What is the best RE-related 9 to 5 job?

121 Replies

I am a relatively new buy-and-hold RE investor at age 24 who is looking to make a career transition and who needs some advice. My long-term goal is to go full-time as an investor, but in the short term I of course need to maintain a steady job to pay the bills and fund future deals. I have been working as an aerospace engineer for 2 years since graduating college, but I have lost passion for the profession and need a change (no offense to the other engineers out there, it's just not for me and I've become too fixed on real estate). I would like to find a full-time job in real estate to increase my experience and contacts in the industry, as well as to simply enjoy my work more. However, I'm not sure what job is best. I just got my RE salesperson's license and will soon begin selling homes, but I recognize that won't provide fixed income and could take a while to get going. Given this, I think that I still need a 9-5 job for now.

What RE-related 9-5 job would others recommend in my situation? Property management? Working for a RE investment firm? Something else that I'm not aware of? 

Money is not everything, but salary is a factor and I wouldn't want to give up too much, if anything, of what I currently make as an engineer. If it matters, my education includes a B.S. from Cornell and an M.S. from Stanford, both in mechanical engineering. I have no formal RE education, but I self-manage my own rentals, read RE & general business books incessantly, and have strong communication skills. 

Thank you in advance for your advice!

@Nicholas Gray. Wow that’s very impressive degrees. If you’re 24, with a masters did you just graduate with the masters or did you do that part time or something? Or graduated college early maybe? It will likely be hard to find a REI job that will pay as much as your current one. I did a BS in ME and I’m doing a masters in industrial engineering now. With having gone to standford and Cornell (amazing schools) couldn’t you just switch jobs or fields? ME is a diverse field. I work as a ME currently, also own real estate. You can do both. I’ll send you a message, as I’d like to learn more and see if I can provide some perspective. PS, I’m also 24

Money is by far the most important factor in investing. You are investing money. You should prioritize your income ahead of your job. If you have a good paying job adjust your attitude and stay with it. Work is not intended to be enjoyed. Go to work, shut down your mind, do your job and collect your paycheck. Shake the millennial attitude regarding needing value in employment, it is greatly over rated and every job regardless of what it is you will lose interest.

You will not likely find anything to compare with your present income and jobs related to real estate are irrelevant to being a investor.

If you were a lowly blue collar worker it would be different, I would be advising a construction trade, but in your position your present job is your investment future. Your only purpose in working is for the pay check....adjust your attitude and trudge on like everyone else. Set your sites on your true goal and use what you have to achieve it.

You are already standing in tph green pasture you don't need to waste your time looking for something better.

I appreciate the responses, but as I said, I can't bring myself to go to work as an engineer anymore and the marginally higher paycheck and ability to buy deals slightly faster is not worth 40 more years of misery. Would someone please answer my original question?

Hi Nicholas,

I understand that you want to find another job because you lost passion for it.  I am not sure the exact pay but aerospace engineer seems like a strong income.  Unless you go into real estate sales there is not much money in the other RE fields.  Most salary positions in RE is not going to be more than your current salary.

You said your end goal is to be an investor. Well like the others have stated you need money.  You have a good job now that provides it. You have a huge advantage right now.  Work hard, save, learn, and invest. Your goal will come quicker than you think.

I get the argument about quitting because there is no passion.  The way I see it. You are 24.  You just entered into your adult working life. Time to get to work and focus and not jump around to different fields. You have studied this hard and work this much in school to stop after 2yrs of working??   In the real world, people have to do jobs that they don't like.  To get what you don't have in life you have to do what others are unwilling to do.  

You are right money is not everything but money will buy you time to figure out what will make you happy.   

I would suggest trying to connect with your local REI group. Talk to the guys there and see if there are any opportunities for them to bring you aboard with something they are doing. That way you can focus on RE 24/7 which is why I'm assuming you are willing to take a huge pay cut from your current position.

I would keep your job and start part-time as a residential Realtor. Learn that side of the real estate world in your free time. Maybe become a broker. Then, once you have some good knowledge, and more contacts, maybe make a switch of career. Heading into a recession, possibly, so not a great time to leave a steady job.

@Nicholas Gray I'm actually in a similar boat. I only pursued engineering because I was good at math and science and didn't really know what I wanted to do with my life. Did my B.S. in Chemical Engineering and then M.S. in Mechanical Engineering and another M.S. in Engineering Management. Can you tell I was fishing? Did the master's programs part time (my company paid for them) so I've been working full time as an engineer for 6 years, mostly in the space/aerospace industry. I am so over it but don't have any other means of income and would be hard pressed to find a job paying as well as mine does now. So for the time being I will stay until something better comes along. I bought my first house almost 2 years ago and I've been slowly flipping it. Hoping to have it ready to sell by the summer, then I can start again with a new flip house. Definitely following this thread though, would love to hear everyone's opinions and advice.

@Nicole Marshall Interesting situation you're in there...Based on your credentials, you probably make some decent money. Are you looking at buy and holds for cashflow instead of rehabbing and selling? What you're doing isn't sustainable long term, trust me I know from experience. :) A 2 year flip sounds like my worst nightmare.

@Adam M. I am actually interested in buy and holds. When I bought the house, I was just trying to make my money count instead of renting. Then I got into the design part of the flipping and really enjoy that. Then eventually lots of googling led me to bigger pockets and here I am. I figure flipping this house will provide me with enough cash to start the buy and hold process, I'm not really in a position financially to do that right now. Plus it's not easy finding good deals in my market at the moment.

@Nicholas Gray You'll have to take a haircut on your income now for the possibility of a higher income/profit potential in the future. Essentially, real estate - sales, investing, lending - is all about networking. Unless you're working in a top-PE shop, nobody cares about your degree (painful, I know... I thought my CFA was worth a lot as well... lol). 

If you're looking to invest long-term, the shortest path to getting there is working a high-paying job, saving aggressively and investing every last dollar. You don't have to like your job to avail the benefits you accrue from it. That's it! Easy in theory, hard in practice. 

@Nicole Marshall  West Coast? It's not easy finding good deals in any hot market, ever...especially if you're not in it full time, but you've got to start somewhere. Good luck!

@Adam M. Updated my location. Space coast of Florida...lots of, well, space stuff going on around here. Partly why I switched from chemical to mechanical engineering, lot more job security in this area. There are some good deals to be had in the Cocoa/Titusville area but those are also the less than desirable areas. I'm taking my time and entering the buy and hold market when I'm more confident. Plus the market has cooled down here immensely (for the time being) so I'm going to wait and see if prices drop a bit.

I'm in a similar boat except I've been working as an engineer about 10 years and went to much less prestigious school haha. I'd hate to compare transcripts :) 

But anyway, I've contemplated finding a way to insert my skills into the RE world, and haven't yet. I actually have a skill set applicable (not saying you don't), I graduated in ME, but am more of an architectural engineer now. Cut my teeth in HVAC design and some light plumbing design. I'm a project manager now, though. My point is that although I have related skills, I still haven't seen any windows that would keep my pay similar, my skills used, and within RE. If you think or find something that does, please PM me. I haven't found anything yet. 

@Nicholas Gray I don’t mean to talk down to you, but I urge you to get rid of your millenial mindset.

You spent 6+ years and $500K on 2 pieces of paper, and now want to basically throw it all away (a career in real estate does not require any degrees). Stick with it, you committed a half of million dollars and 6 years of your prime, you better get some kind of ROI on it, before you trot to your next idea. Sorry I know these are harsh words, but someone needs to say it to you.

Your original question... best 9-5 job in RE? Easy answer: the best job in RE is a passive investor living off of passive income. Sippin lattes all day, searching for the next deal. How does one get there? Either inherit a bunch of money or pound away at your W-2, socking away every last dollar to build towards a passive income stream that no one can take away.

I had a similar problem and I went to work at a commercial underwriting department at a bank. LOVE IT

it's a bit boring but I learn a ton about finance and how banks look at deals. It's been incredibly valuable knowledge to have in my investing career and putting deals together.

@Nicholas Gray try going to a top commercial real estate firm (you have the pedigree) and see if they’ll take you on as a Jr. Analyst. You’ll take a pay cut at first but will have an opportunity to move up the ranks. A good analyst gets paid a salary and has some sort of commission structure...and can potentially make alot of money. Great way to learn how to structure & analyze investment deals. Don’t let anyone tell you that you should suck it up for the short term money you’ll make from your engineering job. If you can make decent money AND learn how to invest at the same time, it’s well worth the pay cut. Engineering will always be there if you want to go back.

I am unaware of any RE positions that one can be there at 9 and go home on time at 9 PM. Most are commission based contractors with no benefits or steady salaries that one needs to hustle to make a living. Many had to work past 80s since many have little savings, no 401K and have made bad past investment decisions. With the technology RE is getting harder and harder to need realtors.  Many flippers will be doing anything but RE investment at next down turn coming. If you are a State registered PE in structure engineering you can try contractor approach. You often start as carpenter, plumber, and electrician with your hands not equations. You need to give instructions in Spanish or whatever labor pool you can find.

@Nicholas Gray I have to agree with @Caleb Heimsoth with mechanical engineering degree, there are SO many different paths you can take. You made the classic mistake of putting ample time into the degree, but not putting enough time into figuring out your career path. Two years isn't enough time to even explore the options. You have one experience of what an engineer does. There are literally thousands of jobs a degree engineer can do.

I would recommend a job change that uses your degrees. Even outside traditional engineering work, you can do something like marketing or sales in a technical field. My company prefers to hire degree engineers for sales. The work is totally different than transitional engineering work and pays better. Sales would also develop your interpersonal and negotiating skills, which is critical to real estate. 

I am an engineer in the IT field by day, but my job is marketing. My side passion is real estate. My day job has funded my real estate purchases. I enjoy having two different passions and often find my skills learned in my day job help me in REI.

If you are mind is made up on a real estate career, then just become a real estate agent. That is the best way to replace/exceed your engineering salary. That means nights and weekends and long hours while you get established. If you prefer 40 hour M-F security then find a new engineering job. Only you know if that is a good fit.

Continue to network and go to Meetups in your area. If your long term goal is to continue to buy, may be tough if you go to an RE relative job as your pay will decrease. sometimes you need to sacrifice for some time at your current job, Continue to network and you will find someone who is hiring. Best of luck and hope for a smooth transition.

@Nicholas Gray For 9 to 5 Jobs with your pedigree I would go work in real estate finance. Try working for a REIT as an analyst or as a Commercial Lender at a bank. Or find a real estate software startup company. Given we are reaching the end of the current economic cycle I would tread lightly on giving up a big paycheck because it is much harder to be an investor in real estate these days as the overall market and valuations are shifting.

Regarding your current situation I found that most people left managers (poor managers) and not industries or even companies.  Maybe it is your current micro environment that is causing the issue vs. the entire macro environment of engineering.  I would take some time off and travel a bit and then make your decision to leave your industry after you are able to clear out all of the negative emotions for it.  At the same time have a head hunter find you a new job while you are on vacation.

@Nicholas Gray not gonna lie this hurts. You have my dream degree. I just recently decided I’m going to build my rental portfolio so I can get passive income and afford to support my family and use my GI bill I had to work for to pay for school. When wholesaling I talk to lots of people with great degrees like yours, because they can afford the deals. Maybe it’s just where you’re working and not the field you’re working in. With your credentials you can afford to do what you do and still call the shots on great deals.

@Nicholas Gray Old dude here that agrees w/ @Thomas S. and Account Closed.  A Dave Ramsey phrase comes to mind - Live like no one else so you can live like no one else.  Leverage those degrees and W2 income to build your RE portfolio and passive cash flow.  The objective is no 9 to 5 job as soon as you can get there.  Blind luck lead me to RE investing at age 48. Thanks to a well paying job and saving for 35 years, I retired 8 years later.  Had I known what you already know at 24, I would have left corporate world at 35. Sometimes I think of performance reviews, metrics, efficiency studies, downsizing, rightsizing, layoffs, project reports, reorganizations, mission statements, vision statements, slogans, politics, etc I shudder and say thank you to RE passive income for setting me free.  I wish you the best. 

I'll put in my two cents here.  I heartily agree with what others have said; you have a solid education and potential to bank some great capital for a few years.  I will also echo that I believe with the current real estate market, your best bet is to wait and only go after the big margin, no-brainer deals and to concentrate on paying off debt and building capital until we hit another downturn.

That being said, if you know engineering isn't for you and are set on leaving that industry, I'd say find a mortgage lender/broker to work for.  I got my BS in computer science and wasn't able to find a job out of college so I took a job at a mortgage company.  I started as a loan officer (this was 2003 when they were giving those jobs to anyone that could tie their shoes) and did some underwriting and processing as well.  I learned a LOT about the entire real estate process during those few years because I was always speaking with RE agents, appraisers, title companies, banks, etc.  I eventually got burned out on it and found a job as a software developer and have been doing that for the last 12+ years.

The other job I would recommend is to work for an appraiser. You won't make squat, but that knowledge will benefit nearly every deal in your real estate career.  You can eventually go out on your own as an appraiser once you learn the ropes, but I hear that is also becoming a pretty competitive space to get in.

One final note about your current career - not all jobs are created equal within the same industry.  I worked as a software developer for the same company for 7 years and eventually grew to hate it.  I left that job questioning my career path, then went into another job that I disliked almost as much.  After a year there, I left and found a new job again.  This one was the home-run.  I absolutely love where I work and the people I work for now.  I enjoy getting up Monday morning because I'm excited to go in and help my team solve problems and overcome challenges.  Who you work for makes all the difference in the world.  I wouldn't care if I was answering customer service calls, packing shipping orders, or doing HR work.  My employer respects us and has built a great environment that people want to be a part of.

You mentioned that you read a lot of business books.  Have you read "So Good They Can't Ignore You"?  I think there may be some takeaways from that book if you approach it with an open mind.

But ya, mortgages or appraising if you're set on a 9-5 RE-related job!

@Nicholas Gray I agree with @Uwe G. Especially since it's the path I went down. While I went the MBA track early on then into the Private Equity sector, I think with you education you'll easily make it in the Financial sector at some level. There are plenty large REITS that you can get into at the entry or intermediate level, the jobs aren't quite 9-5 that schedule is for low paying jobs, It'll be more like 8-7 or 8-8. In my 20' starting out with an $84K a year job it was a great starting point which greatly increased over time, this was in 2003 so I don't know what entry-level pay is these days or how it compares to your current income, what I do know is having an extremely high paying W2 allows me to easily invest in RE. In addition to the large REITS another RE associated jobs would be RE Engineering firms, maybe a different type of engineering will be a better fit.