A degree in commercial real estate – hot air or hot topic

The College of Charleston’s School of Business in South Carolina has introduced a degree in commercial real estate to the syllabus. It would be an understatement to suggest this move has attracted praise and criticism in equal measures. However, is a degree in commercial real estate too niche, hot air or a hot topic?

Lack of financial education

Before we even begin to look at the degree course in commercial real estate it is worth reminding ourselves that we teach our children an array of subjects at school and college but very often finance is left until the very last minute. For many this subject is an optional course and every day financial instruments such as bank accounts, credit cards, mortgages, loans, etc are often left uncovered. This then leaves young adults in the big wide world without any real knowledge of the financial sector, the pitfalls and the benefits.

An important part of the economy

Answering critics, the College of Charleston’s School of Business confirmed the commercial real estate degree was developed to meet market demand. When you bear in mind that up to 30% of the United States economy revolves around commercial real estate surely it is not such a bad development?

Many also believe that a degree in commercial real estate is a very useful steppingstone for those looking at real estate law, lending, valuation, property development, investment banking and asset management to mention just a few connected subjects. You could argue that an understanding of the commercial real estate market is as vital to the above subjects as maths is to everyday life. We try to push all students to attain a maths qualification while very often ignoring finances and the real world.

Different elements of the degree course

While the headline subject matter has certainly been a conversation starter across the US education system there are many different elements which appear to have been overlooked. The course also includes particular focus on investment, management, marketing, the supply chain, planning, development, historic preservation, law and perhaps most importantly, entrepreneurship. While many successful entrepreneurs may not start out in the world of real estate there are many who end up finishing their career in the world of real estate.

This is probably one subject where “teachers” would benefit from actual experience in the world of commercial real estate. Very often in subjects such as small business, those teaching students have little or no experience in the real world of small business. Even though the world of commercial real estate may look theoretically based we all know that trends change for “no apparent reason” and the herd mentality is often prevalent.

Property investment and retirement

Interest rates at the moment are rock bottom, savings accounts are giving negligible returns and more people are now looking towards investing in commercial real estate than ever before. If the next generation of real estate investors have even the most basic education in this area then hopefully they will be able to avoid the mistakes many of us have made in the past. That is not to say mistakes are not helpful, we often learn most by our mistakes, but a theoretical mistake in a commercial real estate degree course is obviously less dangerous than a practical mistake when investing in real estate.

As more people look towards their property investments as their pension funds of the future the College of Charleston’s School of Business can probably expect growing interest in its commercial real estate degree course. You are never too young (or old) to learn!

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