Though business schools have increasingly dedicated resources to it in recent years, real estate remains a secondary destination for MBAs graduating from the top business schools in the United States. According to data from U.S. News, while 24 of 25 schools reported some 2021 grads going into the industry, only three schools had real estate MBAs in double digits, and five had just one real estate-bound grad in their entire graduating class.
Salaries are a different matter. Real estate is a lucrative field, as just about anyone could tell you, whether they have experience in it or not. From U.S. News we know that at the 13 schools that reported salary data for their 2021 real estate MBAs, the range of base salaries is just over $68,000 to $250,000 — in other words, in line with almost any other industry where an MBA can find work. And the numbers are going up: Two years ago when we last examined real estate MBA data, the range of salaries for graduates of the leading MBA programs was $58,000 to $180,000.
Harvard Business School led all schools with the highest average real estate MBA salary in 2021: $160,000. The lowest average salary was at NYU Stern School of Business: $92,482. Harvard also had the highest “low” salary, $130,000, and five other B-schools reported lows over $100,000. And it was Harvard again topping the list of highest “highs”: $250,000, with Columbia Business School and Stanford Graduate School of Business next at $190,000 and $180,000, respectively.
Real estate is a consistently lucrative avenue of MBA interest. Who gets an MBA in real estate? Largely real estate and community developers, though anyone interested in real estate finance, real estate law, real estate investment, asset and property management, sustainable development, and a host of related multidisciplinary pursuits might find an MBA a
So many B-school students and candidates find real estate compelling — a field at least worth inquiring about — that a few years ago U.S. News added Real Estate to its specializations rankings. Topping this year's list for best real estate school is the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, which graduated nine MBAs who reported real estate salaries, at an average of $127,778. One Wharton MBA reported a salary of $175,000. See the table below for the numbers at the rest of the top 5.
Regardless of the volume of MBA graduates, real estate centers proliferate at U.S. News' top-ranked real estate schools and elsewhere. No. 1 Wharton is home to the Samuel Zell & Robert Lurie Real Estate Center. No. 3 Berkeley Haas School of Business houses the Fisher Center for Real Estate & Urban Economics. No. 4 Columbia is home to the Paul Milstein Center for Real Estate, and No. 5 Wisconsin School of Business is where you will find the James A. Graaskamp Center for Real Estate. UCLA Anderson School of Management, ranked No. 7, contains the Ziman Center for Real Estate, and since early 2020, No. 12 Michigan Ross School of Business houses the Weiser Center for Real Estate.
It goes beyond centers of research. UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, ranked No. 10, boasts not only the Leonard Wood Center for Real Estate but also the Kenan-Flagler Foundation Real Estate Fund, a student-led fund that has raised millions through dozens of investments since 2007. And Cornell University Johnson Graduate School of Management offers the Baker Program in Real Estate, in which MBA students can choose from real estate electives or pair their degree with a Master of Professional Studies in real estate.
See a comprehensive list of real estate centers at leading business schools here.
How do real estate salaries compare to salaries in the top three MBA fields of consulting, finance, and tech? They are lower in general, of course, but not low. At Poets&Quants' top five schools — Stanford, Wharton, Chicago Booth School of Business, Northwestern Kellogg School of Management, and Harvard — the average 2021 salary for consulting was $159,622, for finance $162,147, and for tech $144,480. The average real estate salary, meanwhile, at the six top-10 schools that reported data is $135,752, and at the 13 top-25 schools with data, $122,381.
We can also look at the lows and highs, and find real estate holding its own. The low average for the top five schools in consulting is $73,599; in finance $81,000; and in tech $78,808. Real estate outshines them all: Among top 10 schools, real estate's low salaries average $101,667, and among the top 25, $95,159.
And what about high salaries? No industry is going to challenge some of the astronomical numbers we regularly see coming out of the top B-schools, but real estate certainly yields pay that no one can scoff at:
See next page for real estate MBA starting salaries at the top 25 U.S. business schools.
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