Real Estate Law Degrees: Master's, Doctorate & Online Class Info

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What will you learn in a real estate law degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of a master's and doctoral degree, and potential careers.
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Real Estate Master's and Doctoral Degrees at a Glance

Master of Science (M.S.) in Real Estate Law or Master of Studies in Law (MSL) programs are typically intended for non-lawyers engaged in commercial real estate work. Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Real Estate programs, on the other hand, are intended for practicing attorneys seeking to specialize in the field. Another option is a joint Juris Doctor (J.D.)/Master of Laws program that concurrently trains students to become practicing attorneys and real estate law specialists.

Graduates of M.S. programs typically work in the field of real estate in a non-legal capacity, while graduates of LL.M. programs usually practice real estate law with corporations, government agencies, or other employers. Graduates of joint J.D./LL.M. programs are eligible to practice law, including real estate law, after passing state bar exams.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in May 2011 there were about 60,000 appraisers and assessors of real estate and about 38,000 real estate agents and brokers working in the nation. The BLS also reported that there were about 570,000 lawyers working in the nation at that time. The BLS predicted 7% national job growth for appraisers and assessors, 11% growth for real estate brokers, and 10% growth for lawyers during the 2010-2020 decade.

Master of Science in Real Estate Law/Master of Studies in Law Master of Laws in Real Estate Joint Juris Doctor/Master of Laws in Real Estate
Who Is This Degree For? Non-lawyers interested in becoming experts in or advancing their careers in commercial real estate Practicing lawyers interested in becoming experts in practicing real estate law Aspiring real estate lawyers
Common Career Path (with approximate mean annual salary) - Real estate appraiser or assessor ($55,000)*
- Real estate broker or agent ($84,000)*
- Real estate lawyer ($118,000)**
- Lawyer ($130,000)*
- Real estate lawyer ($118,000)**
- Lawyer ($130,000)*
Time to Completion 24-30 credit hours 24-27 credit hours 104-113 credit hours
Common Graduation Requirements Coursework - Coursework
-Drafting workshop
- Practicum
Coursework
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree - Juris Doctor
- Courses in real estate transactions and federal income taxation
Bachelor's degree
Online Availability None found at this time Available None found at this time

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Salary.com.

Master of Science in Real Estate

Designed for non-attorney real estate professionals, these programs provide an introduction to American legal practice, particularly as it relates to real estate. This allows students to understand the laws that pertain to their careers and any limitations those laws might pose.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Designed for non-attorneys, so you don't need to possess a J.D. to enroll
  • Can help real estate brokers, developers, and agents advance their careers
  • Provides an education about the law and legal process without needing to attend law school

Cons

  • Doesn't prepare or allow you to practice real estate law
  • May not increase employment opportunities or salary prospects
  • Degree isn't required to work as a real estate agent, broker, or developer

Courses and Requirements

M.S. programs in real estate law typically require two years of study. Some programs are offered on a part-time basis, but these programs usually limit students to five years to complete their degrees. The curriculum of these programs consists entirely of coursework in topics like basic real estate law, American law, commercial real estate transactions, real estate finance, and drafting legal documents. Elective classes may cover topics like energy or construction law, real estate insurance, natural resources law, and real estate litigation.

Online Degree Options

Currently, real estate Master of Science and Master of Studies programs aren't offered online. Attending an in-person program allows you to interact with professors and other students while you learn about the American legal system and real estate laws. This may lead to establishing relationships with lawyers or other individuals that may benefit your future career.

Stand Out with This Degree

To stand out with this degree, consider honing your writing skills. Although non-lawyers cannot write legal documents, being knowledgeable about these documents' contents, production methods, and common wording may make it easier to understand them when they appear on your desk in the future.

Master of Laws in Real Estate

These programs help practicing attorneys advance their knowledge of real estate law and allow them to identify themselves as specialists in the field. They often focus on the transactional aspects of real estate, as well as providing students with instruction in drafting legal documents commonly used in the field.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • May lead to a career in law outside of a law firm, such as a real estate developer or project manager
  • Allows lawyers to specialize their legal practice in real estate law
  • Short timeframe for completion; programs usually only require one year of study

Cons

  • Not required to practice real estate law, so may not increase job opportunities or potential salaries
  • Bar associations might not consider this degree when approving lawyers to become board certified in the field; they may instead require work experience in real estate law
  • May not be able to earn and apply credits for relevant work experience towards degree requirements

Courses and Requirements

Courses in LL.M programs include a set of core and elective classes. Core classes cover topics like financial and economic real estate analysis, real estate taxes and transactions, real estate ownership, and document drafting. Elective classes may discuss historic preservation, real estate litigation, public finance, and construction law. An externship and research seminar are also usually included. Some schools may count relevant work experience towards credit hour requirements.

Online Degree Options

L.L.M. programs are available both entirely online and in hybrid formats. In the latter type of program, students complete both online and on-campus courses. These programs may use live course delivery programs and be held in the evenings. Usually, they include the same curriculum as on-campus programs.

Stand Out with This Degree

To stand out with this degree, consider honing your negotiation skills. Although you'll likely have begun working on these skills during law school, due to the fact that real estate law is heavily transactional in nature, being able to skillfully negotiate contractual terms can help you in your practice. Having one or more advanced negotiation skills courses on your resume may make you stand out to employers.

Joint Juris Doctor/Master of Laws in Real Estate

These dual programs help law students specialize their legal studies and future practices in real estate law. Graduating from law school with an additional degree and advanced knowledge in a specific field of study may make it easier to find employment with a real estate law firm.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Allows for completion of two degree programs in less time
  • Possessing two degrees may impress law firms that focus on real estate practice, which could make it possible to obtain employment with one of these firms after graduation
  • Possessing two degrees and studying a specific field of law can help you stand out against graduates of a traditional J.D. program

Cons

  • Possessing an LL.M. isn't required to work as a real estate attorney
  • The specialization doesn't offer a substantial increase in salary when compared to all attorneys; median salary for attorneys was around $113,000, and for real estate attorneys it was around $118,000, as of September 2012*
  • May require an additional semester of study

Sources: * Salary.com.

Courses and Requirements

These dual-degree programs combine a traditional law studies curriculum with additional coursework in real estate law. Basic law school curricula include classes in civil procedure, contract, property, torts, legal research and writing, criminal law, and evidence. Classes included in the LL.M. portion of the program include land use regulation, real estate development, real estate transaction law, and federal income tax. J.D. programs may offer internships and clinical experiences, some of which may involve real estate law.

Online Degree Options

Currently, online dual J.D./LL.M. programs are unavailable. Attending an on-campus program allows you to interact with your professors, some of which may be practicing attorneys. Establishing relationships with licensed, practicing real estate attorneys may increase the likelihood of finding employment after graduation.

Stand Out with This Degree

To stand out with this degree, consider gaining experience working in real estate during your studies. Having practical experience working in a real estate law firm or clinic or having handled real estate-related issues during a clinical experience demonstrates that you not only possess classroom-provided knowledge about the field, but also understand the practical aspects of working in real estate law.

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