Transforming an empty piece of land into new homes, a shopping mall, an office building or a sports complex begins with the vision and ideas of a land developer. A good starting point for this career is a degree in business or civil engineering, with a focus on real estate. Developers work with local authorities, construction companies, architects, and others to make their vision come to life.
Land developers acquire property and oversee construction of residential, commercial and industrial structures. They work with local governments to ensure land is developed in compliance with zoning ordinances and regulations. Although there are no degree programs designed to train prospective land developers, earning a degree in a field that is related to the skill set needed is encouraged. Such programs lead to awards in real estate, business, management and civil engineering.
|Required Education||High school diploma or GED; a postsecondary degree in a field related to land development, such as civil engineering, business, real estate or management|
|Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)||0% for all property, real estate and community association managers*|
|Median Salary (2020)||$59,660 for all property, real estate and community association managers*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Land developers oversee the acquisition of property and the subsequent planning and construction for specific use of the land. Real estate organizations might specialize in developing one type of property, such as:
Land developers take into account property value, economic trends and zoning ordinances when assessing land for potential projects. They might apply to localities and work with regional planners to rezone or subdivide a parcel of land.
Land development encompasses a number of job titles and specialties. Some professionals handle administrative and regulatory duties such as zone ordinances and construction permits. Others might focus on market analysis or manage the entire real estate portfolio for a development firm.
Land developers research zoning ordinances, construction regulations and environmental restrictions when considering property. They make projections that assess potential profitability based on population growth, traffic patterns, local taxes and other factors. For example, the research arm of NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, states in a 2009 report that demand for office space increases proportionally to employment rates within a metro region (www.naiop.org).
Developers must negotiate the purchase of land and manage the work of architects, construction companies and property managers. They apply to localities to rezone land, perform impact analyses and receive building construction permits. They also might perform, or request that the locality perform, environmental and safety reviews.
Wages vary depending on a professional's role within the land development process. According to Salary.com, the median annual salary for an entry-level land support agent, who handles land transaction records, was $51,807 as of February 2021, while land administration managers earned a median of $168,461.
Salary.com also reported that, as of February 2021, the median wage for property acquisition managers was $118,024. Community development managers with an average of 12 years of experience earned $139,631. Healthcare property directors, who oversee all real estate activity for a company, had a median salary of $163,929.
Developers aren't required to hold any particular degree, but earning one in a field like business, civil engineering, or a related field may help you achieve higher levels of success. You can take this career in many directions, including property portfolio management, administration, research, or community development. Salary expectations depend heavily on the specific area you work in and how much experience you have.