Last Updated on March 29, 2023 by Mark Ferguson
I am asked all the time whether I think you need to go to college to be a real estate investor and real estate broker. I got my degree in business with an emphasis in finance. I think the degree helped me and I am glad I went to college but I don’t think I had to go to college to do what I do. I have flipped over 200 houses, own 180k square feet of rentals, own a real estate brokerage, and I have written 9 books. I have done a lot of things and college helped with some of that, but I didn’t have to go to be successful.
What did I get out of college?
I went to the University of Colorado at Boulder. I started out as an engineer and then went into business school when I decided I did not like really high-level math. I was not the most dedicated student and one thing I would do differently if I was to start over again was pay more attention to my classes and take advantage of all the things that college and education can offer. I rarely talked to my professors or advisors to get advice. I figured I needed a degree to make a lot of money and that was my main goal. I wish I would have learned not just from the material taught in the classes but learned much more from the people who taught the classes and the insights they could personally give to me.
My favorite class in college was an entrepreneurial class where we ran a company. I was not a student who studied constantly and took advantage of everything college had to offer but I loved this class. I actually wanted to go to it! In the class, we ran an imaginary company that made widgets or something. We were put in groups and I took over the group making all of the decisions for the company. I loved analyzing the numbers and deciding what the best price points and manufacturing numbers should be. Our group was destroying the rest of the calls when in the end two groups sold all of their inventory and assets and magically leaped ahead of us in value. I tried to explain to the professor that it was impossible for the other companies to be worth so much money when it literally had only cash, no assets, no inventory, no buildings, but she didn’t understand it. I still loved the class!
Besides that one class, I learned about finance, stocks, bonds, loans, accounting, and mostly how to work for someone else. I knew I did not want to work for someone else so I was not thrilled about life after college.
How did I get started in real estate?
My dad was an agent and he flipped houses once in a while. I could not find a job that paid me what I thought I was worth after college so I decided to go home for a bit and work for him while I figured things out.
I was helping him with manual labor mostly and I lived in an apartment building that my sister managed. I was able to get a deal on rent for being the onsite manager. I did not have a lot of expenses, I was making okay money, and I had a lot of freedom. I say my friends who went to college and most of them went into the corporate world. I saw them really not happy and not making any more money than I was. I decided that real estate was not such a bad career and I committed myself to it for the time being. I got my real estate license, and I sold houses as well as helped my dad on the flips.
Eventually, I bought the business from him and got to where I am today.
Did I need to go to college to do what I do?
Was college necessary for me to be an agent and an investor? No. I did not have to go to do what I do, but I may not be as far along if I had not gone to college. I ended up hiring my best friend from college to work for me in 2013 and he still works for me and has been very important to my business.
I also do not think I would be in real estate if I had not gone to college. I am not sure what I would have done but I wanted nothing to do with real estate in high school and that is why I went into engineering. I am not sure what I would have done but I most likely would have gotten a job of some sort working construction or who knows what. It is possible I would have worked for my parents as I did after college, but I am not so sure. I wanted to have freedom and get away from them. It is also possible I would start in another field and then work myself back to real estate but we will never know!
So while college was not necessary for me to get into real estate I think it helped me.
- I met some great people who helped my business
- I learned a lot about finance which helped me run a business
- I learned about debt, and accounting, and investing which helped me as well
- It gave me time to mature and figure a few things out in life
Should you go to college to be a real estate investor?
So far all I have done is talk about myself! What about others or you if you happen to be reading this article. Do you need to go to college if you want to be in real estate? First I think it depends on what kind of real estate you want to be in. I wrote another article about going to college if you want to be a real estate agent. I think that question also depends on the person and the situation.
If you want to be a real estate investor it really depends on you. Some people can go straight into investing and kill it while others may not be ready yet. Some might not need the extra education and connections while others won’t. To be honest, no one knows for sure what situation they will run into or what will happen if they do or do not go to college. A lot of life is about luck and how the person who runs into that luck, good or bad, handles it.
What are some tips when you make the decision?
If you decide to go to college remember that you can still learn or even invest in real estate while you are in school. You can learn how to find deals, find other investors in the area, and possibly work for them, or even buy a house as there are special loans for students.
If you go to college I would suggest finding affordable schools that will not keep you in debt for decades. I went to an instate school that had relatively cheap tuition and I worked hard to graduate in four years even after changing majors.
If you decide not to go to college that does not mean you can’t learn while you work! You can take classes in a community college or learn a trade. There are many different options to educate yourself even when you are not in college. There is always the option of going to college at a later time if you decide you need it.
Going to college or not is a huge decision and it should not be taken lightly! Many people just assume college is always the best choice but that isn’t always the case. Many people get into crazy debt with school and are never happy with the career that comes from it. Others skip school and wish they would have gone. This is not a decision I can make for anyone as the person who is making the decision is the only one who can choose.
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