Many people dream of one day owning their own business. They believe they have the intelligence, moxie, drive and social skills needed to run all aspects of a successful start-up. But what may make the decision to jump into the entrepreneurial pool harder is the issue of the college degree, as in “do you need a business degree to run your own business?”
According to the Princeton Review, Business Administration is the most popular college major in the United States. Schools such as the University of Tampa and Baylor University even offer degree programs that specifically focus on the issues of entrepreneurship. On the surface, it seems as if a business degree is the major key to becoming a successful entrepreneur.
However, we have all heard about Steve Jobs of Apple, Mark Zuckerburg of Facebook, and Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines. All three of these billionaires made their fortunes without a college degree. Branson did not even finish high school. Since these success stories are prevalent in our society, many budding entrepreneurs believe that they also can succeed in business without a bachelor’s degree. But are these success stories more harmful than helpful?
The “Pros” of Getting a Business Degree
Most budding entrepreneurs want to be the next Mark Zuckerburg or Larry Ellison of Dell Computers. But should a future entrepreneur be encouraged to stay in school? Are there concrete benefits to spending four or more years in a classroom? The answer may surprise you.
According to the Census Bureau, 64 percent of the business owners surveyed had at least some college experience. Broken down further, the survey reveals that a little less than half (40 percent) of the business owners had at least a bachelor’s degree. While these statistics show us that a business degree is certainly not required to become a success, it is far from the norm for business owners to forgo a degree altogether.
Still not convinced that you need a business degree? There are quite a few benefits to earning a four-year degree, even if the student does not gain a lot of direct business experience. Some of these benefits include:
Do not think that you have to get a degree in business in order to be successful. Whether you major in English, Communication or Psychology, you will always be able to glean pertinent knowledge that you can use in the course of your business life.
Going to college makes it a whole lot easier to gain connections that you can later use. Internships, your school’s career office and even professors are all great sources for networking.
If you are standing in front of a bunch of venture capitalists as an unproven entity, the chances are good that they will take you more seriously if you have a degree. No one wants to entrust their millions on some random person who thinks he has the next big idea.
Even though we all should be lifelong students, it is especially important that entrepreneurs learn while on the job. Even though lifelong learners can be found all along the education level spectrum, earning a degree sharpens your critical thinking skills, strengthens your reading comprehension, and helps you apply logic to your business decisions.
The “Cons” of Earning a Business Degree
Let’s face it; a four-year degree costs a lot of money. Even though there are grants and scholarships available to most people, many do not want to shoulder the burden of student loans for a degree that they may not need.
The academic structure: Some people bristle at the idea of being told what classes to take and when to take them. Many people become entrepreneurs because they want the freedom of blazing the trail of their own destiny. It can be difficult to do that in a four-year program.
Most entrepreneurs want to hit the ground running. For some, the idea of waiting four years before they can start their business is simply intolerable.
Unnecessary coursework: Most colleges and universities have a core curriculum that students have to complete before they can graduate. Some students seeking a business degree do not want to take classes about Shakespeare and William James.
So Do You Need a Business Degree to Run Your Own Business?
One certainly does not need a business degree to start their own business. However, the skills gained from a general business, entrepreneurship, or even another major can serve you well in your professional life. For example, the marketing classes that you take for your business major can later help you determine price points for your inventory, promote them to your desired audience and ensure that your customer’s needs are met.
What If I Don’t Want a Business Degree?
If you are sure that you do not want to pursue a business degree, here are three things you need to know before you jump into the entrepreneurial pool:
Know Thine Enemy
Know Everything bout your market before starting. Research your competition, learn everything about your target audience, and keep up on current trends in your industry. No one wants to frequent a business that is behind the times.
Your marketing plan should consist of the four “Ps”: product, place, price and promotion. In other words, you need to know what you are going to offer your target market, where you will offer it, the price at which you will offer it, and the ways you will let people know what you are offering. Extensive research and honest self-assessment will probably get a better result than going into things blind.
Whether you decide to get your business degree or not, the most important thing is what you can bring to the table. If you work hard, are willing to learn, make mistakes, and persevere, success will come, but having a degree as a jumping off point will definitely give you an edge.