Forget about the housing crash—real estate is a hot new growth area for business schools.
“Real estate will continue to be a major facet of business, with its own unique characteristics,” says Darius Palia, a finance professor at Rutgers who grapples with the housing meltdown and subprime lending crisis in his classes. “There’s a lot of demand in the marketplace for people trained in real estate techniques. There are a lot of companies looking for people with that sort of training.”
In recent months, schools around the world have announced new real estate initiatives at the graduate and undergraduate level, including new degree programs, concentrations, and certificate programs. In May the University of Miami business school announced an accelerated MBA program with a concentration in real estate. A few months later Portland State admitted the inaugural class for a new master’s program in real estate development. About 15 percent of business schools surveyed last year by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business reported having graduate and undergraduate degree programs with an emphasis on real estate, including MBA concentrations. That number has risen by more than 30 percent in the last decade.
While reliable data on career paths for real estate grads is hard to come by, people who graduate from some top programs do very well. At Columbia Business School, nearly half the graduates of the real estate program get hired for investment management and private equity jobs by employers that include Blackstone (BX), Goldman Sachs (GS), and Vornado Realty Trust (VNO).
Even before they start their job searches, excitement among MBA students about real estate is at a fever pitch. Brian Lancaster, an adjunct finance professor who taught the Real Estate Capital Markets course at New York University’s Stern School of Business last fall, says it’s no secret why. “With the Fed holding rates to a record low which is boosting all real estate values, combined with the disarray in both regulatory policy and markets, the excitement in the classroom…was off the charts,” he wrote in an email. “I expect only more interest in real estate among MBAs in the future.”
One of the prime movers behind the MBA concentration at Rutgers was Paul Profeta, for whom the endowed chair is named. Profeta, the owner of a West Orange (N.J.)-based real estate investment company that also bears his name, contributed $1.5 million for the chair. The other half was donated anonymously. Profeta says having an MBA real estate concentration will make Rutgers more attractive to recruiters, and will lure young professionals seeking to make their mark in a field that uses many of the same finance skills needed in banking, consulting, and other traditional MBA-destined careers.
“Real estate is one of the biggest industries in our economy,” Profeta says. “Yes, there are parts of it that have flat-lined, but it’s become an attractive thing for some business professionals. The real estate industry is totally unregulated. It’s really a wild and woolly field. You live by your wits. That’s why it’s exciting to young professionals.”