Updated – Columbia University Masters of Real Estate Development Program Review

The real estate program reviews on the blog, like this one, are a bit outdated. Programs continue to evolve and improve so static reviews should be taken with a grain of salt. I recommend you reach out to current students and alums to get the latest insights into the program. I also recommend that you check out my post on the true value of a graduate real estate program.

The origin of this blog stems from the frustration I experienced when researching the various masters in real estate programs. That process opened my eyes to lack of good information available for young real estate professionals. Many of of my first posts were dedicated to reviewing each respective program. Now however, many of those posts are over 3 years old such as the Columbia MSRED review.

Thanks to Mark Losnick, we have an updated review of the Columbia Masters in Real Estate Development Program.

What was your background in real estate prior to the Columbia program?
I had been teaching English as a foreign language in South Korea. Before that, I was a real estate agent for 2 years in Boston.

What other programs did you look at besides Columbia and why did you choose Columbia over the other programs?
I reviewed all the programs listed on ASOTREG website and I applied to the programs at MIT, NYU, Johns Hopkins, University of Maryland and the University of Denver. I liked Columbia because the core curriculum included a full three semesters of RE finance, there was a strong emphasis on design and development, and the program was three intense semesters over one calendar year. The fact that the program is in New York City was a game changer . . .  in many ways we used Manhattan as our real estate laboratory and the professional community of RE players in NYC is unmatched.

Are the professors primarily full-time or part-time? Do the part-time professors make themselves accessible outside the classroom?
The vast majority are part time adjuncts that are high up in their respective professions. Some of the adjuncts have taught at the program for a long time and are seasoned teachers. Also, Columbia hired a new full time professor the year after I graduated.  Naturally, some professors are better at making themselves available than others. For the most part, the professors take the time that is necessary to connect with the students and respond to questions. In the end, however, it is really up to the students to make the effort to connect with the professors. I have made an effort to stay connected to those that have been more willing and able to help me out and, to some extent, they continue to be there for me a year after my graduation.

Do you notice a variation of the material taught by different professors of the same course?
Different professors do not teach the same course at Columbia MSRED.  

What kind of opportunities does the program provide to students outside the classroom?
(1) For the international regions course (5 different regions), there is a class trip to each respective region. I went to Beijing, China and met with Hines, GAW Capital, the CIC, and some other developers. For the class of 2011, only ten students from each regions course were selected to go on a trip but they are improving this so that more students have a chance to go in the future. (2) Each year, all the students go to ULI. (3) Some students went to PREA in D.C. at a steep discount. (4) Internships are available. (5) There are also a lot of case study competitions set up by MIT, NYU, Hines, etc. and many students participated. (6) There are a lot of building visits and site tours: WT7, the BOA / Durst Building, The Seagram Building, The Solaire, Grand Central Terminal, etc. (7) I took a course called “Good Design is Good Business” and we went offsite to Architecture Firms where the architects gave lectures on different RE product types.

How is the programs career counseling? Do they actively help students find summer internships and full-time positions? How willing are alumni in assisting current students?
We have a full time career counselor who does an excellent job and is very accessible. Positions and opportunities are actively disseminated to the students. The alumni are fantastic and the access to the Alumni Network is a great benefit of the program. There is an alumni data base that allows for connecting by email as well as searching by program, region and company. However, students cannot use the data base until after they have graduated (the administration does not want the alumni to be harassed by current students).  In my experience, the alumni have always been willing to help students and they are instrumental to the job search.

What are your future aspirations in real estate and how has this program helped you to get closer to your goals?
Eventually, I would like to build my own portfolio and platform for running a business that spans from opportunistic development and redevelopment to simple stabilized investments. Until then, my goal is to be on the equity side of the business in a position that is close to the asset and that focuses on the money going into the investment. The program has helped me get closer to my goals. I am very confident in my ability to do transitional real estate investment. I would definitely want to have some solid experience before doing ground up development on my own.

Is there anything else about the program you think people should know?
(1) I am to this day amazed by the quality of my classmates from Columbia MSRED 2011. Almost everyone was brilliant if not gifted in one way or another and I learned just as much from them as I did from my professors. (2) The cohort nature of the program was great as it brought the student body together – this is not something that occurs at other programs. (3) Columbia MSRED could improve getting feedback to the students on their assignments. The fact that the professors are adjuncts plays a part in this, since they are all professionals and are basically working two full time jobs when teaching at Columbia. (4) If you go, you will be stretched beyond your capabilities. As with most Ivy League universities, there is often an attitude of: “You’re smart enough to get in here – you can figure this out on your own”. This is a much different style of pedagogy than some students are used to. (5) Some professional adjuncts are good teachers, some are not. (6) Columbia MSRED has access to the absolute top people in the industry. We had 60 – 65 guest lecturers from different companies come in to teach a case study, a series of lectures or just simple lunchbox lecture.  (8) Columbia just rolled out its Center for Urban Real Estate, which will continue to bring together the issues of urban planning, development and sustainability. Since MSRED is in the Graduate School of Architecture, these topics are fundamental to the curriculum. (9) Columbia MSRED offers a large number of electives, which allows students to tailor the degree toward different career directions: sustainability, finance, international RE, etc. (10) The program offers more courses on International Real Estate than any other program so it is a good choice for those who are interested in international real estate. (11) There is an intense design studio during the first semester, which is run like an architecture studio class (it will take up 20-40% of your time). Many business / finance oriented students did not like this class and thought it was a waste of time. However, looking back on it, I am glad I was put through the process. The ability to see what a property can be is an essential skill for real estate.

Rate the various aspects of the program from 1-10, 10 being the best:
Professors: 10
Curriculum: 9.5
Career Counseling: 9
Outside Opportunities: 10
Overall Rating: 9.5

If you have any questions, put them in the comment section below.

  • Movoto

    What was the price difference between the 2 schools? Did that factor into your decision too?

  • joeywang

    Mark, was there any specific concern with Wharton that caused you to not apply there? 

  • Francisco

    HI I’m an Architecture graduated and I am starting to prepare my application for the Columbia MSRED Program I have studied all the different options and Columbia is the only one I’m interested in so I want my application to be perfect. Can you please give me some advice, and help me with some questions like: What do you recommend to apply with? The GRE or GMAT and Whats the average points of the students that get accepted?, How many years of working experience would you recommend? Does the working experience has to be strictly in real state? , My final grades in Architecture school aren’t that grate so what can I do to redeem this? I want to study in the 2014/2015 when would it be the best time to apply? And any advice that you can give me i will really appreciate it thank you.
    Please contact me francisco.fico@gmail.comregardsFrancisco

  • aparna

    hi, firstly thanks to you, this article clears so many of my doubts. I am an architecture graduate and am thinking of applying for the msred in columbia university. However can you tell me how much of a work ex. would I need and what exactly should my work experience be in?? I mean would a work ex. in an architecture or building firm be sufficient???

  • http://www.astudentoftherealestategame.com/ Joe Stampone

    Hey Joey. What’d you end you doing? Is there anything Mark or I can help with?

  • http://www.astudentoftherealestategame.com/ Joe Stampone

    I’ll pass this question along to Mark. In my experience it’s not one size fits all question Each person is looked at on an individual basis and the application goes far beyond work experience.

  • Hippy

    Fantastic article, really glad to have found it. I was wondering if you could compare the quality of students at Columbia MSRED to top MBA programs like ones at Harvard, Stanford Wharton? That, and maybe class size, are the only factors that make me consider doing an MBA, all other factors seem to favor Columbia MSRED (given that I’m 100% sure about doing real estate for the rest of my life.

  • Karan Chugh

    Hi I have a bachelor’s in civil engineering from india. Im currently employed at a construction company as jr civil engineer. Im working for past 6 months after my bachelor’s. Im looking for an admission in mit, nyu, columbia. My gre score is 320 and toefl is 100. Will I be able to secure an admission in above mentioned colleges??

  • http://www.astudentoftherealestategame.com/ Joe Stampone

    Hi Karan, I can’t speak to the admission qualifications of the respective programs. Best of luck.