Do you have an idea for a new business that you’re passionate about? That inspiration is a necessary first step to becoming an entrepreneur.
However, in order to launch a business and make it successful, you also need the know-how to make it work. That’s where a business and management degree fits into your career trajectory. It's beneficial to pursue a college degree first, rather than trying to start your first company right after high school graduation.
This begs the question: What is the best degree for an entrepreneur? There actually is no universal best degree for entrepreneurs. Rather, you have a range of choices to consider. The most important framework that you can develop is a system of maximum experimentation. At GCU, we call this first principles thinking layered onto agile project management. We learn from failure!
The best degrees for business owners are those that provide a thorough grounding in what it takes to develop an idea into a business, create a structure for the company, and operate the business on a daily basis. Keep reading to explore some of the best degrees to prepare you to start your own business and your own answer to the question, What is the best degree for an entrepreneur?
In This Article:
- Best Degree for Entrepreneurs
- The Best Degrees for Business Owners
- Alternatives to a Business and Management Degree
- What Degree Do You Need to Be an Entrepreneur?
- Find Your Purpose as an Entrepreneur With Canyon Ventures
Best Degrees for Entrepreneurs
Optimal degree programs for entrepreneurs challenge them to look at the world from different perspectives. What you learn in class and from your peers may inspire you to refine your idea in unanticipated ways. Throughout your business degree program, you will develop the following crucial skills for entrepreneurial success:
- First principles thinking
- Analytical reasoning
- Ethical decision-making
- Servant leadership
- Global perspective
Your degree program will also teach you the fundamentals of business operations, accounting, marketing and more. Further, you’ll develop and hone your written and oral communication skills. These skills are vital for all entrepreneurs, regardless of industry.
In short, one possible answer to the question: When asking what degree do you need to be an entrepreneur, you'll want a degree that offers a well-rounded curriculum that instills critical thinking, analytical reasoning and communication skills, as well as business-specific competencies.
The Best Degrees for Business Owners
If owning your own business is something that excites you, there are many options available to gain the necessary skills in leadership. These include degrees designed specifically for aspiring entrepreneurs, such as a bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurial studies or applied entrepreneurship.
The best degrees for business owners will teach you to analyze a business idea critically, develop a business plan and model, seek venture funding and run the day-to-day affairs of your business. You’re also likely to learn about the following:
- Organizational behavior and management
- Project management
- Accounting and business finance
- Microeconomics and macroeconomics
- Ethical and legal issues relevant to business owners
As you progress through your studies for an entrepreneur-specific degree, you are likely to tackle assignments with real-life applications. For instance, you might be asked to develop a comprehensive business plan for your business idea. You will need to conduct market research, develop advertising strategies and consider modern challenges in business and management.
These exercises can prepare you to tackle these issues in the real world when you graduate with your degree. Consider using your own business idea, if you have one, and applying your classroom exercises to it. You’ll get actionable feedback from your instructors and peers on matters such as your business plan and market research.
By the time you graduate, you’ll have a thorough understanding of what it truly takes to make a company succeed.
Alternatives to a Business and Management Degree
Not all entrepreneurs have a degree in entrepreneurial studies or applied entrepreneurship. It’s entirely possible to develop and launch a successful company with a different set of academic credentials.
Consider Earning an Accounting Degree
Pursuing a BS in Accounting degree is appropriate for aspiring Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) who wish to own their own CPA business. However, it can also be useful for future entrepreneurs who would like to enter any other industry. After all, an accounting degree will teach you how to keep your business books and finances balanced — critical skills for any entrepreneur.
Is a Marketing Degree Right for You?
Another excellent degree for entrepreneurs is a BS in Marketing and Advertising. Your future marketing campaigns will be the lifeline of your company. Campaigns promote your products or services and increase brand awareness. While earning a marketing degree, you’ll explore the fundamentals of consumer behavior, best practices in developing advertising campaigns and the process of conducting market research.
As your company grows, you may later hire a dedicated marketer or outsource your marketing needs to a marketing agency. In the beginning, however, many entrepreneurs who launch small businesses handle their own marketing.
Consider Earning an Industry-Specific Degree
Depending on your business goals, you may also wish to consider a less traditional degree option. For instance, suppose you aspire to open your own sports management agency. In this case, it might make the most sense to earn a BS in Sports and Entertainment Management.
Similarly, for someone who intends to start and run a public relations firm, a degree in communications may be the best choice. Of course, if you are not yet sure what kind of business you will launch, a degree in entrepreneurial studies or applied entrepreneurship is a strategic choice, offering skills applicable to all industries.
What Degree Do You Need to Be an Entrepreneur?
Consider the following degrees to earn prior to becoming an entrepreneur
Consider Earning an MBA Degree
A Master in Business Administration (MBA) degree isn’t strictly necessary for launching your own company. However, for every entrepreneur without a degree whose business succeeds, there are countless more whose businesses fail.
This is because it takes much more than a good idea to make a business succeed. An MBA program will not only teach you how to launch your business, it will also teach you how to sustain it far into the future. It’s not easy to navigate the transitions from idea to start-up, and from start-up to an established business, which is why the skills you’ll learn in an MBA program are so vital.
Consider the following benefits of enrolling in an MBA program:
- Idea incubator: When you test out business ideas in the real world, you’re putting real money on the line. If an idea fails, you may end up in serious financial trouble. An MBA program acts as an incubator for your best business ideas, allowing you to test them out, refine them and take risks without having to suffer the real-world consequences of failure. Further, you’ll benefit from other like-minded professionals who may have different perspectives on your ideas. You’ll learn what works and what doesn’t before you implement your best idea in the real world.
- Unparalleled networking opportunities: If you ask any MBA graduate what the most valuable part of business school was, there is a good chance the answer will be the networking opportunities. An MBA program allows you to connect with classmates and instructors from all walks of life and areas of expertise. While you’re working through the curriculum, you just might meet your future business partner or perhaps the venture capitalist who will fund one of your major projects later down the road.
There is also a wide range of MBA specializations that allow you to gain experience that can help you develop your business. Your choice of specialization will depend on what kind of business you want to build. Some available MBA degree emphases include:
- Strategic Human Resource Management
- Health Systems Management
- Sports Business
- Project Management
Another Option Is an MSL Degree
Although MBA degrees are a solid option for rising undergraduates who aspire to become entrepreneurs, they aren’t the only possibility at the graduate level. Another option to consider is the Master of Science in Leadership (MSL) degree. An MSL degree helps learners prepare to tackle 21st century challenges by becoming ethical servant leaders of their organizations.
An MSL degree isn’t intended solely for aspiring entrepreneurs. Rather, it’s a good choice for anyone who aspires to a senior-level position — whether that position happens to be in the C-suite of a Fortune 500 company or the founder of a new start-up.
The curriculum will vary, depending on the school and specific program you choose. However, you can generally expect to study topics such as the following as you work toward your MSL degree:
- Ethical practices in business
- Communication principles in the workplace
- Leadership styles and team-leading
- Models and applications of ethical problem solving
- Coaching, influencing and mentoring strategies for business leaders
Find Your Purpose as an Entrepreneur With Canyon Ventures
One of the best ways to learn business is to do business therefore either start a company with IDEA Club and compete in the Canyon Challenge for startup money and workspace at GCU's Canyon Ventures, a startup business accelerator. Or work side-by-side with other investors in Canyon Angels and help fund startups from across the country.
Prospective undergraduate students are faced with some important decisions, such as where to attend college and which degree option to choose. If you decide to become a student at Grand Canyon University (GCU), you’ll enjoy plenty of opportunities to nurture your entrepreneurial spirit. For example, you may decide to become involved with Canyon Ventures.
Canyon Ventures is GCU’s startup incubator for local entrepreneurs. The program provides local entrepreneurs with the resources they need to launch and grow their companies. In turn, our business students have the opportunity to work with those startups, benefiting from mentorship, hands-on training activities and professional connections. Our GCU students even have the opportunity to start their own businesses through Canyon Ventures, either as a current student or after graduation.
If you intend to launch your own business, you can build a solid academic foundation for your future success by earning an entrepreneur-oriented degree at GCU. The Colangelo College of Business offers numerous degree options for eager learners, including the Bachelor of Science in Applied Entrepreneurship and the Bachelor of Science in Entrepreneurial Studies. Those who already hold an undergraduate degree may consider applying to one of our MBA programs.
Fill out the form on this page and a university counselor will reach out to help you further explore the best degrees for entrepreneurs.
Approved by the entrepreneurship chair for the Colangelo College of Business on March 21, 2023.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.