Realtors With PhDs – “I’m a fully qualified brain-surgeon! I only do this job because I want to be my own boss!”

“While at the corner store, saw a funny ad on the monitor above the checkout. One of the non stop real estate ads had a RE agent who advertised the fact that he had a PhD! How flipping distorted is the economy in this town when a PhD educated guy abondons that considerable education investment (8 years or so), takes the 5 week RE course, and pursues the “noble” RE profession? Sad part is, he probably made more money flogging RE than applying education.”
– Re-diculous at 20 Apr 2012

“He’s not the only one. /dev/null pointed out Gina Rossi the other day: Local realtor with a PhD in molecular biology and cancer research from UBC medical school.”
– Anonymous at 20 Apr 2012 7:55pm

[image from Gina Rossi’s site previously posted here removed in response to comments below. The focus of this post is on the phenomenon of individuals with higher education ending up working as realtors. – ed.]

“After finishing an undergraduate degree in Biology at UBC, I took on a PhD at the UBC Department of Medicine at Vancouver General Hospital. I successfully defended my thesis to earn my doctorate. My graduate studies focused on molecular biology and cancer research.
I’m good at stats and math. These are helpful skills to have in real estate. I can see a little deeper into the monthly Board statistics and often come up with better resolved, more useful information.”

– Gina Rossi, Sutton WestCoast Realtor. Image and excerpt from her blog.

It is not unusual for people with PhDs to end up in occupations unrelated to their training. This happens all over the world. After all, universities produce far more PhDs than they have academic positions for them to fill.
At the same time, we think that these two sightings are significant.
The Vancouver RE mania has drawn human resources away from many useful and productive endeavours; we find it hard to imagine that these individuals’ skills couldn’t serve them, and their communities, in better ways.
Anybody know of any other examples?
Who’s the most (over?) qualified realtor in town?
– vreaa

88 responses to “Realtors With PhDs – “I’m a fully qualified brain-surgeon! I only do this job because I want to be my own boss!”

  1. You see it here in Toronto too — quite a few realtors with PhDs. I even know of senior R&D people who have decided to become realtors in retirement.

    • It is likely a function of the stage of the Canadian RE cycle.
      Are folks in similar positions attracted to being realtors in post-crash environments? Likely far less so… the pickings are less lucrative, it is more competitive, and, perhaps most important, the status/palatability of the job plunges with the market.

    • I think it makes sense.

      The usual career path for PhDs are jobs with high social value but poor remuneration. If one becomes disillusioned with these jobs, one would seek out the exact opposite: jobs with little social value, but good remuneration (e.g.: investment banking, real estate, etc.).

      • Plus, the Ph.D. career path is risky. You can do a lot of work (much of it quite satisfying), but still end up with no real job prospects. Faculty positions, particularly at the major universities, are few and far between compared to the number of graduates.

        So, many Ph.D.s use their skills in other areas.

        The Chronicle of Higher Education has an ongoing advice column entitled “Beyond the Ivory Tower” that details just that. It’s very common.

  2. Basement Suite

    I can’t decide if she’s hot or annoying.

    • Those two traits are not mutually exclusive.
      (That’s a general statement and nothing to do specifically with Ms Rossi).
      But, let’s make these the final comments regarding Ms Rossi’s appearance in her (own) photo.
      Let’s try to stick to the subject:
      Realtors with higher education.

    • I don’t think it’s out of line to inform newer readers of something that longer term readers will know: poster ‘Basement Suite’ has a PhD, too.
      (Hope it’s okay to remind folks, Basement).

      • Basement Suite

        That’s okay, and I’m obviously a very successful one too, just read my username on this blog :). I do have a plan though. Deal with a pending financial issue, then move to a nice rental box in sky, with some actual privacy, this calendar year. No more waiting for a crash I have decided, as it’ll be no time to leap into ownership any time soon even if it’s all starting now. That’s the plan for 2012.

        On the topic above though, I might add, she better not take too many years off to play Realtor, unless that’s her life’s ambition. Big holes in the CV could cost her something in her “real” career. (Mind you, she does sound pretty qualified, albeit sounds like she skipped her Masters, not my favorite thing.)

      • On the topic above though, I might add, she better not take too many years off to play Realtor, unless that’s her life’s ambition. Big holes in the CV could cost her something in her “real” career.

        That’s putting it mildly — she will be at a major disadvantage relative to those who have used the time to gain post-doctoral experience, etc. People who spend more than a year or two outside of the research world are rarely able (or willing) to get back in (though there are exceptions).

      • CanuckDownUnder

        It may be field specific Basement Suite, according to my wife it’s pretty typical not to have a Master’s degree in biology although she says it is more common in Canada.

        For the record she also has a PhD in molecular biology, the difference is she actually works in cancer research.

      • Basement Suite

        Joe Q., agreed, a dangerous move unless you know you want out for good, cause that may be. CanuckDownUnder, that’s cool, I like your wife’s choice better than being a Realtor, better use of those years of education. Re. no masters, I know some fields have that option, it’s just not my favorite way to see people do it. To each their own of course.

    • perhaps not annoying at all … ohhh yeahhh …
      agents do rentals too. dude, ring her up to see about some leads

    • she’s not hot, she’s cute.
      [Suggestive comment removed. – ed.]

      • F1, the host said two hours ago:
        “But, let’s make these the final comments regarding Ms Rossi’s appearance in her (own) photo.
        Let’s try to stick to the subject:
        Realtors with higher education.”

        Please note he did NOT say “Feel free to make comments suggesting that even women with Ph.Ds are whores.”

      • We were going to edit out formula1’s comment entirely, but we think that epte’s response deals with it appropriately.

      • You suck, formula1. No really

    • Thank you VRAA for reminding the readers that the focus should be on the issue and not on what she looks like or any other demeaning remarks to women.

      • you need be willing to endure the commentary when posting a public image of yourself. however, the formulaic one is uncharacteristically showing a new (for me) wrinkle – entirely in poor taste and OT i agree. i have difficulty to decide whether this is genuine or baiting the audience – he appears to be a master of managing a balance between the two.

  3. I will reserve judgment until after a complete business cycle has run its course.

    It’s one thing to love the job when everyone is making money. Not so easy when people start losing their retirement nest egg.

  4. I used to work in biotech. The remuneration is pretty lame, unless you’re one of the suits that finds suckers/investors to sink money in the theories proposed by the PhDs.

    • This says more about the Vancouver job market than anything else.

      • I worked in biotech in Edmonton, both in an academic scenario, and in a corollary spin-off which was privately funded. A couple of years after I moved here, I looked at re-entering the field, but found the pay still sucked. My boss in both the private and academic scenarios did pretty well for himself without ever really having contributed anything of value to science and/or medicine.
        Incidentally, he made a lot of money in RE here, too, as he had places both here in Vancouver and in Whistler, well early in the cycle. He lived (and lives) elsewhere, of course.

    • The remuneration can be excellent if you find work with a large company, but I agree that in academia and small companies, it is poor. The same goes for all scientific careers.

      • Frankly, it’s a calling. Although a tenured faculty position pays really quite well, has amazing job security, gives you regular sabbaticals, and a nice pension and other benefits.

        Profs are hardly in the poorhouse. But, the trick is getting one of those jobs…

      • R&D in a large company can pay very well too — but with a lot less job stability than in academia.

  5. How about UNDERqualified realtors? Several former drifters I know of are now realtors Vancouver. That, too, says something about the state of the market.

  6. 4SlicesofCheese

  7. Ralph Cramdown

    It’s scary that I’m starting to be able to recycle more and more of my quotes.

    Things you don’t hear at parties: “I was a dentist for a while in the ’90s.”

  8. over qualified

    I am one of the most over qualified realtor I am aware of with a PhD and a MBA. I came back home to Vancouver to help my mother wind down her career, but do have a consulting business on the side. I am aware of 2 or 3 others with PhD and MBA.

    ps. I do agree with majority of this blog’s content and I do RENT by choice.

  9. To be quite honest, I rather have more educated people in the RE industry than not. There have been criticism about the professionalism of realtors and I think having higher learning as part of the qualifications is a step in the right direction. Currently you do not need a high school diploma to become a realtor just so long as you pass the initial licensing exam.

    • Same is true with an electrician or plumber. But I have to be completely honest with you: from what I see the nature of real estate salesmanship has little crossover with a PhD dissertation.

      • Actually, to get into the training programmes towards becoming an electrician or plumber does require high school graduation – the courses are quite rigorous as is the apprenticeship.

    • “having higher learning as part of the qualifications is a step in the right direction”

      Just curious: what would you say are the most important skills that a realtor should have?

      My list would start with:
      (1) Familiarity with the various neighbourhoods of the city.
      (2) Punctuality.
      I do not believe that higher learning imparts either of these skills.

      Personally, I think this is a step in the right direction:

      • It seems particularly important to us that a realtor know the difference between being a market cheerleader, and being a really good salesperson.
        IMHO, good realtors should be very explicit with sellers and buyers that they cannot predict market direction, and that their job is solely to facilitate as good a deal for their client as possible. This is a ‘professional’ stance, and such a realtor would probably survive regardless of market conditions.
        So many realtors, however, appear to be seduced into the role of becoming bullish market commentators during bull markets. This appears to be unwise. Their training is in facilitating the buying and selling of RE, not in market prediction. They may look good for part of the cycle, but this is not a good long-term career strategy.
        Some fairly high profile realtors try to have it both ways, claiming to be agnostic about the markets but then saying they’d be very surprised if markets dropped by anything more than ‘x’%, often in the same breath (where ‘x’ is always a single digit number).
        Marketers like Rennie appear to be taking very large risks with their own future reputations by simultaneously selling (1) RE and (2) the idea of future price strength. If they’re wrong, will people take them to account on this?

        Higher education may allow a realtor to understand the difference between being a salesperson and being a salesperson/cheerleader. The difference is not intuitively apparent to most people.

      • Ralph Cramdown

        So sad. My ideal realtor would be an appraiser with good negotiation skills and a login to the local MLS. The concept of appraisal should extend to the counterparty realtor, as people who hire losers are likely to lose.

        The industry’s idea of success is sales volume, but they won’t even divulge that. Ask “How can I find a good realtor?” and you’ll get “Ask your friends and family for recommendations” — as if they’ve done enough transactions to differentiate “good agent” from “didn’t piss me off.” Basically, agents who sell more houses get to sell more houses, and there’s a continuing stream of hopefuls entering the industry to staff the open houses of the winners.

  10. google “realtors with PHD”
    There are realtors with PHDs all over the US. Real estate mania?
    Gotta stop cherry picking examples to generalize to the whole vreaa.

  11. “Anybody know of any other examples?”…

    Hmmm. I’m not sure which is more disturbing… scholars fleeing the academy to churn property… or property churners founding ‘academies’ to churn students… DearReaders will undoubtedly have opinions of their own… and here’s your Quote ‘O TheDay!…

    “I want my children to be exposed to the finer things” – Nido Qubein, ‘Motivational Speaker and Multimillionaire’ President of High Point University, North Carolina

    [BloombergBusinessWeek] – Bubble U: High Point University

    “There are about 1,600 private colleges and universities in the U.S. Fewer than 100 are considered “medallion” institutions, with rich endowments, highly selective admissions, and superstar faculties. Most of the rest—including High Point—lack many, if not all, of these attributes and struggle to distinguish themselves academically. Only a rare few break from the pack to achieve elite status, and the effort usually takes decades, says Kent Chabotar, president of Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C., and an expert on higher education finance. “Reputations,” Chabotar says, “take forever to change.”

    Qubein wants to push High Point to greatness in just a few years. The details of his plan resemble some of the high-risk behavior that blew up investment banks in 2008. He’s following an approach that is known in higher ed circles as the “residence hall” or “field of dreams” strategy. He’s borrowed tens of millions to build upscale dorms, used the new facilities to attract more students, and then used their fees to pay interest on the debt and underwrite more construction. “…

    • I had always thought university’s primary function was as a watering hole. All said and done, it is all about “it”, isn’t it? As a good buddy of mine used to opine, you get out what you put in.

    • disney-esque? … invite readers to also examine general credit conditions for higher ed in the maple kingdom south

  12. I have a PhD too, currently looking for anything outside my field. Research funding has been gutted recently, just not a good time to be a scientist.

    If I had any illusions of the real estate market continuing to be strong, I’d probably be looking at getting a real estate license, too. Unfortunately my timing has been terrible, as the GFC has also seemingly dried up the bankers’ demands for physicists. 😦

    Anyone hiring in Toronto? …Anyone?

    • HolyPotato, how’s your Farsi? There are apparently quite a few Tehran based, recently ‘vacated’ positions in high energy nucleonics…

      • success carries assassination risk – be certain of negotiating the proper comp

      • Used to be a time where the study of nuclear science recommended some study in Russian. Now an electrical engineering course in robust interconnect design is probably more appropriate, so as to avoid briefly violating any more fundamental laws of nature.

      • Prior to violating nature or interconnecting I always insist on robust fundamentals.

      • now, of course, it is appropriate to avoid interconnecting briefly

    • Lots of work in Calgary/Edmonton for PhDs (excepting real estate).

  13. I wonder if Gina Rossi’s statistical training allows her to see the pending bubble in Cdn real estate. I highly doubt it. Looking deep into RE statistics only means seeing the answer that you want to see.

    • other comment stuck in purgatory …check GR blog under ferris … mostly likely gets the joke … and now, i have pails of sasquatch excrement to study, ciao

    • True dat. I end up deferring to people from other cities to tell me what I need to know. Call it a cross-departmental peer review.

  14. I have a PhD as well – also from the faculty of Medicine at UBC. From my experience, academics are not the most imaginative of folks and have simply hit the snooze button on the alarm clock of life by going to graduate school instead of getting a job. Now that they are getting into RE, it’s a sure sign that this thing is doomed.

  15. insert your best swing a dead cat comment now

    • “We largely see what we expect to see.” – Daniel Simons, Professor of Psychology, University of Illinois

      [WSJ] – What Cocktail Parties Teach Us

      …”That people can be completely oblivious to things in their field of vision was demonstrated famously in the “Invisible Gorilla experiment” devised at Harvard in the 1990s. Observers are shown a short video of youths tossing a basketball and asked to count how often the ball is passed by those wearing white. Afterward, the observers are asked several questions, including, “Did you see the gorilla?” Typically, about half the observers failed to notice that someone in a gorilla suit walked through the scene.”…

      • In that same vein, and with prior apologies to all CredentialledAgents (Secret or otherwise) who ply their trade honestly/diligently/ethically/professionally… A parable.

        Disillusioned and aghast at the failure of Jedi mores to gain popular traction, ObiWanKenobi eschewed TheForce, pawned his light sabre and – proudly brandishing his recently acquired Realtor’s™ license – promptly secured a Buyers Reprensentation agreement from disaffected agrarian refugee LukeSkyWalker… Whereupon, ensconced within the leather upholstered luxury of his new, leased LexusLandspeeder, Obi set about touring NewListings on Tattoine as, unopposed, TheEvilEmpire flourished…

      • my super powers are but an impairment?

        top 10 dead cat comments on this thread:
        #10 – you can’t swing a dead here without hitting a phd
        #9 – you can’t swing a dead cat here without hitting multiple phds
        #8 – swing a dead cat to hit f1
        #7 – swing a dead cat to promote equality
        #6 – swing a dead cat whle protesting misogyny
        #5 – please don’t swing dead cats – it’s cruel – but they’re dead, dude
        #4 – make a playground swing with dead cats
        #3 – make a schwing to play on the ground with dead cats
        #2 – swing a dead cat to close this deal
        … and … wait for it …
        #1 – what can i do to put you in a dead cat today?
        disclaimer – no intoxicants were used
        please now, i must prove the existence of the sasq, or be sached

    • I tried swinging a dead cat but kept hitting a Richmond house for sale.

      • did anyone try to eat your cat? 😮 ok, apologies. no more typing with the stereo cranked

  16. 3 days ago I asked the following question.

    “Why is the government so intent on allowing in rich immigrants. What is their motivation?

    #1) The interest-free loans help the government balance the books? I don’t think so. The 0.74% reduction in the budget is negligible.

    #2) Stimulating the economy. They theorize that rich people will come here, spend money (on houses, cars, etc.).

    #3) A political bargaining chip. Foreign governments exert political pressure on Harper to grant their cronies Canadian citizenship.

    Are these plausible explanations, or am I missing something here?”

    Jesse Kline’s recent article would have you believe that the answer is #2.

    “After all, what’s wrong with foreign investment? Foreigners bring money into the country, which creates jobs and drums-up business here at home. Developers make money, construction companies hire employees and buy capital equipment, the rental supply increases and local businesses profit the whole way through. It’s a win-win for everybody.”

    Is there any concrete evidence for these assertions?

    I think my counter-argument would be “Look at Spain: foreign investment drummed up business with developers and construction companies there. But, in the end, it was a lose-lose for everybody.”

    • #4) The government was successfully lobbied by immigration consultants.

    • #5) So corporations can fire Canadian born workers and hire immigrants to work for less.

    • In reply to your question, JM – and quite apart from any attendant pecuniary considerations which might flow to the UsualSuspects and/or WellConnectedCronies – the principal attraction of immigration to certain political camps is an ethnic or cultural proclivity towards ‘block voting’… i.e. – capture the community leadership, capture the community… e.g. –

      [OttawaCitizen] – Britain copies Canada in bid to win ethnic vote: Tories’ strategy modelled on Kenney’s election campaigning

      “Britain’s Conservative Party, now heading that country’s minority coalition government but envious of Canada’s federal Tory majority, is preparing an ambitious outreach effort among Britain’s ethnic minorities – longtime backers of the Labour Party – in a strategy that’s directly modelled on the Jason Kenney-led campaign credited in recent elections with convincing key Asian-Canadian communities to abandon their traditional allegiance to the Liberals. British news reports have quoted officials from Prime Minister David Cameron’s governing Conservatives saying the party’s bid to achieve a parliamentary majority will only succeed if – like Prime Minister Stephen Harper – Cameron can broaden the Tories’ appeal among immigrants from India, Pakistan and elsewhere.”…

    • “Is there any concrete evidence for these assertions?”

      While emerging economies are having difficulties absorbing large private flows, advanced economies have often misallocated surges in yield-insensitive gross claims. In Canada, as elsewhere, large capital inflows will require vigilance from public authorities and private financial institutions. Financial history, particularly during times of large power shifts, is rife with examples of booms stoked by dumb money that turn good situations to bad.

    • Govt needs inflation to support tax yield. Banks need inflation to indenture consumers. Foreign investment is just one more inflation catalyst. What is freaking out the govt is the debt ratio. Why should banks get to drain people’s wealth when the govt could be taxing it… to pay back the banks? Debt ratio will breed apathy which will bring down the system.

  17. My cousin is a cancer research scientist turned insurance salesman. I don’t want to misquote him, just saying that a brain-surgeon-turned-realtor might appeal to buyers/investors from his first calling.
    Another over-qualified realtor with an impressive cv –

  18. nice! slightly OT. spokesmodel prez whoring more cheap cred … “let’s lower rates to keep costs from skyrocketing” … oh the humanity indeed
    aside – ps. the ease with which corzine and co can continue to evade a reckoning should concern everyone under the umbrella of the maple kingdom and its satellites … it is an escalation … in that the cronies sucessfully demonstrate the degree of subterfuge required to obtain a scalp has now been lowered several notches … the longer this behavior continues without consequence, the more epic the crisis to finally terminate it.

  19. the insanity from a hot RE market is really damaging the society. I’m sure without the possibility of making big bucks Ms. Rossi won’t become a realtor, and wasting lots of knowledge (and resources from the society in training a PhD) in curing prostate cancer.

  20. reality check

    Interesting that “DR.” Rossi doesn’t know the difference between a thesis and a dissertation. A thesis is what you defend for a Masters degree. I smell bullshit

    • good catch reality.
      Also, one doesn’t jump from undergraduate degree to PHD – she’s missing the Masters degree step.
      I too think she’s stretching the truth here

      • is this truly bliss?

      • Gina undertook her Master’s, then challenged the process to fast-forward into her PhD training. This is commonly done. She defended her thesis successfully a few years ago to earn her doctorate.

        She left science as she found the industry of academia extremely draining… emotionally, financially, work/life balance, etc. Further study would have also meant relocation. This is something that would not have worked in consideration of family commitments etc.

        But really, is this any of your business?

        I know this as I’m her partner of 10 years. I find it really creepy to find all these anonymous commentators picking apart her life in such a negative fashion, digging up her details, making some pretty wild assumptions on who she is as a person, tracking down her research, posting her photograph and making suggestive comments.

      • In North America, the end-product of a PhD program in the sciences or engineering is almost always called a “thesis”. “Dissertation” is mainly used in the social sciences and humanities.

        It is also exceedingly common in the sciences and engineering, especially in the USA, to go directly from an undergraduate degree to a PhD program. Many US universities do not even offer a master’s degree in the sciences, except for those who fail their PhD qualifying exams.

        Here at work, my group has 10 PhD scientists, only two of whom have master’s degrees.

      • Steve:
        Thanks for the comment.
        We certainly didn’t intend for anybody to feel “creepy” as a result of this post, and we’re sorry you felt that way. In response to your comment, we have removed the picture of Gina from the original post (it was the same one that appears on her own website) and also edited out part of one reader’s comment, which, we agree, was inappropriate and off-topic.

        The main purpose of this blog is to document the effect that the Vancouver RE boom/bubble is having on the citizens of our city. It has shaped human behaviour in various ways: more people are owners; some people have left town; some people have avoided coming to Vancouver in the first place; some people have left other professions to work in construction, or as mortgage brokers, or realtors.
        This post headlined the fact that locals with higher education, trained in fields unrelated to RE, had been drawn into being realtors. Two readers at another site ( had identified two known realtors with PhDs and Gina was one of them (she advertises this on her own website). In addition, the comments above include one from another realtor with a PhD (and an MBA).
        We believe that the phenomenon is a real and an important one, and that it is of legitimate interest to students of our RE market.

  21. As a manufacturer of finer BC wood products, this anecdote proves yet again that you can slap drywall and vinyl on a 2×4 and sell it to an intellectual. Go trades!

  22. superb … “Has America Been Crippled By Intellectual Idiots? … A Masters Degree or Ph.D is not a get out of logic free card.” enjoy. and as always – have a nice day 🙂

  23. @steve. one must proceed with great caution making personal information widely available. prudent not to offer more. a friend once jilted a very skilled and determined party – to have him conduct a very serious and unsavory character assassination campaign using simple materials gathered from the public networks. while this here may creep you out, it is mostly just a bunch of numbskulls raniting.
    further – the cronies have likely mass-archived all of this by now in utah and could easily look it up should a future need arise.

  24. Actually, a minor difference but PhD =/= MD. So at the very least there’s a problem w/ the title because a Brain Surgeon = MD. Practicing MD’s are governed by a licensing body (CPSBC?) and are allowed to write prescriptions and do surgery. I don’t think most people would be comfortable with an unlicensed PhD doing those things (yes even in medicine).

    In Canada, the minor difference is even more pronounced because currently we’re lacking MD’s (I believe especially GPs — in certain areas — not that the patient cap is helping that any) and the Government is subsidizing the MD program. So if MDs are becoming realtors, that goes completely against the incentives of that program and represents (as has been mentioned here many times) a disproportionate displacement of human capital (into the wrong areas).

  25. Really amazing. Good idea to post.

    I think our PhD / RE Agent is just a classic sign of our times. Whether it is nobler in the mind to develop marginally effective overpriced drugs that (net of drug interactions and side-effects) add a small amount of extended life to very old people as financed by taxes and growing debt burden on the younger generation … or to take arms against a see of troubles by performing routine paperwork and simple face-to-face consumer sales for exorbitant fees, the amount of which may possibly be justified in the mind of the purchaser [edited here. -ed.]
    Higher education, real estate. Does not a bubble, by any other name, pop as well?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s