Are Small Business Degrees For the Entrepreneur?

The topic of formal education is often on the minds of entrepreneurs as they begin their journey the problem is formal education can be expensive and requires a great deal of time. So what does one really get from such a program and is it worth all of the investment? Only you will ultimately know the answer to this but to help you out I have compiled a quick Q and A to address common concerns.

What is a Small Business Degree?

A “small business degree” is a loose term that can refer to many degrees but are generally focused on management and administration. These degrees can be specific to a single area of business such as accounting or human resources or they can be as broad as addressing an entire industry. Degrees such as an MBA (Masters in Business Administration) are a higher level degree designed to augment one’s business prowess regardless of the industry they are in.

While we at Shy Entrepreneur maintain that small business falls under a different paradigm than large business the vast majority of degrees don’t make this distinction. If you are entertaining the idea of pursuing a business degree know what area you want to go after before simply obtaining formal education.    

Do you need a business degree to start a business?

The short answer to this is no. However the more you know about your industry and business in general the more likely you will be to succeed. As I review the performance of all types of businesses the predominant thread that leads to either success or failure is the intellectual or human capital available to the company. In other words the people and what they know are the heart of any organization and a small business is generally a one man show.

I am a fan of formal education and would advise most to obtain what they can. That said I also recognize that formal education is not everything and a driven entrepreneur can make it quite fare without it. In some cases formal education can be a roadblock to an entrepreneurial venture.

This may sound silly but another thing that formal education provides is the knowledge of what those formally trained know. By this I mean you don’t have to wonder what someone with an MBA has over you because you have one yourself. The catch 22 here is once you obtain the education you still have to prove you can achieve results. Just because you jumped through the hoop doesn’t mean everything from that point on will come to you on a silver platter. In the end it all comes down to how you use your education. If you leverage a degree for your own edification you are using it as an employer or business owner. If you leverage a degree simply to have it as a credential then you are using it as an employee.       

What degree is best for a small business owner?

The answer to this question will differ depending on how you want to use the degree but so long as the degree is from an accredited university any type of business administration or management degree will come in handy. Make sure business or contract law is part of the curriculum. Knowing contract law was one of the most helpful pieces of knowledge in my early career. It isn’t supper complicated and you don’t need to be a master at it. If you know the building blocks of an agreement and what makes one legitimate you can quickly dismiss fraudulent claims and understand what needs to exist for a deal to really be a deal.

A business law course should also go into the different types of business structures, how they are formed, and when each is required. As an example did you know that you can create any number of shares when you create a corporation and it doesn’t cost you a thing, but if you decide later on you want to change the number of shares fees are involved to do so.

I would also say that if you are in a vertical industry (one that is very specific in scope) it may be most advantageous to go after programs specific to what you do. For example a piano tuner may be better served with a degree in piano tuning than one in management or administration.    

Are online degree programs accredited?

The short answer is yes and no. Depending on the institution and the degree you are going after some are accredited and others are not. Be sure to check on the program itself because an accredited college can offer a non-accredited program. Getting accredited is no small task. As an example Eastern Washington University, a university with many accredited colleges, didn’t have a full ME program until it pushed through its first graduating class under the 4 year program. This means those first students were taking a bit of a gamble when they signed up.

Can online courses be transferred to a four year college?

This will depend on the online program and the four year college. The only way to hedge this is to check with both before getting started. If you are not sure which colleges you want to go to try to stick with ones that are accredited. Even if the school you are looking into is accredited it doesn’t mean everything will transfer. I know of a gal who took care of two years of college while still in high school only to find out that Stanford would take them but the local university would not. It is a bit of a game but if you are diligent you will be able to find a match that will work for you.  

Well, I hope this was helpful in guiding you on the right path. Remember that everyone’s path is unique and there is no one proven way to insure your success. You will get out of your education what you put into it formal or otherwise.

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