelor's degree in business, civil engineering or management. If you're in college and planning on a career in real estate development, it would be advantageous to undertake at least one internship to learn about the business and start developing your professional network.

Some developers come into the field after working as an attorney or Certified Public Accountant (C.P.A.). Other developers get their start in the business by getting a real estate license. There are no formal education requirements. You must be a U.S. citizen and, according to the laws of your state, 18 or 19 years of age. You'll need to complete a pre-licensing course from an accredited real estate licensing school and pass a state exam. Your local community college may offer a pre-licensing course. You can also check with local real estate offices to learn about other options.

For the self-employed, a degree is less important than knowledge and experience in the field. If real estate development is a family business, for example, you may be able to learn and get practical experience in place of a formal education. Real estate developers need excellent communications and interpersonal skills.

Certification in real estate development is not mandatory, but obtaining a certificate may enhance your job opportunities and pay. Certification programs are available online and in residence through some colleges and universities as well as for-profit schools.

About the Industry

Real estate development requires knowledge of zoning laws, financing, market forecasting and project supervision. The industry is continually changing in response to the economy, technological advancements, sustainability, energy management and other human and environmental factors. Real estate development is a fast-paced, competitive field.

Years of Experience

Earnings in the field vary widely since there are so many ways to be a real estate developer. A self-employed contractor who flips one or two houses a year will likely earn much less than the experienced developer who manages multi-million-dollar projects on behalf of a large firm. Working for a development company may entitle you to bonuses and profit-sharing.

The average salary for jobs in commercial real estate development ranges from $12.59 per hour for an intern to $80.55 for an experienced project manager. On average, commercial real estate developers make $95,000 per year. A variety of factors, including geographic location, can affect pay. Here's what you can expect, based on years of experience:

  • Entry-level: $75,050
  • Mid-career: $98,800
  • Experienced: $114,000
  • Late-career: $136,800

Job Growth Trend

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities in the real estate industry are expected to grow by about 10 percent over the next decade, which is faster than average compared to all other jobs. Opportunities will be greatest for individuals with college degrees and professional real estate credentials.


Denise Dayton is a a freelance writer who specializes in business, education and technology. She has written for, Library Journal, The Searcher, Bureau of Education and Research, and corporate clients.

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