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Real Talk: Do You Need a Business Degree to Be a Successful Entrepreneur?

Lucinda Watrous

Business is a popular college major, coming in at number four on the Princeton Review Top 10 College Majors list.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says more master’s degrees were awarded in Business than any other field in 2012 to 2013.

Whether you go for a bachelors or masters is up to you, but simply having the degree won’t translate to success.

What Does a Business Degree Involve?

Several colleges, both traditional and online, offer business administration degrees. Regardless of institution students will take courses covering a wide range of skills. Students will cover everything from ethics and business law to finance, management, communication and business writing.

With a business administration degree comes the choice of concentration. Students have the option to choose a more specialized area of study alongside their degree. While options vary from school to school, common ones include:

  • Small business management, entrepreneurship, business plan writing, E-commerce
  • Marketing, consumer behavior, market research, product strategy
  • International business
  • Finance
  • Supply chain management

Before you decide which concentration to focus on, take some time to think about what your end goals are, along with where you interest and talents lie.

If you’re interested in psychology, but don’t want to go into research or train to be a therapist, the marketing concentration could be perfect for you.

If you want to be involved in industrial work, but don’t have the skills to work with your hands, supply chain management would allow you to still land an industrial job.

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The Career Paths You Can Take

A business administration or management degree provides a variety of career options. Graduates can work with advertising agencies and public relations firms, hospitals, retailers, and even banks or manufacturing. Because of the variety of coursework in a program, business majors are well equipped to work in a variety of environments. 

Of course, the path you choose can largely be dictated by your choice of concentration. If you opt for a marketing concentration, you’d be better suited for advertising agencies, public relations firms, and similar positions that allow you to use your expertise in consumer psychology.

If you’re a number cruncher who’s chosen the finance concentration, you could easily land a job as an accountant or a commercial loan officer.

If you’re a people person, you could easily get a job as a sales manager. If you want to give back to the community, you could work as a manager in a non-profit organization.

So do you need a business administration degree? No, not necessarily. Lots of people have started and run their businesses without any sort of formal business administration education.

But, it really depends on what you want to do. If you’re not quite ready to take the plunge to work for yourself, but want to gain skills you can use in the future should you decide to take that route, a degree in business administration may not be a bad idea. But, there are other things to consider:

Related Article: Why An MBA Degree Isn't As Prestigious As It Once Was

  • Have you already been to college? If your area of study gives you expertise you can use to start your own business, you may not need to go get that business administration degree. For instance, if you’ve already got a degree in Web Design, you could easily start your own firm without going back to school.
  • If you’ve already got a degree, you may be able to transfer credits toward either a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in Business. Talk to an advisor at your prospective college to determine which credits will transfer. In many cases, you can earn your degree without quitting your day job, but only your new institution can let you know what credits will transfer. Accreditation issues between schools could mean you have to start over, so choose your school carefully.
  • What kind of business do you want to start? Business administration has a variety of applications but isn’t the same as entrepreneurship.
  • What kind of salary are you hoping to earn? Salaries vary greatly depending on the specific job, location, and type of degree. For example, a Small Business Administration (SBA) banking manager earns a median salary of $117,107, while a marketing specialist earns a median salary of $63,286.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports 7.3 million people between the ages of 25 and 64, hold business degrees and work full-time year round. 5.6 million of those people have bachelor’s degrees while 1.4 million have master’s degrees. Another 235,000 have professional degrees, and 60,000 have doctorate degrees.

Whether you get a degree or not, business can be a rewarding career choice. You can create success with or without a degree, and the decision to enroll in a program is highly personal. Only you know what your goals are, and if a degree will help you achieve them faster.

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Lucinda Watrous Member
Lucinda Watrous is a freelance writer and web designer nestled in the mountains of western North Carolina. She's a tech geek, foodie, and research junkie. She writes about a little bit of everything.