Do You Need a Degree To Start A Business?

A degree may open the door to a variety of opportunities and diverse career paths. The degree programs offered at AIU will not necessarily lead to the featured careers. This collection of articles is intended to help inform and guide you through the process of determining which level of degree and types of certifications align with your desired career path.

There is no shortage of stories about wildly successful figures who reached incredible success as business owners without having to earn a college degree. With so many stories like theirs in the media, it can beg the question: Do you need a degree to start a business? While the short answer is "no," the question is much more complicated than just whether a degree is required of business owners.

Consider Your Long-Term Business Goals

Foregoing a degree might seem like an attractive option when you're considering the time and financial investment you're about to make on a college program. However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 20% of small businesses fail in their first year, and about 50% fail in their fifth year.1 Without dampening your ambition to start a business of your own, keep in mind that there may be multiple steps in your journey toward business ownership. Rather than simply writing a business plan, getting a loan, and achieving immediate success, you may also need time to do the following:

  • Find an office location and/or production facility
  • Research relevant laws and regulations
  • Plan out an internal business structure
  • Register as a sole proprietor, limited partnership (LP), limited liability partnership (LLP), limited liability company (LLC), or a corporation
  • Apply for any necessary licenses and permits

Given all of this, consider whether a degree may be able to offer structured assistance as you plan to complete any of these steps.

Think About the Skills and Knowledge You May Need as a Business Owner

Take into consideration that for every iconic, seemingly overnight business success story, there's a group of highly-skilled, formally trained employees propelling their company's success behind the scenes. Given that you'll most likely also need skilled and trained employees to help you along the way, it may be worth taking the time to hone and develop your own knowledge, skills, and formal training first.

Starting and growing a business requires a wide range of skills, from negotiation and decision-making ability to creative, analytical, and communication skills. However, there are also more industry-specific skills and knowledge you may need to develop before being able to write a comprehensive business plan or make key decisions regarding the structure and goals for your company. For this reason, it may be helpful to explore the different types of degree options that are available and how each may uniquely help you prepare for day-to-day business operations.

For example, a degree in business administration, marketing, or healthcare management may be favorable places to start depending on the products and services you plan to offer. If your business needs to operate internationally, then it may be worth looking into programs that focus on global business practices and regulations. Some universities also offer business degrees with a specialization in entrepreneurship.

A Degree May Make the Start Smoother

While it's true that professional experience outside the classroom can provide you with real-world experience, the way in which you study and focus on developing new skills and knowledge can be very different inside the classroom. Especially in programs where instructors are industry professionals with real-world experience in their field. Students may be able to benefit from advice and knowledge of the types of potential problems and considerations they could face in starting their own business. Courses may also provide a baseline of essential skills students can translate to the real-world challenges of business ownership.

With a bachelor's degree in Business Administration, for example, you can work to develop a foundation across multiple aspects of business operations that you may be able to apply to multiple fields or industries. A business degree may offer an introduction to skills like:

? Basic accounting methods and principles ? Business analysis and operations ? Forecasting, budgeting, and risk management ? Marketing and current technology ? Ethical and legal best practices in today's business environment

Starting a Business

Remember that offering a great product or service doesn't get you anywhere if you're at a loss on how to run and maintain the business side of your operations. You may be an excellent designer or salesperson; however, if you don't know the fundamentals of operations and project management or financial management, then you may be taking a bigger risk.

If you started a business and are unsure how to grow it, even earning an associate's degree in Business Administration could provide you with a few basic accounting, marketing, and economic principles. You may also be better equipped to avoid common pitfalls like faulty cost-pricing, business tax filing, and other administrative challenges that come with owning your own business.

Networking Opportunities

According to the Small Business Administration, having a strong support network is vital to starting and growing a business. The types of decisions and daily tasks that go into starting your own business, particularly in the first months, call for a supportive network. A strong alumni connection can be an excellent resource. Alumni who have forged successful businesses may be able to provide mentorship and direction when you're just starting out, as well as tips and resources for getting off the ground.

If you're asking yourself whether or not you need a degree to start a business, remember that your unique situation will ultimately determine the answer, including your prior education and work experience and the business plan you hope to put into action. While you can certainly start a business without a degree, earning a degree in which you can study and practice good analytical, marketing, managerial, and accounting skills may help you be better prepared in the long run.

Ready to learn more? Explore the variety of business degree specializations at AIU today.

1. “Entrepreneurship and the U.S. Economy” BLS. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/bdm/entrepreneurship/bdm_chart3.htm Visited on September 4, 2018.

For important information about the educational debt, earnings, and completion rates of students who attended these programs, go to www.aiuniv.edu/disclosures. AIU cannot guarantee employment or salary. Not all programs are available to residents of all states.
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