The real estate industry focuses on buying, selling, and appraising residences, commercial buildings, undeveloped land, and other types of public or private property. Real estate professionals typically have backgrounds in finance, marketing, and other business-oriented fields. They are also skilled communicators with extensive knowledge about building regulations, zoning policies, and other laws guiding modern-day real estate.

Many professionals in this field begin their career by earning an associate degree in real estate. Real estate associate programs often include internships, which are held at property management offices, real estate brokerage firms, and other workplaces. Many of today's students choose to earn their associate degree in real estate online rather than in a classroom. The asynchronous (or self-paced) format of most online real estate programs proves ideal for students with part-time jobs, childcare obligations, and other commitments that may interfere with attending courses on a college campus.

Learn more about what you can do with an online associate degree in real estate and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.


Many careers in real estate -- including agents and brokers -- are attainable with a high school diploma, so an associate degree in real estate will further bolster a candidate's standing in the job market. Associate in real estate programs provide a comprehensive overview of property law, real estate valuation and appraisal, property management, mortgage requirements, and other fundamental areas of the industry. Students also take multiple courses in sales, marketing and advertising, and communications.


Online associate degree in real estate programs offer a flexible alternative to traditional, classroom-based education. Students are able to access course lectures and readings, participate in virtual discussions with other students, submit written assignments, take exams, and communicate with professors from the comfort of their own home. Current technology also enables them to study on the go using a laptop, tablet, smartphone, and other portable devices with WiFi capabilities. For added convenience, online students can usually coordinate internships at sites near their current residence.


Agents and brokers comprise the largest number of real estate professionals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than 420,000 agents and brokers are currently employed in the United States. The BLS notes that these positions can usually be obtained with a high school diploma, although all 50 states and the District of Columbia require agents and brokers to be fully licensed. The best online associate degree in real estate programs prepare students to complete their state's specific licensure requirements, which generally include post-degree work experience and a comprehensive exam. Other common occupations in the real estate industry include appraisers and assessors, property inspectors, and property managers.


Choosing a program is an incredibly personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school's strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online associate degree in real estate programs in the United States. If you are considering an online associate in real estate, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific associate degree requirements and offerings.

Rank School Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle
1 Westmoreland County Community College Youngwood, PA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 62%

Near Pittsburgh, Westmoreland County Community College in Youngwood, Pennsylvania has worked since its founding in 1970 to prepare students a wide range of careers. With more than 60 associate degree programs and nearly 50 certificate offerings, WCCC provides local students and distance learners with the opportunity to improve their career prospects or earn transferable credits to a four-year school. WCCC's online real estate certificate program in real estate is taught through the school of business. The 16-credit program includes six courses teaching real estate marketing, finance, law and more. WCCC's program is designed to prepare students for jobs as brokers, property managers, employees at large real estate firms and even developers. WCCC provides a number of regional campuses as well its online offerings. Distance learners can take advantage of the school's academic student services for testing help and tutoring. WCCC is among the best online real estate programs not geared specifically toward California students.

2 Santiago Canyon College Orange, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 35%

Earning a degree in real estate online at Santiago Canyon College can lead to a variety of careers. The Orange, California college offers a 22.5-25.5-credit degree in real estate for students interested in becoming real estate brokers, managers, developers, salespersons and more. Almost all SCC courses are focused on real estate, with classes including Real Property Management, Appraisal Principles and Legal Aspects of Real Estate. Students who earn an online real estate degree at SCC will be ready to take the licensing exam in California to become a professional agent or salesperson. Distance and online learners have access to academic tools such as language labs and tutoring for help with their courses as well as technical support to ensure the optimal learning environment. SCC is a member of the Rancho Santiago Community College District and accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The community college is ethnically diverse and offers more than 60 associate degrees.

3 Mt San Jacinto Community College District San Jacinto, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 23%

Students in Mt. San Jacinto College's online real estate degree program are not all novices who want to begin the real estate profession. The California school's real estate program attracts working agents and appraisers as well as new learners. The associate of science program at the San Jacinto campus, Menifee Valley campus and online is designed to prepare students with the material they need to gain a real estate license in California but can also be used to help working real estate agents become more successful and improve their services. The AS program emphasizes practical skills such as real estate law, valuation, financing and economics as well as ethics, sales techniques and professionalism that can take students to a new level. Offered through Blackboard Learning Management System, MSJC's online real estate degree provides a number of students services such as counseling, dual enrollment for high school students, financial aid, veteran services, tutoring and the multi-cultural Puente Project.

4 North Lake College Irving, TX Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 14%

North Lake College in Irving, Texas, offers an associate degree in real estate available entirely online that gives students the skills needed to succeed in the real estate profession. The degree applies toward the Texas Real Estate Commission licensing requirements.

The associate of applied science in real estate requires students to complete 60 credit hours in order to graduate. Online real estate classes available cover topics, such as laws of contracts, real estate finance, real estate mathematics, real estate appraisal, and real estate brokerage. Distance learners also have the opportunity to enroll in a three-credit real estate internship or cooperative education experience.

Students must earn at least 25% of the credit hours needed to graduate at North Lake, but they can transfer up to 75% of previously earned college credit toward the degree requirements. To proceed within the program, distance learners must meet the standards and complete the prerequisites set out by the Texas Success Initiative.

5 City College of San Francisco San Francisco, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 33%

Students who earn an online real estate degree from City College of San Francisco will be prepared to pursue a career in real estate or transfer to a bachelor's degree in business. The 18-credit CCSF associate of science in California real estate program is designed for these dual outcomes. Many graduates work as real estate brokers, at real estate firms or continue by transferring their credits to a four-year institution to pursue a degree in related business ventures. CCSF students learn about the legalities, economics and practical aspects of real estate. Classes focus on everything from the best professional etiquette for success to the specifics of contracts. The online program is available to students from all over, but might be most attractive to regional students as it is sponsored by the sponsored by the Department of Real Estate of the State of California, the California Association of Realtors, and the San Francisco Board of Realtors. Students can complete the degree in online real estate at CCSF in as few as four semesters.

6 Palomar College San Marcos, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 29%

Palomar College specializes in associate degree programs, offering more than 200 at its six campuses and online. Headquartered in San Marcos, California, Palomar gives students from all across the U.S. the opportunity to pursue their career. One popular Palomar associate program is the school's degree in real estate online. With far more courses and prestige than a certificate program, the 24- to 28-credit program AS degree has courses in the principles, finances, economics and law of real estate. Palomar students will also learn how to appraise and manage property as well as the intricacies of escrow and title procedures. Ultimately, Palomar's program is designed to help students obtain their real estate license or licenses as well as excel in the field once they are licensed. Palomar's online classes are offered through Blackboard and the school provides eServices to distance learners. There are tutoring resources for certain business areas and student counseling for all types of help.

7 Austin Community College District Austin, TX Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 9%

Multi-campus Austin Community College, located in the metropolitan college community of Austin, Texas, has an entire Real Estate Department. Students can earn a online real estate degree at ACC through the school's distance learning program. The Real Estate Department's distance learning courses are on a flexible schedule, perfect for full-time employees or busy parents. Despite its unique schedule, online learning at ACC still prizes collaboration and direct communication between student and faculty. Web learning takes place via Blackboard. ACC real estate courses cover everything from contract law and property appraisal to real estate mathematics and development. The Real Estate department provides its own advisors and services, with special aid for veterans and transferring students. ACC's program includes a wider range of courses than many online real estate colleges, which can lead to careers in commercial property real estate appraisal, residential brokerage or property management.

8 Folsom Lake College Folsom, CA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 31%

Students can earn a real estate degree online at Folsom Lake College. The Folsom, California school offers a Associate of arts degree in real estate with 37 real estate credits and 23 general education credits. Although the program features some legal and financial courses, Folsom's online real estate degree is aimed directly at practical outcomes for students who want to thrive in as professionals in the real estate field. Courses include Principles of Marketing, Real Estate Finance and Real Estate Appraisal with a number of computer classes as well. The program is specifically geared toward California real estate demands and requirements, and offered hybrid online and in-person learning for local students. Online and distance learners are not at a loss however, as Folsom's eLearning platform allows for students to take full advantage of services such as counseling or the library. Folsom also offers certificates in real estate.

9 Mesa Community College Mesa, AZ Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 15%

Mesa Community College in Maricopa County, Arizona offers an associate degree in applied science for people who want to begin a career in business. The base AAS in business gives students the option to get the foundational education they need for a wide range of careers with specializations in specific sectors. For example, the MCC offers a Real Estate Track that prepares students for a career as a property appraiser and real estate broker. The program features classes in computer science, business communication, marketing, accounting and a variety of real estate subjects. MCC breaks it's AAS real estate track into 5 terms with the final two completely about real estate principles. The academically rigorous 67- to 72-credit program ensures that graduates are prepared for a wide range of real estate careers. MCC and its online services are geared toward helping students optimize their education toward their career. Online learners at MCC have access to career services, academic advisors, counseling, on-demand online tutoring and a number of other campus resources.

Timeline 18 months to two years
Program Costs $6,000 to $20,000 in annual tuition
Popular Minors and Dual Areas of Study Business, management, communications, sales, marketing and advertising, finance, economics
Accreditation There is no programmatic accreditation for this major field of study at the undergraduate level. Students should defer to the regional/national accreditation of their four-year college or university.

Sample Courses for an Online Associate in Real Estate

As in any field, courses differ depending on which individual online associate in real estate program you choose. All programs share certain core courses, as they must ensure that graduates possess the necessary competencies for the real estate industry. Below, you can find a sample set of five common real estate courses.

  • Real Estate Marketing: This survey covers a variety of topics related to marketing a real estate business. Those topics include time management, marketing psychology, advertising, listing procedures, negotiating, closing, professionalism, ethics, and sales. In most cases, students complete this course within their first two semesters.
  • Real Estate Mathematics: This broad course covers basic math skills that students need to master for successful real estate careers. These skills include percentages, appreciation, logic, interest, and closing statement estimation. The course includes case studies that apply these mathematical topics in real estate contexts.
  • Real Estate Finance: This introductory course provides students with the basic financial background they need to successfully operate as real estate agents. Topics include money markets, systems, federal programs, closing costs, loan processes and procedures, equal credit opportunities, and mortgage loan sourcing.
  • Appraisal: This course uses a survey approach to teach students about all aspects of appraisals. Students learn about the social and economic factors that go into an appraisal, market data, and other techniques. It includes plenty of case studies to give students hands-on experience making appraisals.
  • Internship: Students complete direct experience at a real estate firm approved by their program, applying everything they learned in the classroom in the field. As not all programs offer internships, programs that do offer these opportunities often distinguish themselves from their peers.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Associate in Real Estate?

An online associate in real estate typically takes two years of full-time study and around 60 credits to complete; however, several different factors can alter that standard completion time. In most cases, synchronous online programs (live online classes) can provide more defined completion times than asynchronous online programs (no set class times), as synchronous programs offer greater structure. Similarly, cohort learning programs -- in which students complete the same course sequence with the same peer group -- offer higher graduation rates than individually paced programs thanks to greater structure and support.

Nevertheless, self-paced asynchronous programs provide a great option for disciplined students. Students who easily keep on top of their work in asynchronous programs can sometimes finish faster than students in cohort programs. As such, students should choose the delivery method that fits them the best, as a better programmatic fit likely leads to the quickest completion times.

Students should enroll in online associate in real estate programs at schools that hold regional accreditation. Regional accreditation indicates that a school meets the educational standards established by accrediting agencies. Many employers do not recognize degrees from schools that are not regionally accredited. Prospective students should check schools for regional accreditation from one of six regional accrediting bodies, as the process operates geographically.

National accreditation applies to specific fields. For example, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation evaluates master's in education programs. The real estate field does not have a national accrediting body. Students applying to real estate programs need only worry about regional accreditation, the more rigorous and competitive of the two.

The U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) oversee the accreditation process. The U.S. Department of Education oversees all matters related to public education, including accreditation. CHEA focuses exclusively on higher education accreditation, vetting schools and offering access to publications and research. Both organizations ensure the quality of higher education throughout the United States, evaluating schools against a set of standards.

Interested students can find a list of all accredited schools on the CHEA's website or the U.S. Department of Education's website.

Job Placement

Beginning in 2006, the U.S. housing market began to experience a steep decline that lasted until 2012. During each year of the housing crisis, roughly four million homes and 2.5 million businesses received foreclosure notices. The real estate industry was crippled as a result; according to estimates, nearly 500,000 finance and real estate professionals lost their jobs between 2006 and 2010.

Four years later, the housing market had mostly rebounded and the employment outlook for real estate professionals was much more favorable. A recent survey by U.S. News & World Report found that real estate agents currently face an unemployment rate of 2.6%; by comparison, the national unemployment rate for all occupations currently sits at 3.7%. Using data from this survey, the following table compares the unemployment rates of real estate agents and other sales professionals.

Occupation Unemployment Rate (2016)
Real Estate Agent 2.6%
Insurance Sales Agent 3.7%
Marketing Manager 2.8%
Sales Manager 2.8%
Sales Representative 3.7%
Retail Salesperson 5.5%

Source: U.S. News & World Report

Real estate agents held the lowest unemployment rate of all sales-oriented professions listed in the U.S. News survey. And as the housing market continues to regain its strength as projected in the years to come, the job security for real estate degree-holders should remain fairly steady.

Earning a Living

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), real estate agents earn a median annual salary of $47,880 -- roughly 13% more than $37,690, which the BLS currently estimates as the median annual income for all occupations. However, salary expectations for real estate agents and other industry professionals will depend on specific job titles and the employee's level of work experience. Other factors to consider include company/organization size, earned certifications, and city/state of employment. The following table looks at career salary growth projections for five of the most common real estate occupations.

Occupation Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years) Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (10+ Years) Median Annual Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 Years) Median Annual Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ Years)
Real Estate Agent $44,000 $60,000 $62,000 $75,000
Real Estate Broker $54,000 $67,000 $64,000 $73,000
Real Estate Appraiser or Assessor $37,000 $49,000 $52,000 $68,000
Residential Property Manager $37,000 $40,000 $42,000/td> $46,000
Home Inspector $41,000 $48,000 $51,000 $55,000

Source: PayScale

Of the five careers listed, real estate appraisers or assesors experience the highest rate of career salary growth: an 83% increase in earnings between the entry-level and late-career stages. Real estate agents ranked second, with 70% salary growth after 20 years on the job. Salary growth for the remaining three occupations ranges between 20% and 30%.

Career and Further Education Opportunities

Students who graduate with an associate degree in real estate will be qualified for dozens of entry-level jobs, although eligibility for some positions may also require certification or a state-issued license. Four of the most common career pathways for real estate associate degree recipients are outlined below.

Real Estate Agents and Brokers: Agents and brokers assist clients who wish to buy or sell homes, commercial property, or land. Agents typically work for real estate firms, while brokers are qualified to manage businesses on their own. Real estate agents and brokers must be licensed in all 50 states, although specific requirements vary by state.

Appraisers and Assessors of Real Estate: Appraisers and assessors specialize in evaluating and estimating the overall value of homes, buildings, and land. These professionals are usually called on to look at property that is being bought, sold, mortgaged, or insured. Appraisers must be licensed in order to work on federal transactions (per federal law), and assessors must be certified to work in certain states.

Property, Real Estate and Community Association Managers: These managers oversee operations and development for residential areas and/or commercial properties. They are responsible for ensuring the property under their care is safe, presentable, and compliant with all local and federal laws and regulations. Like agents and brokers, managers who buy and sell property must be fully licensed in the state where they work.

Construction and Building Inspectors: These professionals inspect private and public properties to ensure all buildings and land space meet local and federal laws. Areas of concern include building codes, safety requirements, zoning ordinances, noise regulations, and environmental impact restrictions.

Occupation Median Annual Salary Projected Growth (2016-26)
Real Estate Agents and Brokers $47,880 6% (+10,900 jobs)
Appraisers and Assessors of Real Estate $54,010 14% (+6,800 jobs)
Property, Real Estate and Community Association Managers $58,670 10% (+25,300 jobs)
Construction and Building Inspectors $59,090 10% (+8,100 jobs)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Professional Organizations

Networking and continuing education resources provide opportunities for career growth and development. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below, you'll find three of the country's most prominent organizations established for real estate professionals. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates.

  • National Association of Realtors: Considered the largest real estate association in the country, NAR currently represents 1.1 million members in 1,200 local chapters and 54 state/territory associations. The organization's website is a compendium of real estate statistics, laws, ethics, academic research, and professional development opportunities.
  • Commercial Real Estate Development Association: Founded in 1967, NAIOP is one of North America's largest commercial real estate organizations. Site visitors can access back issues of the quarterly Development magazine, purchase up-to-date buyer's guides, peruse job listings, and browse a calendar of local and national events.
  • National Association of Real Estate Brokers: NAREB was established in 1947 to address racial inequality in the housing market and real estate industry. Member benefits include invitations to local and regional events, continuing education opportunities, and discounts on various services.

Despite the relative affordability of online programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.


Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.


Completing the FAFSA is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.


Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.


Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and education. We've curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.


Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.


Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.

Rankings Archive

Best Online Real Estate Programs of 2017
Rank School Location
1 Santiago Canyon College Orange, CA
2 City College of San Francisco San Francisco, CA
3 Florida State College at Jacksonville Jacksonville, FL
4 Folsom Lake College Folsom, CA
5 Palomar College San Marcos, CA
6 American River College Sacramento, CA
7 Houston Community College Houston, TX
8 Westmoreland County Community College Youngwood, PA
9 Austin Community College District Austin, TX
10 San Antonio College San Antonio, TX