It is undeniable that entrepreneurship is difficult. To be an effective entrepreneur, you need to be an expert in your industry and an outstanding business leader; you need to understand best practices for every business field, from accounting to marketing, and you need to be able to make the right business decisions for maximizing profit and employee potential. The breadth skills and knowledge required for successful entrepreneurship are rarely innate — so does every entrepreneur need to go to college before they launch their startup?
The answer is: It’s complicated.
Some Entrepreneurs Can Benefit From a College Education
Many entrepreneurs balk at college degrees. Advanced education is expensive in more ways than one; it will require several years of concerted effort and likely thousands of dollars to complete a degree program, and entrepreneurs typically see that time and money as resources that are better devoted to building a business.
However, a college education can be immensely valuable to some entrepreneurs — particularly those who lack sufficient experience to succeed in business leadership. The younger the entrepreneur, the less time they have had to work in the industry in which they hope to launch their new venture. Additionally, younger entrepreneurs are less likely to enjoy time in business leadership positions, which means they are unlikely to have well-honed leadership knowledge and skill. Real-world expertise develops slowly, and it can take a decade or more for you to become proficient in your desired field before you have a chance at successful entrepreneurship.
Education is an excellent alternative to experience. Degrees in business administration offers insight into the intricacies required for operating a business: finance, accounting, business law, organizational behavior, leadership etc. Even better, you can earn a bachelor’s in business administration online while maintaining your current position in industry, effectively doubling the knowledge and skill you are earning through formal education and experience.
Business degrees, like business administration or entrepreneurship, are perhaps the most appropriate for someone setting their sights on launching a startup, but they are not the only viable degrees for you to consider. You might acquire any degree related to the industry in which your business will operate, like computer science or sustainability. You might alternatively pursue a degree in psychology or English, which offer soft skills that can be invaluable in growing your business.
Some Entrepreneurs Can Find Success Without a Degree
There are plenty of entrepreneurs who have been wildly successful without bothering to earn a college degree. In fact, some of the most well-known entrepreneurs — Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson — have never earned an advanced degree. An individual who is remarkably innovative, diligent and intrepid, and who already has access to resources entrepreneurs need, might have a chance at growing a business, even if they lack the experience and expertise typically required for business success. This is especially true if that individual can identify an industry primed for explosive growth, as Bill Gates and Larry Ellison did with tech in the 1970s.
There is also something to be said for starting your entrepreneurship journey while you are young with the expectation that you will fail. Every failure offers a lesson in how you can be better next time, and by starting your entrepreneurship career as soon as possible, you can get your most major failures over with before they are likely to devastate your career and lifestyle.
Still, it is important to realize that failure is not inevitable. With the right business strategy — developed thanks to experience and education — you can find success with your first startup, avoiding all sorts of expensive headaches and heartaches.
Most Entrepreneurs Need Some Formal Education
The truth is you don’t need to be the next Oprah Winfrey or Larry Page; you just need to build a sustainable business that will earn more than it spends. You can gain the skills and knowledge you need to accomplish this goal through experience and education.
A college degree program does the hard work of combining the courses you will need in your entrepreneurship career, but a degree program is not your only option. You can also engage with short university courses, webinars and lecture series from trusted professionals. As long as you feel confident that the information you are receiving is preparing you for entrepreneurship, your education should help you reach business success.