Here Are Some of the Best Continuing Education Options for Entrepreneurs Looking to learn more before launching your business? From online courses to certification programs to schooling abroad, here's a rundown of your options.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Entrepreneurs generally love to learn. Whether it's attending conferences, working with mentors or evaluating their own successes and failures, learning is a core function of any entrepreneurial venture. Some aim to learn on the go, while others prefer to gain specific skills in a more traditional educational setting. If you count yourself among the latter, here's a rundown of continuing education options that could benefit you as an entrepreneur.
Before You Jump In
We all have our preferred method of learning, whether it's hands-on, reading, lectures, projects or something else entirely. So once you've decided to start a formal education process, begin by asking yourself how you learn best -- and use that to choose the best educational setting for your needs.
Next, know what you don't know. In other words, what are the gaps in your entrepreneurial education that you want to fill? Maybe you need a basic understanding of accounting or a better understanding of a product life cycle. Once you've identified your need, narrow your search to those areas to avoid being overwhelmed by choices or distracted by a topic that won't serve you or your business.
Finally, make sure that the course will be worth your time. Look for classes taught by instructors with meaningful experience in the topic being taught. Make sure there are clearly defined course takeaways and data on former students' success. Always lean towards classes that have requirements beyond simply showing up. You want a class that incorporates hands-on learning and experience.
There are thousands of online courses available for entrepreneurs, with topics ranging from growing your business to podcasting. Many are free, andand some are offered through Harvard, MIT and other institutions. Websites like Udemy offer a selection of instructor-taught business courses with fees ranging from about $12 to $25.
If you want your online course to build towards a degree or certification, you have several options. Coursera offers classes accepted by many well-known colleges and universities across the country, including the University of Illinois, Stanford University and Johns Hopkins University. Alison offers both certificate and college-credit classes under their Entrepreneur category, and many of them are free. In addition, many colleges and universities offer their own online programs, often at lower costs than their on-campus classes.
U.S. College and University Certification Programs
Many colleges and universities now offer specific courses in entrepreneurship, and they're often formatted as full-time three-month certification programs, either on campus or online, which can help limit your time away from your business as you pursue your education. Few programs have an application process, so interested individuals can simply sign up, pay the fee and begin. Note that the costs of these certifications can be high, ranging from $2,000 to $11,000 depending on the provider and the length of the program.
Options include Harvard University's Innovation and Entrepreneurship Certificate, Rice University's Essentials of Entrepreneurship Certificate and the University of California, Irvine's Accelerated Certificate Program for Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship. These are only a few examples of certification programs available across the country.
For entrepreneurs interested in growing an international business -- or who are simply looking for an adventure as well as an education -- there are several international schools that offer entrepreneurship certifications or summer programs. A program abroad can provide a new perspective on entrepreneurship while allowing you to network with people from around the world. For example, Oxford Summer School offers a course for students 18 to 25 years of age called Global Business, Management and Finance. The London School of Business offers an Entrepreneurship Summer School as part of the school's Strategy and Entrepreneurship program, which is open to all ages. And if you're multi-lingual, there are short courses available worldwide.