Raising the Bar With Real Estate Degrees

By Brian Summerfield, Online Editor, REALTOR® Magazine

RMag_At_MidYear1In her president’s report during the NAR Board of Directors Meeting in Washington, D.C., today, Vicki Cox Golder said REALTOR® University would help “raise the bar” of the profession through an initiative to create an accredited degree-granting university program.

Richard Rosenthal, a Venice, Calif., broker and NAR Liaison for Special Projects, built on this point in a report on the program. He said a blue-ribbon panel started work this year on the initiative, which will result in degrees in majors that include real estate sales and marketing, real estate brokerage, and appraisal.

Rosenthal said the rationale for this initiative was a lack of a solid, consistent collegiate-level academic framework for real estate, as well as inconsistent development of practitioners. “We’re an apprentice industry, which in itself is not bad,” he said. “But each broker teaches it differently. REALTOR® University will be an accredited institution that focuses on what we do.”

According to Rosenthal, it will take about two to three years for REALTOR® University to become an accredited institution, a process that will start in the state of Illinois. “If you want the ‘university’ attached to REALTOR®, you have to play by (academia’s) rules,” he said.

Students will access the REALTOR® University curriculum online via a delivery system not unlike the University of Phoenix and DeVry. In addition to accredited degrees, the university will eventually feature internship and job-placement programs, as well as an applied research center.

“This is probably the most exciting thing I’ve ever worked on in my career with NAR,” Rosenthal said. “It’s something that not only benefits us, but also benefits the people who will come after us.”

Brian Summerfield

Brian Summerfield is Manager of Business Development and Outreach for NAR Commercial and Global Services. He can be reached at bsummerfield@realtors.org.

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  1. S.

    This is a great idea, I’m all for it. However, my question is, as someone who has been considering finally finishing school the last year, what would I get out of pursuing my degree through REALTOR U as opposed to finishing at the four year school here locally that now offers degrees in their Real Estate program they started recently?

  2. I, too, wonder about the applicability of a REALTOR(R) University degree. Will the degree be superior to the certification and designation programs? And will clients or consumers really care? Though a REALTOR(R) sponsored degree can be good for an individual practitioners’ educational development, I’m not so certain that it will improve the image of professionalism in the eyes of the consumer.

    Interestingly, according to the REALTOR(R) Profile at least 93% of REALTORS(R) have a college education. Only 7% ONLY have a high school education. If you add non-REALTORS(R) to this statistic (i.e. many commercial practitioners), I’m sure the percentage of real estate agents that are college educated will increase to more than 95%. So, is the lack of a degree requirement really the problem? I don’t think so.

    At the end of the day, real estate brokerage is a business. This is especially true of independent contractor practitioners. So that’s the root of the “professionalism” issue. And consequently, having a degree is less important than having a sound understanding of business and sales (especially SALES) fundamentals and training. Both of which, are extremely lacking at many independent and franchise firms.

    It’s disturbing that there are practitioners who’ve been in the business for years that don’t know the difference between operating as an employee and an independent contractor. They’re unfamiliar with the payment of their quarterly estimated taxes; poorly track their income/expenses; don’t know how to create a P&L (Profit and Loss) statement, etc., etc.

    And it’s equally crippling that many practitioners aren’t familiar with sales management or professional sales. Whereas, companies like IBM and HP invest heavily in training their salespeople, brokerage firms don’t invest in their affiliated sales forces. But again, this brings you back to business basics since agents are usually independent contractors and not employees.

    Should the primary responsibility for training ICs be be the duty of brokerage firms? Then there’s the question of training costs vs. ROI. And it continues from there…

  3. while i commend NAR for taking this step, wouldn’t it make more sense to partner with an accredited University already offering a real estate degree program? since they already have the basics of the program, NAR could help support the program through internships, research and grants. by having the degree offered by Realtor U, the targeted students are primarily existing practitioners. by partnering with a traditional University, the students would be both future and existing Realtors. I don’t envision collegiates walking around wearing their “Realtor U” sweatshirts. Rather than aspire to be a newer version of University of Phoenix Online, why not build onto a program at a University with a strong history of excellence in education and already established name recognition?

    I have not seen a “lack of a solid, consistent collegiate-level academic framework for real estate”. Many reputable Universities offer a real estate degree and have so for years. Having majored in Real Estate and Land Development in graduate school at Virginia Commonwealth University, I can attest to the quality of the program. Unfortunately, most Realtors in my area are unfamiliar with the programs offered at local Universities. If NAR could help promote existing programs and even create scholarships, it would encourage existing agents to further their education and existing students to enter the field.