Do You Need a Business Degree to Be a Successful Business Owner?

By Cathy Habas

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Perhaps you’re thinking about your college major or general plans for the future, and one question you keep returning to is whether you ought to get a business degree. Of all the college degrees on offer, a business degree seems like one of the most practical and applicable to many different jobs.

But getting a degree of any sort is expensive and time consuming. Should you skip over the degree, save your cash and dive straight into your entrepreneurial goals? Or will you be missing out on vital information and skills that could hold you back in the future? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of getting a business degree with the goal of becoming a successful business owner.

Benefits of a Business Degree

One of the main benefits of a business degree is that students learn about virtually every aspect of successful business maintenance, including accounting, human resources and ethics. Entrepreneurs often have to wear many hats at once, especially in the early days of business growth when only a bare-bones staff is hired. Having this broad foundation of knowledge to draw upon can be quite helpful.

Secondly, a business degree can help you get a job. But wait, you want to be a small business owner or entrepreneur—you already know what your job should be! Still, if you have bills to pay, you may need to hold down a job while also trying to launch your own business. A job can also expand your learning opportunities and give you practical hands-on experience. Business schools offer resources for resume writing, interviewing, and finding career opportunities. Plus, without a college degree, some jobs will remain out of your reach.

Why Some Say a Business Degree Doesn’t Matter

Even the most well-prepared entrepreneurs, with degrees and experience and funds, still make mistakes as they guide their new business ventures. How you fix those mistakes and learn from them will define your success as a business owner.

Networking skills will help you make connections that you can turn to for assistance when something has you stumped. Building a network doesn’t have to begin at college with your classmates and professors; instead, you can network at trade shows, conferences, co-working spaces and even online.

Communication skills also come in handy when you’re ready to seek funds, to post job opportunities and to manage your team. At college, you may take one or two communication classes. Think about what you could learn in self-study and practical application.

In fact, recognizing the skills you need and then finding the resources and tools to become proficient in those skills is a viable alternative to a college degree in an entrepreneur’s world. You will have to work hard every day to study your trade and become part of the fabric of modern business. But a business degree does not exempt you from that work; in other words, you don’t put in four years of study and then never learn anything again. Successful business owners have their eyes and ears wide open and are always learning.

Perhaps the main consideration that could determine your path is whether you have a business idea yet that you are 100 percent passionate about and committed to. If you do, and you have an idea of what your next steps should be, there’s no harm in going straight out into the world to give it a try. Besides, you can always change your mind and get a degree later. If you’re not sure what your business idea is yet, or what your next steps should be, enroll in a business degree program to give yourself a short-term goal and to help you shape up your skills.

You May Not Need a Degree, But You Do Need …

Clearly, whether or not you actually need a business degree is up for debate. What you do need in order to be a successful small business owner is a relentless desire to achieve your goals and the tenacity to keep your chin up during hard times. You’ll also need to be flexible in changing your plans in response to your circumstances and resources … and changing them again and again as needed.

From a practical point of view, you will need a base of operations. You might start out with a home office and then graduate to a co-working space before finally opening your own office. Or, you might begin selling your products online and one day open a store front.

You’ll need to know how to delegate, who to delegate to and when to do it. You’ll need to be proficient in all communication channels, including how to fax, cold-call, write emails, leverage social media and give a presentation, and more.

A business will quickly run into the ground without proper cash flow, so you’ll also need to know how to spend money wisely, how to reinvest profits into your business, how to pay your employees and how to prepare your taxes.

And of course, there are the logistical considerations for providing your service, shipping your product, reaching potential customers via marketing, and handling customer satisfaction.

As you can see, there is a lot to think about when starting a business. You won’t achieve success overnight, so remember to do at least one thing to get you closer to your goal every single day.

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