students in an entrepreneurship workshop

3 Reasons to Get an Entrepreneurship Degree

This article was written by Becky Bocklage, Director, Fishman Center for Entrepreneurship at Columbia College.

Have you ever met a person who, when asked what they wanted to be professionally, answered "an entrepreneur?" Not very often, right? Usually, they say they want to be an accountant, detective or counselor. While the word "entrepreneur" is a title just as the others are, the discipline of entrepreneurship is usually viewed as a supplementary pursuit. We think that most people are doctors or coaches who also happen to be entrepreneurs. 

Here's a really groundbreaking idea: It is possible to begin your education, or pivot in your career path, and aspire only to be an entrepreneur. Yes, train for that goal first and look for opportunities as a second action. 

Here are three compelling reasons to get an education in entrepreneurship:

  1. Doors will be opened to you
  2. Business experts recommend it
  3. Pursuing a degree in entrepreneurship will give you tools for success

Let me explain. First, successful entrepreneurs are respected and viewed as experts in business. Their opinions are solicited, and their story is told and retold as a beacon to the possible. And you don't have to build a $30 million enterprise to get this notice. Even a side hustle gives you valuable experience and a resume line that cannot be beat. 

Consider the saying, "If you always do what you've always done, you will always get what you always got." Little firms, big firms, startups and established firms need to hire people with the mindset and understanding of an entrepreneur. Especially in an economy that is emerging from a significant recession, the U.S. needs to tap our innovators. Opportunities are presenting themselves, and talent that can look at a situation from a different perspective will be valued — and rewarded. 

My second point is that business experts recommend a college degree, even for entrepreneurs. In a survey of Inc. 500 CEOs, 50 percent had a college degree when they started their business, but 64 percent recommended a degree before launching. This is not surprising when you consider these are the reponses of "the CEOs of the fastest-growing companies." 

There is more to a launch than just the startup phase. Designing and developing the organizational structure that supports growth and continued viability, and ultimately, the long-term success of the venture is also an important job of the founder. Business failures are attributed to the inability of firms to manage growth. Which leads me to compelling reason number three. 

Commonly cited reasons that startups don't succeed can be boiled down to a lack of training in all things business. Insufficient understanding of marketing and market research, deficient knowledge in how to attract and develop a team and financial ineptitude are common for untrained entrepreneurs. We can name many symptoms of these, but the bottom line is that a solid background in the study of business will position an entrepreneur for success. In college, you will take classes in management, marketing, finance, accounting and more, all of which will lay a solid base from which you can launch — your own new venture or from within someone else's. A degree in entrepreneurship will position you well either way. 

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