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Real Estate Jobs: Careers in Real Estate | Placester

Real Estate Jobs: Careers in Real Estate | Placester

12 min read
Real Estate Jobs: Careers in Real Estate | Placester

Real estate is an industry full of opportunities for people from a wide spectrum of backgrounds and with varying talents. Many unfamiliar with the ins and outs might think of the deal-making and emotional upheaval from television shows and think “I’m not cut out for that”—but there are plenty of career paths beyond the “real estate agent” or maybe even “real estate broker” aspiration.

What can you do with a career in real estate? Here’s a quick guide on some of the potential options you might be tempted to pursue, and where they could take you someday.

Why Pursue a Career in Real Estate?

Before digging into the “how,” it’s always a good idea to ask yourself “why.” What are some of the reasons you might want to make real estate part of your life? (Because whether you’re the “work to live” type or the “live to work” type, the fact remains that you will be spending a significant portion of your life thinking about real estate!)

First, there’s money. The full value of US housing stock, which helps represent only the residential real estate market opportunity, is $43.4 trillion. When a home changes ownership, the amount of money earned by services such as agents and brokers are typically based on the sales price of the home. This means that there’s a lot of opportunity to make money and become financially secure with a career in real estate.

Second, there’s the flexibility of the jobs available. There are a lot of moving parts and pieces to the real estate industry, from careers that help provide goods and services required to close a deal, to employment opportunities in areas like property management, which involve helping investors (oftentimes) manage multiple properties and dealing with tenant issues.

This point should be emphasized because it means that there are a number of ways that you can find a path that will work for you in real estate. Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, whether you consider yourself a sharp negotiator or a branding and marketing guru, whether you want full-time work or contract work, there’s a job you can find that will resonate with your skills, challenge you in the best ways, and help you build a financial future that works for you.

Third, real estate is an exciting and emotional area of work that ultimately results in happy homebuyers getting a chance to finally invest in a place of their own, sellers moving on to a new beginning, investors finding deals and rejuvenating spaces that would otherwise probably linger neglected, and other problems solved that ultimately lead to more stability and happiness for citizens everywhere. When your job matters as much as someone’s housing, it’s easy to find the motivation you need to show up to work every day and give it your all!

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What Education Do You Need to Get Started in Real Estate?

Good news: To work in real estate in the United States, you don’t need to have any basic education beyond a high school diploma. There are many opportunities available to people who’ve graduated from high school, but who did not attend college, and who still want to make decent money and achieve their financial goals.

Real estate agents will need to be licensed in their state, which will require passing a test; there are a number of courses available (tests and courses vary state-by-state) for aspiring agents to help get their feet in the door.

Although you don’t have to go to college or attain any advanced degrees in order to thrive in real estate, a broker running a business might benefit from at least a bachelor’s degree in business from an accredited university or college, if not an MBA. There are a lot of different components that fold into running any business, including a brokerage, and an advanced degree such as an MBA can help you understand those needs from the very beginning of your management career.

Are There Professional Requirements for Landing Real Estate Jobs?

Depending on where you want to go in real estate, you can start with a high school diploma, or you can work toward a more advanced degree if you know you want to be running a whole business one day.

Support staff in a real estate brokerage (commercial or residential) might only need a high school diploma to qualify to work at an entry-level position. Non-licensed real estate assistants, for example, can help with basic scheduling tasks and other duties that don’t require a real estate license.

To work as an agent or broker, you’ll need to be licensed by the state where you operate. Some investors and wholesalers also choose to become licensed agents—there’s a lot of potential for job overlap (and economies of scale) when you really get into it, which is also why you see so many real estate agents becoming investors, too.

Beyond the diploma, there are individual requirements that vary depending on the job, the seniority level, and other factors. Some senior data analyst positions might require years of experience, or an advanced degree, for example.

Getting Your Foot in the Real Estate Door

How exactly do you get started in real estate? There are any number of entryways into this vast and exciting area. It’s more than likely that a brokerage in your area, or an investor, is hiring right now.

If you’re early on in your career and you have the ability to take an entry-level position to see whether or not this would be a good fit for you, then spend some time poking around on the job sites that work best in your area. Glassdoor, Indeed, LinkedIn, and all the usual suspects will offer a number of real estate jobs that you might not have even known were options!

Think about what it is that you like to do and where your skills are currently. Do you consider yourself a real “people person” who thrives under pressure and feels most engaged at work when you have multiple projects to juggle? Then a career as an agent could be the best fit for you. Do you love nothing more than hiding behind a camera, and even shooting photos of people makes you feel uncomfortable? Well, guess what: Those gorgeous interior photos of each and every room in the town’s high-end listings don’t take themselves! Agents pay good money for professional photographers to help them make a house look its very best.

Available Continuing Education in Real Estate

For people who consider learning and growth important parts of their lifestyles, real estate offers ways for you to enrich your understanding of niche parts of the industry (for example, working with real estate transactions in the wake of a divorce, or working with retirees), as well as ways to improve your business acumen and maximize your earning potential.

Real estate agents (and brokers) may be required to invest in a certain number of continuing education hours every year in order to maintain their license in good standing. The National Association of REALTORSⓇ, the biggest trade organization in the country, provides a number of continuing education opportunities for members, of which there are hundreds of thousands. Many real estate agents choose to join NAR for this and other support offerings.

And if you want to become better at the business side of things, some brokerages might offer continuing education classes on topics such as marketing or tough negotiations, while some agents choose to hire a real estate coach, who takes a comprehensive look at an agent’s business, helps them set goals, and gives them an action plan for achieving those feats.

Residential Real Estate: The Big Career Paths


A real estate agent helps buyers and sellers execute their home transaction goals, whatever those might be—for buyers, it’s to purchase a home, while for sellers, it’s to sell their house (and possibly buy another one elsewhere).

An agent’s job typically involves sharing network resources with buyers who are seeking mortgage loans, helping those buyers find homes in their price range at that meet their needs, introducing those buyers to neighborhoods or home types that they didn’t know would work for them, giving buyers feedback on offer prices and contingencies, writing the offer for the home, making negotiations throughout the closing process, and generally holding the buyer’s hand and helping them navigate the home purchase process.

For sellers, listing agents will help them understand the potential sales value of the home in the current market and geography, suggest upgrades or marketing techniques that will help maximize the home’s market price, list the home for sale on the MLS, market the home to the agent’s network and across social media, work with the seller to evaluate multiple offers (if necessary) and choose the best one, negotiate with the buyer’s agent, and generally hold the seller’s hand and help them navigate the home sales process.

Many agents work on both the “buy side” and the “sell side,” though there are several states that prohibit agents from “dual agency”—representing both buyer and seller in the same transaction.

For all of this, real estate agents are paid a commission on the home’s sales price. Typically, agents will walk away with about 6% of a home’s total sales price; 3% goes to the buyer’s agent, and 3% to the listing agent.

To get started as a real estate agent, you need a high school diploma, and you need to pass the licensing exams in your state. To practice, you’ll need to work under a broker, who will take a portion of your commission as a fee for their support and services.


A real estate broker can do everything that a real estate agent can do, and then some! Real estate brokers have been agents for a certain amount of time (the specific amount varies from state to state) and so are licensed at a higher level of responsibility.

Real estate agents must be supervised by a real estate broker, but a real estate broker doesn’t need anybody signing off on their contracts and work. Brokers can also supervise agents, typically charging a fee to agents for this service—either a flat rate, or a portion of the agent’s commission on each sale.

If you want to own your own business one day, then you’ll want to consider this pathway in the real estate industry. Real estate brokers are more highly qualified real estate agents, so you’ll need a high school diploma, to pass the state accreditation and licensing exams for brokers, and that’s technically it! Many brokers choose to pursue a business degree or MBA at the college level, that said.

Real estate brokers might work on their own sales transactions, helping people buy and sell homes, or they may simply oversee the work of the agents under their supervision and make money by collecting those fees or commission splits from the agents.

Support staff

Some real estate agents and brokerages require the agent to do the bulk of all the work involved in any transaction, from helping to manage the transaction itself, ensuring that all documents adhere to due diligence and compliance guidelines, market homes for sale—the things that need to be done in order to sell a house (or buy one) go well beyond “negotiate a price,” and there are many agents who handle everything on their own.

Other agents choose to outsource some of that work, or their brokerage might provide support in one or more areas. Transaction assistants, marketing assistance, and support in the due diligence and compliance areas tend to be the most common support staff opportunities at a brokerage, or working for an individual agent.

Most of these jobs will require a high-school diploma; a licensed transaction management assistant will also need a real estate license in the state where you’re operating.


Anyone who’s watched a little bit of HGTV has probably spent at least a little bit of time dreaming about a life as a real estate investor, fixing and flipping properties (or buying and holding homes as a landlord) in order to make some money.

Real estate investors come in as many different flavors as real estate itself, which is a lot! For example, in the fix-and-flip world, you’ll find investors who buy homes to live in for a couple of years (in order to avoid capital gains taxes when they sell), spend two years fixing the home while they use it as their primary residence, then list it for sale and move into the next fixer-upper. On the other end of the spectrum, there are fix-and-flippers who try to minimize the amount of time they own the house, updating everything they can as fast as they can, and re-listing the home as soon as possible.

Buy-and-hold investors also come in an array of styles. The rise of the vacation rental market with platforms such as Airbnb and VRBO made it possible for some existing homeowners (or aspiring investors) to purchase or hang onto a second home, renting it out on a nightly or weekly basis to travelers. Conversely, you’ll also see landlords who prefer long-term rental agreements, asking tenants to stay for six months to a year.

You can also invest in commercial real estate! This is usually done through a real estate investment trust, or REIT; a REIT is a way for investors to make money from deals such as renting office space to a business, or filling an apartment building with tenants. The trust itself comprises one or more different commercial real estate endeavors, which is funded by the trust investors; they receive returns from rent payments or other revenue generated by those properties.


A real estate wholesaler is a sort of middleperson between a distressed homeowner and a buyer. Wholesalers purchase homes (almost always distressed—in foreclosure, or pre-foreclosure), and then sell those homes for a higher price to an interested buyer, which is how they make money.

Getting into real estate wholesaling is as easy (and as difficult) as being able to purchase a house! If you can get approved to buy a house, and you’re absolutely confident that you can sell the house for more than you bought it before you have to start making regular mortgage payments on it, then this could be a career path for you.

Mortgage broker

Mortgage brokers help homebuyers find home loans that work for their lifestyles and budgets. Unlike a loan officer, who typically works for a single lender (and can offer the loans that their specific lender provides), a mortgage broker typically will have ties to multiple lenders, giving buyers many more options when it comes to their mortgage loan.

Mortgage brokers are regulated by the National Mortgage Licensure System (NMLS). Mortgage brokers must therefore be licensed, which can be accomplished by finishing a pre-licensing program, then passing the NMLS test.

Commercial Real Estate: Where You Can Go

We’ve been discussing residential real estate (single-family homes, condos, and the like)—but what about when a business needs to buy or sell a building? Or rent one?

Commercial real estate does for companies and businesses what residential real estate does for individual buyers and sellers, and it encompasses a pretty wide spectrum of needs and responsibilities. There are agents and brokers, support staff, investors, and more.

One area of commercial real estate hiring that we’ll cover more in-depth below is research and analysis. Investors, retail outlets, and other businesses use commercial real estate research assistants and analysts to determine where the next big opportunity for expansion lies, whether that means buying homes for a buy-and-hold landlord setup in a brand-new area, or finding the next most ideal place to launch a storefront for a certain business.

Industrial and Office Brokerage Career Opportunities

An industrial or office brokerage is a brokerage that works with commercial real estate, and specifically with warehouse or office space. An industrial or office brokerage (and its employees) will usually specialize in one industry, or a handful of industries, in order to provide their clients with the properties that best fit their needs.

For example, depending on what’s being produced inside the warehouse, one company might need access to laborers with certain accreditations or experience levels, which could mean they have fewer warehouses to choose among; an industrial real estate broker can help them understand where they need to find a warehouse. A different company might require access to certain raw materials, or need a building that adheres to certain codes.

Industrial real estate professionals learn the ins and outs of the various verticals they serve so that they can help their clients find space that works quickly and efficiently. This is a job you’re qualified to tackle if you are already involved in commercial real estate (or if you’re working toward becoming licensed as a commercial real estate agent).

Farm and Land Brokerage Career Opportunities

What else gets bought and sold besides homes and office spaces? Farms!

To price and sell a farm, agents and brokers need to understand the farm’s production value, the value of the land the farm sits on, market centers and transportation possibilities—it’s far from simple. Agents and brokers who want to pursue this career path will typically seek out additional certifications or continuing education; NAR offers a RealtorsⓇ Land Institute designation for farm-savvy real estate professionals.

Real Estate Appraising Career Opportunities

Appraisers and assessors (who work for the state or county tax collection departments and assess home values for taxes) are two careers that involve a deep understanding of the value of real estate, whether that’s land, a house, or an office building.

Mortgage lenders require buyers to get a property appraised before they will finalize the loan, in order to make sure they aren’t lending out more money than the property is worth. So any real estate transaction involving a mortgage loan will usually involve an appraisal.

Homeowners might also get their house appraised out of curiosity, or in order to refinance, or secure a home equity loan or line of credit.

Appraisers are licensed by the state where they operate. Some appraisers specialize in certain property types (for example, high-end homes, or office space). Those appraisers might require additional training in order to be able to pinpoint a property value.

Property Management Career Opportunities

Not every landlord is the hands-on type. For those who prefer to outsource the work of finding and managing tenants, handling emergency house problems, and other tasks of that ilk, a property manager is the person they hire.

Property managers work with both commercial and residential properties and help the property owners, well, manage the situation! They are typically paid a flat monthly rate for their services, and usually all you need to get started in property management is a high-school diploma.

Leasing agents are to renters what real estate agents are to buyers and sellers; they help renters find homes or apartments for rent. This career is much more common in some areas than others. In many cities, if you want to rent a house, you have no choice but to work with a leasing agent! 

To pursue a career as a leasing agent, you’ll need a high-school diploma and a certification as a National Apartment Leasing Professional.

Land Development Career Opportunities

Before you can sell a structure on top of land, someone has to purchase that land, get it zoned by whatever county or city entities exist, and build on it.

Land wholesalers purchase large tracts of land, then subdivide that land into smaller lots, selling each of those lots individually (or in development groups) to builders who want to put homes on that land.

Real estate developers purchase land (typically from wholesalers), then build homes on them to sell to individual buyers (or apartment buildings to rent—developers build what needs building!). There’s no specific requirement to become a real estate developer, but you’ll need to have a comprehensive understanding of real estate costs in your area (including materials and the cost of labor), zoning, financing, marketing—the list goes on and on.

There are no specific requirements for working in land development, though some successful entrepreneurs secure a business degree or MBA to help them navigate all the logistics.

Urban Planning Career Opportunities

Perhaps you’ve heard of an urban planner, or a regional planner. These are people who help city officials, the general public, community groups, and other interested parties plan and shape the developmental future of the neighborhood or area.

This can involve evaluating plans and assessing how feasible a project is (or is not), providing feedback on zoning or environmental codes, conducting field investigations, and more. When you have a question about how a planned project might affect an area, an urban planner can help you answer it.

To become an urban planner, you’ll most likely need to secure a gradiate degree in urban planning.

Real Estate Advice-Giving Career Opportunities

Every industry needs its lawyers! In some states, a real estate lawyer will execute many of the duties that a title company usually handles—the title review, for example, and managing the documents in the sale.

Of course, there are as many areas of specialized real estate law as there are reasons to go to court over real estate! Some lawyers specialize in rental law, some in probate law, others in transaction management, others in post-transaction lawsuits.

Another area of real estate counseling is financial counseling—helping clients manage their real estate portfolios and specializing in those kinds of assets.

To become a real estate lawyer, you’ll need a law degree and ideally have taken specialized classes during law school. To become a financial counselor, a basic requirement might include a finance degree; NAR also offers a designation in “Counselor of Real Estate” for real estate professionals with at least 10 years of experience.

Real Estate Research Career Opportunities

Real estate research involves, essentially, number-crunching to help investors (typically) decide where to go and what to buy next.

A real estate researcher might work for a buy-and-hold investor, for example, and be tasked with analyzing and evaluating rent prices, home purchase prices, rent market demand, and more for several different markets, so that the investor can make an informed decision about which market to expand to next. Chain businesses, from retail outlets to restaurants, use similar analytics to decide where to open the next store.

At the entry level of real estate research jobs, you’ll see titles such as “research associate.” These jobs typically involve tasks such as preparing and submitting loan and grant applications, mapping research and data collection, maintaining files, and so on.

A research analyst will monitor wider economic trends and local real estate trends, providing analysis to executives and answering questions from business leadership as best they can about where the market is likely to go next. Senior research analysts may also provide technical guidance or training to other staff members, or revamp existing processes to make them more efficient.

And a real estate research director oversees an entire department, sometimes within a large corporation, in order to determine what analyses the team as a whole should be working on—what questions are most pressing at the moment.

There are a few more career paths in real estate research that are important to note: Research needs to be executed during the home transaction process, to ensure that the seller has the legal right to sell the property, and almost always on the house itself, too. The first kind of research is known as a title review and involves a title reviewer digging into the property’s history to ensure there are no unknown liens, missing heirs, or other potential problem with the home sale.

The second kind is what you’d typically think of as a home inspection! These are not always required to complete a transaction, but most agents will recommend that a buyer get an inspection at least for informational purposes. The people who research and evaluate the house physically in-person are known as inspectors, and there are even specialty inspections for specific types of the home or homing in (pun intended!) on certain problem-prone areas of the structure, such as the roof or foundation.

What Real Estate Career Is Right for You?

If you’re intrigued by the possibilities baked into a career in real estate, but you’re still not sure whether it would be a good fit for you—talk to someone! Many real estate agents are more than happy to share a few details about what they love (and don’t love so much, at least some days) about their jobs, and how you can get started in the field. It’s a rewarding and endlessly interesting field that hooks people for life for good reason!

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