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All About Careers in Real Estate Development (Updated May 2024)

Professionals in real estate development jobs, either working for themselves or their employer, create new places for people to live, work, shop, and play. This person typically is involved with the transaction from land sourcing through lease-up and is depended on by a host of stakeholders to insure the outcome of the project is a successful one.

Not for the faint of heart – development can be stressful, risky, and laden with hurdles – the capable and experience-hardened developer commands arguably the highest compensation in the industry. It’s very much a high risk, high reward career.

Search our list of jobs in development and construction or use our advanced search page.

Typical Development Job Titles

When working for others, jobs titles generally include Development: Analyst, Senior Analyst, Associate , Senior Associate, Director, Vice President, Executive Director, Managing Director and so forth; similar to titles in acquisitions and asset management. When working for themselves, the real estate development professional is known as a Developer.

Real Estate Development Jobs

Where They Work

These professionals most often work at firms acting as the general partner (sponsor) of ground-up development projects. Some public equity, but mostly private equity and family offices have this type of investment platform. Less common but still applicable, large limited partners such as life insurance companies, endowments, pension funds, sovereign wealth funds and other large institutional investors will hire development professionals to vet and track investments.

General Duties and Responsibilities in Development Jobs

While the exact duties and responsibilities vary by firm and job level, here is what developers in development jobs typically are required to do:

  • Source and analyze new investment opportunities,
  • Negotiate land purchase contracts,
  • Lead due diligence process,
  • Work with land-use planners, architects, engineers, consultants, and others to design a project to the property’s highest and best use,
  • Manages entitlement process, the process by which development approvals are obtained from governing bodies,
  • Seek out construction team (general contractor, etc) and negotiate construction contracts ,
  • Coordinates with internal team to acquire construction and permanent financing,
  • Works with asset manager to plan and execute leasing strategy,
  • Review and coordinate approval of bank draws, closing documentation and support financing and re-financing activity,
  • Prepare project schedules, annual budget, and strategic plan for assets and initiatives under their responsibility.

Common Requirements

Development professionals above the analyst level typically have some combination of graduate education and development experience. Firms that work with large institutions typically expect their developers to have an MBA or Masters in Real Estate while smaller firms generally care more about relevant local market experience. A strong understanding of real estate principals, ability to quantitatively analyze investments using tools such as Excel, and strong relationships in the industry are paramount.

Salary of Real Estate Development Jobs

See our section on salaries in real estate for more information.

Keys to Success

Individuals who succeed in real estate development are those with deep real estate and market knowledge. They are especially apt at confronting and overcoming challenges; as the development process is topsy turvy, unpredictable, and risky. Real estate is highly cyclical and so those who wish to pursue this tract must be willing to adapt to the changing markets and be willing to go without a job or project on occasion. Those who succeed at this role often go out on their own and earn great sums of money for themselves and their investor partners.

Conclusion and Resources

Real estate development jobs are marked by both high risks and high rewards. It demands a robust set of skills, including market knowledge, negotiation, strategic planning, and risk management. For those who excel in these areas, real estate development offers the potential for significant financial rewards and a dynamic work environment. Aspiring developers should be prepared for the intense demands and variable nature of this field, but those who can navigate these challenges effectively will find opportunities to make a substantial impact in the landscape of communities and cities.

Additionally, to further help you as you plan your career, we’ve developed a variety of career and education resources here at A.CRE that we’ve found valuable as we’ve blazed our own career paths (see below). Moreover, for those ready to actively pursue new opportunities, consider using our Cover Letter Composer tool. This custom GPT is designed to help you craft compelling cover letters tailored to various roles in commercial real estate, enhancing your applications and improving your chances of landing an interview in this competitive field. Utilizing resources like this can be a significant step towards advancing your career in CRE.



About the Author: Born and raised in the Northwest United States, Spencer Burton has over 20 years of residential and commercial real estate experience. Over his career, he has underwritten $30+ billion of commercial real estate at some of the largest institutional real estate firms in the world. He is currently President and member of the founding team at Stablewood. Spencer holds a BS in International Affairs from Florida State University and a Masters in Real Estate Finance from Cornell University.