Do you need a degree in order to be a successful entrepreneur? Of course not, but in some industries, it can certainly be helpful. Only you can decide if a degree is necessary to grow your business, and this should include a cost-benefit analysis.
If you don’t have a full-ride scholarship is it worth it to take out a student loan or work in order to afford your schooling? Would you recommend that financial move to someone else?
There’s no one right answer, but there are some basic pros and cons to consider. The good news is you already know what you “want to be” when you grow up (even if you’ve been grown for years): An entrepreneur. Maybe you already have a small business off the ground or maybe you’re still in the incubating stage. No matter what your situation is, consider these situations when you should or maybe should not consider getting a degree:
1. Yes: A degree can offer fantastic networking.
If you’re in a really niche industry or you’ve been accepted to a renowned MBA program on a full-ride scholarship, your degree will double as networking. You can also get tips from CIO on how to network (in school or not), but university is where the opportunities are grand. You might meet a business partner, mentor or even investor here.
2. No: You’ve already learned from experience.
If you’ve spent 20 years as an executive and are considered an expert in your field already, a degree won’t help you much. There are two ways to gain knowledge: In the classroom and with experience. Experience ultimately trumps education. If you’ve already got it, why stall and waste money?
3. Yes: It impresses (some) people.
There are a few investors or other potential “helpers” you’ll encounter who’ll expect you to have a degree. Few entrepreneurs have what it takes to be the next Zuckerberg. A degree, to some, shows you are serious, dedicated, and have the smarts and commitment to see something through. It might not be true, but that’s the perspective some people have.
4. No: You are not a classroom learner.
There are all types of learners and not everyone is cut out for the classroom. If you’ve already figured that out and given it a fair shot, that’s okay. As long as you’ve found out how you can succeed and where your strengths are, you don’t need to struggle through a formal education.
5. Yes: Earn the skills you need.
This is true in some instances, like if you want to use a foundation in physics to create an academic publishing house. Technically, you can learn just about anything in college without a degree. However, for many people this is the fastest, easiest, and most direct route. Just make sure you choose the right university and program, starting with advice from The New York Times.
6. No: Your business is already picking up steam.
It can take years, a lot of money, and plenty of luck to actually turn an entrepreneurial dream into a reality. If you’re on the upswing, stopping for a formal education can put you on a downward spiral. Getting that momentum may never happen again, so it might be time to shelve college—for now.
Still can’t decide? Talk with a trusted mentor, counselor or other unbiased third-party. Getting as much feedback and perspective as you can will help you choose the right path.