3.8 Careers in real estate and customer service: Working with central tendency
Essential question: How can we explain variance between the mean and the median in a data set?
Students will compare median and mean salaries to make decisions on job opportunities.
- Student computers with internet access (Alternatively, you may access the needed information before class and distribute hard copies to the students)
- Choices worksheet (includes answer key)
One class period
Your brother has just graduated from high school and is trying to decide between the options he has: continuing his education or starting a career (or a combination of those). He is very good at talking to people and speaks both English and Spanish fluently. He wants to use these skills in the career he pursues.
You are helping your brother by looking through information provided by the United States Department of Labor. His skills seem to match well with a career as a real estate agent or as a customer service representative. Your next step is to help your brother interpret the statistics provided so he can make a good decision.
If students will not have access to the internet during class, access the needed information before class and prepare hard copies to hand out to students. The relevant links can be found in the activities below.
- Share with students the scenario above.
- Brainstorm with the class about these two careers — real estate agents and customer service representatives — and discuss what they know regarding the job expectations, education levels required, salaries associated with each, etc. Share with students some of the information about these careers listed under “Career Information” below. It is not important to be thorough, as students will later research this information independently.
- Review with the class how the median is calculated and how the mean is calculated. Emphasize the difference between these algorithms.
- Put students in pairs and distribute the choices worksheet. Have students access the the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. Students can either use the site’s navigation to find the relevant pages about real estate agents and customer service representatives, or they can go directly to the pages using the following links (which also appear on the handout):
- As the students work through the worksheet, provide assistance by helping them interpret the information on the website.
- After students have finished the worksheet and reached their conclusions, have the class share the various conclusions reached and the justification for each.
Career information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook.
Customer service representatives
Nature of the Work
Customer service representatives provide a valuable link between customers and the companies who produce the products they buy and the services they use. They are responsible for responding to customer inquiries and making sure that any problems they are experiencing are resolved. Although most customer service representatives do their work by telephone in call centers, some interact with customers by e-mail, fax, post, or face-to-face.
Almost every industry employs customer service representatives, and their duties may vary greatly depending on the nature of the organization. For instance, representatives who work in banks may have similar duties to tellers, whereas those in insurance companies may be required to handle paperwork, such as changes to policies or renewals. Those who work for utility and communication companies may assist customers with service problems, such as outages. Representatives who work in retail stores often handle returns and help customers to find items in their stores.
Most customer service representative jobs require a high school diploma. However, because employers are demanding a more skilled workforce, some customer service jobs now require associate or bachelor’s degrees. High school and college level courses in computers, English, or business are helpful in preparing for a job in customer service.
Training requirements vary by industry. Almost all customer service representatives are provided with some training prior to beginning work. This training generally focuses on the company and its products, the most commonly asked questions, the computer and telephone systems they will be using, and basic people skills. Length of training varies, but often lasts several weeks. Some customer service representatives are expected to update their training regularly. This is particularly true of workers in industries such as banking, in which regulations and products are continually changing.
See the customer service representative occupational employment and wages page for earnings information.
Employment of customer service representatives is expected to grow by about 18 percent over the 2008-18 period, faster than the average for all occupations. Providing quality customer service is important to nearly every company in the economy; in addition, companies are expected to place increasing emphasis on customer relationships, resulting in increased demand for customer service representatives. This very large occupation is projected to provide about 400,000 new jobs over the next decade.
Real estate agents
Nature of the Work
Brokers and agents do the same type of work, but brokers are licensed to manage their own real estate businesses. Agents must work with a broker. They usually provide their services to a licensed real estate broker on a contract basis. In return, the broker pays the agent a portion of the commission earned from the agent’s sale of the property. Brokers, as independent businesspeople, often sell real estate owned by others; they also may rent or manage properties for a fee.
Agents may meet numerous times with prospective buyers to discuss and visit available properties. Agents identify and emphasize the most pertinent selling details. To a young family looking for a house, for example, they may emphasize the convenient floor plan, the area’s low crime rate, and the proximity to schools and shopping. To a potential investor, they may point out the tax advantages of owning a rental property and finding a renter. If negotiation over price becomes necessary, agents must follow their client’s instructions thoroughly and may present counteroffers to reach the final sales price.
Once the buyer and seller have signed a contract, the real estate broker or agent must ensure that all terms of the contract are met before the closing date. If the seller agrees to any repairs, the broker or agent ensures they are made. Increasingly, brokers and agents must deal with environmental issues as well, such as advising buyers about lead paint on the walls. In addition, the agent must make sure that any legally mandated or agreed-upon inspections, such as termite and radon inspections, take place. Loan officers, attorneys, and other people handle many details, but the agent must ensure that they are carried out.
Most real estate brokers and sales agents sell residential property. A small number—usually employed in large or specialized firms—sell commercial, industrial, agricultural, or other types of real estate. Every specialty requires knowledge of that particular type of property and clientele. Selling, buying, or leasing business property requires an understanding of leasing practices, business trends, and the location of the property. Agents who sell, buy, or lease industrial properties must know about the region’s transportation, utilities, and labor supply. Whatever the type of property, the agent or broker must know how to meet the client’s particular requirements.
Agents and brokers must be high school graduates. In fact, as real estate transactions have become more legally complex, many firms have turned to college graduates to fill positions. A large number of agents and brokers have some college training.
See the real estate agent occupational employment and wages page for earnings information.
Employment of real estate brokers and agents is expected to grow faster than average. Beginning agents and brokers, however, will face competition from their well-established, more experienced counterparts.
Employment of real estate brokers and sales agents is sensitive to swings in the economy, such as a recession. During periods of declining economic activity or rising interest rates, the volume of sales and the resulting demand for sales workers fall. As a result, the income of agents and brokers declines, and many work fewer hours or leave the occupation altogether. Over the coming decade, the opportunity for part-time work is expected to decline. Although the occupation is relatively easy to enter, increasingly complex legal and technological requirements are raising startup costs associated with becoming an agent and making it more difficult for part-time workers to enter the occupation.
Well-trained, ambitious people who enjoy selling—particularly those with extensive social and business connections in their communities—should have the best chance for success. However, beginning agents and brokers often face competition from their well-established, more experienced counterparts in obtaining listings and in closing an adequate number of sales.
North Carolina curriculum alignment
- Goal 4: Data Analysis and Probability - The learner will understand and use graphs and data analysis.
- Objective 4.01: Collect, organize, analyze, and display data (including scatterplots) to solve problems.