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Do You Need a Degree to Start Your Own Business?

Jan 24, 2013 Jennifer Williamson, Distance Columnist | 0 Comments

If you want to go into business for yourself, you might feel you need a Bachelor’s degree first—or an MBA. But while a degree can help you in some industries and situations, it isn’t always necessary. Here are a few things to consider when deciding whether to go back to school before opening your own business.

Does the law require a certain amount of education?

Some professions are heavily regulated by law and require a certain type of degree from a school with a certain type of accreditation. For example, psychologists must have a Ph.D. in Psychology or a Psy.D.; doctors must have a medical degree; and lawyers must graduate
from an ABA-accredited law school. It’s not unusual for
people in all of these professions to start their own
businesses—but first they need a license to practice
in their state, and that generally requires a certain type
of education.

Does your industry expect a certain amount of education?

In some industries, the law doesn’t require a certain degree in order to practice—but the industry expects it. In some fields, certain professional certifications are popular with employers and require a specific type of degree as a minimum to qualify. Sometimes this requirement can be replaced with work experience—but not always.

How complex is your business?

Starting a hedge fund and becoming a graphic designer are two very different propositions. In some professions, all you need is a website and an Internet connection. In others, you really do need specialized expertise beyond your existing knowledge of your field.

Do your clients expect to see a degree?

In some professions, education matters less than experience, product, or results. For instance, clients likely won’t care where a web designer went to school as long as his or her portfolio looks great and has examples in their industry. Restaurant patrons won’t care if the owner has a degree in tourism management as long as the food is good. If you’re expecting to be a business consultant, however, chances are your employers will expect to see an MBA or another higher-level degree in business.

Do your competitors have degrees?

If you aren’t sure what your industry and potential clients will expect, do some research into the people who have careers similar to what you want. Do they all have Bachelor’s degrees or MBA degrees or doctoral-level degrees? Are accredited online degree programs as accepted as traditional degrees? This information will tell you what type of degree will help you get ahead.

Do you have the required work experience?

In some cases, you can get away with no degree at all if you have spectacular work experience and connections. In cases where you don’t, however, you may need to make up for this lack by earning a degree. This can also be true if you’re looking to transition to a different field. However, a professional certification may be more appropriate in these cases than a full degree—so do your research and make sure you’re not undertaking more schooling than you need.

Starting your own business isn’t easy. A degree in business or in your field can make the process easier—and give you some valuable insight into your new job and industry. However, it’s not required in all cases. To determine whether it’s appropriate for you to go back to school, find out whether a type of degree is required by law in your state; what your industry expects to see; and what types of degrees your competitors have. With this information, you should be able to make a solid decision about whether or not you need to earn a degree.


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