A 2017 survey by CNBC/Small Monkey Small Business Survey shows that many business owners do not have a college degree. Twenty-six percent of business owners that participated in the survey are college graduates, eighteen percent have post-graduate degrees, and the remaining 56% did not go to college or dropped out.
While the previous generations hold strong beliefs about getting a degree to go further in life, it is apparent that the younger generations are starting to break the status quo. Today, many careers require at least a college degree, but this is not the case for the world of entrepreneurship.
An individual can start a business with little to no experience or formal education. The world of business is open to everyone–regardless of their educational attainment–and skills and experience are often more important than the lessons learned in a classroom.
However, there is no denying that attending college can be very helpful for some entrepreneurs. Even if they are not directly linked to business, college classes can teach soft skills like leadership, time management, and accountability. In addition, certain college courses can serve as an advantage for entrepreneurs, such as classes in accounting, marketing, and business laws.
Considering all of these points, how do you decide if you should get a degree or start a business without one? Here are several important questions that you need to ask yourself first:
Will a degree be advantageous in my field or industry?
The skills and experiences that one can gain in college can be highly beneficial when starting a business. However, you have to consider the field or industry that you want to pursue as well—will a college degree help you in that path? Or will it only cause a delay?
For example, if you have your sights set on starting a healthy food franchise, is getting a business degree necessary? Or can you learn the ropes through self-learning? If you fully believe that a degree is essential for your career choices, go to college. Otherwise, it may be better to seek other forms of education, even if they are informal.
Can your business idea wait?
For some business ideas, waiting until you finish college can lead to missed opportunities. The business idea that you are working on now may be the next big thing a year from now—if you wait four years to act upon it, someone else may take over the market first.
Are there other ways you can learn how to be an entrepreneur?
Even if you have been entrepreneurial since childhood, real-world experience is still necessary to put you on the right track. If you start a business with barely honed skills, then you may be setting your entrepreneurial journey off on the wrong foot.
Going to college is not always the solution to building a good foundation of skills and knowledge essential to entrepreneurship. There are other ways to “learn the ropes,” such as taking an internship (or an apprenticeship), working with a mentor, attending seminars, or taking an entry-level job in the industry that you want to pursue. And for some people, these alternative methods of learning work better than formal education.
Common challenges for entrepreneurs without degrees
Lack of financial stability
Unless you already have a solid financial safety net, the lack of financial stability is probably one of the most pressing problems that you will face. Starting a business requires money, and if you cannot get a high-paying job without a degree, you either have to go to college or save enough money for capital through other means.
Lack of credentials
Many people tend to look at credentials when evaluating people, including potential business partners, lenders, and future clients. At times, not having a college degree may put you at a disadvantage. However, the right people are more likely to focus on your skills and experience—not your level of education.
As we’ve said before, going to college can be extremely beneficial for learning both soft and technical skills essential to business. Skipping college can result in knowledge gaps in certain areas. Although you can always fill in these gaps through other means, it can be more difficult without a college education.
To go to college or to not go to college? The right decision will depend on many factors, including your finances, career goals, and the type of business you want to pursue. Whatever the case may be, use the points in this article to determine whether college is the right step for you—or if you should directly chase your business goals.