UNC Kenan-Flagler’s MBA real estate program enables its graduates to succeed across a wide spectrum of career opportunities. Although there are numerous entry points into the real estate industry, most MBAs choose employment in one of the following areas:
Development – Newly-minted MBAs often secure positions with real estate development firms, which create new residential, retail, office, industrial, hotel, or healthcare properties. These projects can be quite complex, which makes MBAs appealing for their ability to understand technical real estate requirements as well as team management and process management skills needed to bring projects to completion. Development positions usually take the form of development manager or development associate, working with other members of the development team (architects, engineers, general contractors, etc.) to move the project from concept to realization.
Investment Banking – MBAs interested in high finance often choose investment banking for a career, typically entering the industry as an associate on a real estate coverage team. Coverage teams assist firms, which are often publicly-traded, with capital needs ranging from raising money in an IPO or follow-on offering to providing mergers and acquisitions expertise. As an associate, new MBAs serve as key contributors to the coverage team, taking direction from higher-level members and providing oversight and feedback to pre-MBA analysts. Investment banking is a fast-paced industry that requires a keen eye for analysis, highly-developed people skills, and considerable stamina.
Acquisitions (Private Equity) – Acquisitions roles within private equity firms tend to be highly coveted positions awarded to MBA graduates with a demonstrated transactional history and well-developed financial modeling skills. Acquisitions professionals identify and purchase new real estate assets that meet specific criteria set by a firm’s portfolio managers. Successful practitioners tend to possess expertise in both current real estate markets as well as capital markets. (It is worth noting that many private equity professionals come to the position from an investment banking background.)
Finance – While the majority of MBAs enter development, investment banking, or private equity, a sizable number secure positions in broader financial functions. Many times this takes the shape of working for a provider of debt or equity, or possibly a firm that assists in securing debt or equity from such a provider. It can also mean operating within the finance, capital markets, or treasury department of a firm that owns and/or develops real estate (such as a REIT). Finance positions can be particularly attractive for recent MBAs as the skills and experiences developed in these types of positions can be widely applicable to other real estate career paths.
Corporate Real Estate – Often overlooked, corporate real estate offers a vast array of opportunities to own, manage, and/or lease property on behalf of a corporate user. These positions range from securing new locations for a restaurant chain to estimating the space needs for a technology firm to disposing of excess bank branch locations for a financial services firm and everything in between. Corporate real estate practitioners often work closely with other functions and departments within their organization, necessitating excellent communication and interpersonal skills in addition to specific real estate expertise.
Consulting – Whether working for a national consultancy or a local practice, a position in real estate consulting involves the delivery of specialized advice to clients active in the real estate industry. These clients may be either owners or users (or both) of real estate. MBAs in consulting rely on highly-developed problem solving skills to guide their clients through various real estate processes and decisions. For individuals who enjoy a consistent flow of new projects and challenges, real estate consulting can be a rewarding career.
Asset Management – Asset management positions require a combination of asset-level operational knowledge and financial savvy. MBAs in this field seek to maximize the value of assets by combining operational productivity with financial engineering. Asset managers are typically assigned a portfolio of assets and work closely with capital markets professionals to identify optimal timing for asset disposition. Asset managers also provide direction for property management professionals responsible for the ongoing operations (collecting rent and managing expenses) for specific assets.
Brokerage – While many MBAs fail to consider a brokerage position, perhaps due to its usual compensation structure (relatively low base pay but high income potential), the training and earnings potential in such a position can be substantial. Whether national or local in scope, most commercial real estate brokerages have developed sophisticated systems to bring users of real estate together and structure transactions that make sense for all parties involved. MBAs in brokerage have an opportunity to utilize their financial and interpersonal skill sets while working in a position that can be entrepreneurial and financially lucrative.