The popular image of an entrepreneur is of a college dropout who invents the next big thing in their garage. In reality, those are the stories we tell each other because they are the interesting exceptions. Most successful business owners are college-educated, though there is no one degree that guarantees success in business. Yet there are degrees that teach the skills and knowledge they need to maximize their odds for success. Here are the five most useful degrees for entrepreneurs.
Business majors are taught the basics of business. This includes at a minimum accounting, finance, marketing and managing people. You’ll spend a lot of time studying businesses that were successful as well as those that failed; this decreases the odds you’ll make the same mistakes yourself. If you don’t end up starting a business, you’ll still be in demand by those who are starting a business or expanding one. Note that you could earn a business degree while still pursuing your passion, since the knowledge you gain here could let you build a translation business or fund an art project.
Accounting and finance are intrinsically tied to business. We’d recommend finance over accounting, since it teaches you how to make predictions of the future in addition to reports on your previous financial performance. You’ll be able to assess progress toward goals and determine the best investments for your money. If you have this degree, your venture will be taken more seriously by potential investors.
The explosive growth of Big Data means that economists and statisticians rule. An economics degree teaches you many of the same skills statisticians have while giving you a broader range of business skills. If you already have a college degree, you could earn a Master of Science in Applied Economics from Boston College. A Boston economics degree will teach you how to make data-driven decisions for your business, regardless of the industry you’re working in.
There is a definite benefit to learning psychology, and it isn’t being able to open your own practice. Instead, it is learning how people really think. Then you can market to them in ways that reach them and shape their behavior. Whether you use that knowledge to sell products or better understand how they really use the product so you can improve the design, psychology is something you’d want to learn about. If you want something more specific and guaranteed to open up job opportunities, opt for a marketing degree instead. Then you could market your own product or someone else’s.
Given the sheer importance of computers and IT, earning a degree in this area prepares you to enter any tech startup – or start your own. Remember that a lot of people have started businesses creating apps and building websites. If you already have business skills, you could move into the field as soon as you learn the necessary technical skills. Others choose to set up an online storefront and go into business that way. It is possible to earn a degree in e-commerce, an interesting hybrid of IT and business.
If you aren’t interested in learning advanced IT, another option is learning graphic design. Learn the basics of UX (user experience) and website design, and you’ll differentiate yourself in this crowded field.
Those who start successful businesses without a formal education are the exception, not the rule. Going for the right major can give you the knowledge and skills you need to maximize the odds your startup succeeds.