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Many people view real estate development as an investment opportunity, and it can be very lucrative for the part-time investor. However, if you’re looking forward to a full-time career as a developer, it’s going to take something different than an interest in investing and a moderate source of disposable income. Just like any career, it’s going to require an investment of another sort.

Start with a Good Education
There are no hard and fast rules as far as what kind of education an individual needs to become a successful real estate developer. However, getting to that point is going to mean working your way up through a related career field. Degrees that will prepare you to work as a civil engineer, architect, accountant, or city planner will open the right doors for you.

It’s Never Too Soon to Network
The sooner you start making connections in the real estate industry, the better. You can start as soon as you begin college by acquainting yourself with those majoring in a variety of disciplines. Additionally, reach out to organizations within your community, such as builders’ unions, homeowner associations, contractors’ associations, and other groups. Inquire about attending monthly meetings or participating in any social events they might be hosting. Also, attend local real estate workshops. This will give you an opportunity to meet real estate investors.

Be Selective in Your First Employer
Remember that your first job isn’t just about getting a career started. It’s also about working towards your ultimate goal. To that end, try to get a job within an organization that develops the types of projects that interest you. A position that will teach you the ins and outs of land purchases and zoning practices, architectural design, underwriting, financing, and construction can take you a long way. Additionally, seek positions in which you can learn about property and asset management.

Find a Willing Mentor
A mentor may be the most valuable asset in helping you realize your ultimate goal. He or she can give you advice that’s based on real-world experiences, so you’ll avoid making common mistakes. This can help put you on the fast track and to keep you from ending up on detours to dead-end positions. As you advance, this kind of guidance can help you sustain your upward mobility.

Becoming a successful real estate developer is a worthwhile ambition, but it’s important to realize it can take many years to reach that career objective. As long as you remain ambitious and keep adjusting your strategy for achieving that goal, there’s no reason you can’t succeed. How well you do and how quickly you rise will all depend on your ambition, your willingness to work hard, and your ability to connect with the right people.