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No Business Degree, No Problem?

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Many successful entrepreneurs have done it. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was a college dropout along with Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Richard Branson so it must be possible to start and grow a business without a college degree—and, indeed, it is.

The success stories are inspirational but for every Facebook story, there are thousands of entrepreneurs that didn’t survive. Is that because they didn’t have business degrees or is it for another reason?

The debate over the necessity of a college education is decades old but with 50% of recent college graduates unable to get a job, potential entrepreneurs are taking a second look at their educational options.

There’s no doubt that having a formal education is valuable. Those with traditional business degrees learn important skills like budgeting, forecasting growth, business plan formation, and networking but there’s another advantage. A bachelor’s degree offers more career choices. If they don’t find the success they had hoped in their own business, their college degree will likely open other doors as they rebuild their career.

New and innovative programs geared toward entrepreneurs are forming all over the country and come with a lower cost and a more targeted curriculum. One of the most talked about is Stanford University’s D.School, a program that teaches students how to rapidly develop and test an idea before investing valuable time and resources.

Philadelphia University recently started a 16 month program called “the M.B.A for hybrid thinkers.” This program combines elements of a traditional M.B.A. program with entrepreneurial skills that stress design and business formation.

The Verdict

Do you feel deterred from your dream because of your lack of education? First, realize that education doesn’t only come from a school. If you have years of experience in a field, or you received a license or certification, you’re uniquely qualified to start a business of your own.

You’ll likely need additional education to learn about legal matters, insurance, business registration, taxes, and advertising but programs like the ones mentioned above along with the free mentor program available through the Small Business Administration may be enough to get you started.

Finally, look at trade organizations. The trade organization related to your business idea likely has resources available that will help you to get your business started.

Bottom Line

Although a formal degree isn’t essential, there’s still no doubt that a bachelor’s degree gives you more career choices but if you have dreams of becoming an entrepreneur, there may be other options more suited for your needs.