Successful Entrepreneurship- to Degree or Not to Degree…THAT is the Question!

by Jeremy Fordham · 20 comments

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This is a guest post by Jeremy Fordham.

In today’s ever-changing landscape of business and entrepreneurship, many folks think that holding a college degree just isn’t all it was cracked up to be, as opposed to say 10 years ago. So the question stands- do you need a degree to be a success, or don’t you?

For myself, I’m in the hell no, you don’t need anything of the kind camp. However that doesn’t mean I don’t think there can be benefits if you DO go that route. I just don’t believe it’s a requirement to succeed.

In my book the only requirement to success is good old fashioned blood and sweat. And maybe a tear or two, but I promise I won’t nark you out if I catch you. 😉

For myself, I do have some college education and I valued the experience simply because A. I LOVE learning new things and B. I loved the whole “vibe” of going to college.

I think the whole experience itself can be important for self-growth and awareness and I will definitely encourage my kids to consider it. However again… NOT a requirement for success. OK on to Jeremy’s point of view then.

And leave a comment if you’re feeling squirrel-y.

The prevailing attitude in today’s society is that a college degree is essential for lifetime success.

Long before high school graduation, young people are urged to pick a career and apply to the colleges that have the best programs to prepare them for their chosen path. Yet for those with an entrepreneurial spirit, having a degree in something like business or marketing may be beneficial but isn’t always necessary.

Some Famous Faces

There are many people throughout history who have succeeded in business without a college degree.

Some are well-known names, while others are better recognized by the brands they launched. One of the most notable is Walt Disney, who dropped out of school at age 16.

Another name you may recognize is that of Milton Hershey, founder of Hershey’s Milk Chocolate; his formal education ended in fourth grade. Inventor and Kodak founder George Eastman was a high school dropout, while John Mackey enrolled in and dropped out of college six times during his quest to found the chain of stores now known as Whole Foods.

Likewise, Rachel Ray, known far and wide for her accessible recipes, not only didn’t attend college but also never received any formal culinary training.

These business people and many, many more relied on things other than a formal college degree to launch their respective venues.

Through a combination of determination, self-education and passion, entrepreneurs pursue things they feel strongly about and strike out on missions of their own, bucking conventional wisdom about traditional education and the necessity of a college degree to overall success.

Learning from Experience

When it comes to your own business endeavors, it’s up to you to decide whether or not a college degree will be beneficial. You may not need a degree to get where you want to go, or require an MBA online either, but it is necessary to know the ins and outs of the type of business you’re looking to start.

Pursuing a degree in a field related to your business interests will give you a solid foundation of how things work in that field.

One of the best ways to obtain knowledge about a business is to learn from experience, and having a degree can open doors for you to do just that. Employers may be more inclined to hire people with a formal education, giving you a chance to gain real-world experience.

This opportunity can help you to avoid confusion and equip you with the tools you’ll need to deal with the difficulties that inevitably arise when starting a new business. If you decide not to pursue a degree, it’s still a good idea to seek employment in a business similar to the type that you want to run. When it comes to being a successful entrepreneur, there is no substitute for on-the-job experience.

Gaining Market Insights

Having a business degree doesn’t hurt if you want to start your own business, especially if you are interested in marketing. The world of marketing is fast paced and changes all the time. Thus, having a degree can help lay the foundation for a better understanding of how to use various marketing channels to your advantage.

However it’s also possible to learn the things that you need to know by doing your own research. There are many things out there to give budding entrepreneurs a boost, from books and magazines to local small business resources.

Locally-run startup courses and other similar aids for potential business owners can help you to learn to draft a solid business plan, what steps to take in order to secure necessary financial assistance and many other aspects of business ownership that are essential to making your dreams a reality.

Another thing you need to know before launching your business are the prevailing trends in relevant markets. This is something that is specific to your area and can’t be learned at college.

Whether or not you pursue a degree, it’s important to be familiar with what competition your business is likely to face and the demographic of potential customers in your town or city before setting out on your entrepreneurial journey. A solid knowledge of these things will make you better prepared when it comes to future plans for pricing and marketing.

Being Smart

One potential downfall of having a college degree is a false sense of security. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you’re as prepared as you can be to start up and manage your business, but being an entrepreneur requires both humility and adaptability.

Many others have gone through this experience before you, and there is knowledge to be gained from both their successes and their failures. Take the time to read up on successful entrepreneurs of the past and, if possible, seek out local small business owners and talk with them about their experiences.

This knowledge can prove to be far more valuable than anything learned in a classroom, since it is working knowledge of how businesses operate when basic ideas are put into practice.

On the other hand, not pursuing a degree can have its own drawbacks. Learning from experience is a good way to see the business world in action, but you often wind up learning the hard way what works and what doesn’t. Having business, marketing and finance classes under your belt gives you knowledge of how to approach the trickier aspects of the entrepreneurial world.

A college degree is by no means necessary to start and maintain a successful business. In fact, oftentimes reading, research and close observation of current markets can provide you the knowledge that you need to take an idea and turn it into a profitable endeavor.

Yet having a degree doesn’t hurt either. The foundation provided by a college degree is solid and reliable, so depending on where your entrepreneurial endeavors take you; it may be a good idea to pursue higher education before starting up your business.

Hey! You! Yep, talkin’ to you buddy. You just read this post didn’t you? Did you like it? Love it? Hate it? Tell us about it in the comments, and don’t forget to share it with your buds if you totally adored it. I promise I won’t sue. 😉

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