macdonald and company
macdonald and company

Where it costs not to be Qualified

Posting date: 13 January 2021
William Glover our consultant managing the role

Do qualifications impact salary in Real Estate?

Apart from a several niche sectors, being qualified in Real Estate hasn’t always been a requirement (or hindrance). Experience is usually highly priotitised and qualififcations seen more as a 'nice to have'.

However, with the growth of the industry, increasing globalisation and more professionals seeking a competitive edge, our results have seen more individuals considering further specialised study in their fields and joining memberships.

Not only has self-improvement and further training been encouraged since the pandemic, our latest survey data has found just how much being qualified increases average salaries.

Qualifications and Salary Survey results by Location

The 21st edition of our annual salary survey has found that 34% of respondents believe having a qualification has advanced their career, with 1 in 10 looking at a vocational qualification in the next year following the Covid-19 pandemic.

What is interesting is the stark differences in base salaries in different regions, from those with a degree or MBA and an industry-specific qualification/membership.

It’s common for senior Real Estate professionals in Asia to have several professional memberships on top of an MBA, where continual study throughout careers is the norm.

William Glover, Managing Director - Asia

The table below shows the average salary increase in each category compared with the net average salary by location.



Vocational qualification

MBA / Masters





 Hong Kong












 Middle East




The data shows a hierarchy for qualifications when it comes to Real Estate, with an MBA or Masters at the top, particularly for Hong Kong and Singapore where respondents on average had a 70% / 49% respectively higher salary compared with the net average. The same goes for a Degree where this has the most weighting in UK as well as Hong Kong.

Hong Kong and Europe lead in increased salaries with a vocational qualification.

The importance of being qualified in Asia

From the results, above it’s difficult to ignore that being qualified in Asia has a significant impact on salary compared with other areas.

The survey has found that 76% of Asian respondents hold some form of qualification, including 33% with a university degree, 9% with an MBA, and 31% with an industry-specific membership/qualification.

It’s also common for senior Real Estate professionals in Asia to have several professional memberships on top of an MBA where continual study throughout a career is a cultural norm.

Qualifications and professional memberships in Asia: a summary by Will Glover

Is upwards of US$60,000 a good investment towards an MBA if you have a career in Real Estate? 

Hong Kong and Singapore in particular, have been successful in severely restricting some professional markets to just a small number in order to protect and enhance their livelihoods. For example – medical and dental qualifications gained in any part of the world except Hong Kong are not recognised, maintaining a tight dominance by local trade bodies. 

By using legislation to restrict activity to only those who are qualified and regulated, a significant gap has grown between the earnings of those without a degree and the rest, and again between those with a professional qualification and those without. 

The respect and reverence accorded to those with a professional qualification will endure, and while it might possibly stifle the innovation that in other countries has driven start-up in real estate and tech-related firms, it will at least maintain the earnings available to those in South East Asia.

Real Estate professionals in Asia, particularly in Hong Kong, benefit the most from being qualified

For those pursuing the highest rewards, there is no doubt that CFA and MBA are the gold standards*. Without these qualifications, the top-tier private equity firms will not be in reach, and hence the average earnings of these respondents are the highest. 

Other qualifications such as RICS also thrive in a highly government-controlled land ownership structure, such as Hong Kong and Singapore, with the governments being high paying employers and taking on the cost of training a high proportion of the industry post-university.

* Data for average salaries by popular qualifications launching soon.

The RICS and Macdonald & Company Rewards and Attitudes Salary survey is launching soon. To receive notification of the launch, and find further details of qualifications, memberships, and their average salaries, sign up here.

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