The real-estate industry sets out to add to its know-how

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

Today's real-estate salesperson is undergoing a "profile change." New salespersons entering the real-estate field are younger, more career-minded, and better educated than their predecessors. They also are more inclined to zero in on a specialized are of brokerage.

Seasoned salespersons are more inclined to take advantage of educational opportunities to expand their career capabilities. And many experienced practitioners who have been selling houses for years now are evolving into other specialized fields.

This increasing desire for more knowledge and capability in a wide range fo real-estate activities is reflected in the type of educational programs now offered by the National Association of Realtors and its state affiliates.

Recommended: How savvy are you about real estate? Take our quiz.

For example, the recent annual convention of the California Association of Realtors included a series of career-expanding conferences for the first time. The sessions were planned for experienced Realtors and sales associates who want to expand their knowledge in specialized real-estate fields.

As for the newcomers now launching into real estate, the lowering age is one of the most visible trends. For decades, most real-estate salespersons entered the field after devoting all or most of their working lives to other careers. A majority were more than 45 years of age, for example.

Today, by contrast, the new real-estate salesperson is likely to be a young person in his or her late 20s. This new breed of real-estate professional is college-trained for a life-time career in real estate.

One reason for the change in recent yers is the increasing number of colleges and universities throughout the US offering career-type courses in real estate. Some even offer graduate programs in the field.

There now are 821 colleges and universities, including junior colleges, that offer real-estate courses. Of the total, 408 of these institutions of higher learning now offer a major in real estate.

Graduate programs in real estate are offered by 48 colleges and universities. A few years ago there were no such graduate programs at all. In fact, there were no "majors" available in real estate, and only a handful of institutions offered any kind of real-estate course.

Another current trend that goes hand in hand with the new emphasis on education is specialization in a specific phase of real-estate activity.

Insteading of "selling houses and anything else that generates a commission," today's real-estate person is more likely to carve out a career in the precise area of service that interests him most. He might, for instance, focus on real-estate syndications or exchanges. Or he might limit his brokerage activities to condominiums or investment properties.

Further, he might prefer property management or serving in the real-estate department of a large corporation. He could even be an administrator or executive officer for a board of Realtors or a multiple-listing service.

Real-estate counseling is another area of specialty that is attracting more young professionals. The counselor advises individuals on how to handle their real-estate affairs without personally participating in the transactions themselves.

One important factor separates a real-estate career from others. It definitely is not an 80to-5, 40-hour-a-week job.

The real-estate professional's working hours are long and unpredictable. Most work from 50 to 60 hours a week -- and maybe even seven days a week as well.

Still another interesting trend: More women, both young and older, are entering the real-estate business. About 52 percent of today's real-estate salespersons are women, and the proportion is on the rise.

Of most significance is the fact that people now entering the field are less likely to be doing so as a "tail-end career move" or a get-rich-quick plan. Rather, they are move likely to be moving into real estate as a lifetime career and are willing to attain the higher education that is needed in order to give them genuine professional capability. Also, more and more states have tough laws which govern the real-estate professional, both broker and salesperson alike.

The potential rewards -- both in money as well as career satisfaction -- are certainly there for newcomers who are willing to work the long hours, and particularly for those who first prepare themselves with higher education in the field.

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