What Degree Do You Need to Start Your Own Business? A Complete Guide

Whether you are planning to take over the family business or starting a new business from scratch, you may be wondering: Do I need a degree to run my own business?

This is a logical question for aspiring business owners to ask. Operating your own business is not easy, especially if you are just starting out.

Of course, you want to do everything possible to set yourself up for success when you start your own business, but getting a college degree requires a lot of time and money. If you decide to go that route, you want to make sure your investment is worth it.

Your success as a business owner will be determined by the economy, the market for your particular industry and product, and your own knowledge and skills and how you use them.

With so many factors involved in your success, a degree can offer many benefits and provide a solid foundation to build on.

Opening your own business is an exciting endeavor that offers great potential for financial and personal fulfillment. However, starting a business also involves significant risk and hard work. As an aspiring entrepreneur, you may wonder if getting a college degree is necessary or helpful for launching a successful startup. Here is a complete guide on the degrees and education paths to consider when preparing to open your own business.

Is a Degree Required to Start a Business?

The quick answer is no—there is no legal requirement to have a college degree in order to start a business. Many hugely successful founders and entrepreneurs—like Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Richard Branson, and Oprah Winfrey—started their companies without a college degree.

However, statistics show that most entrepreneurs have at least some college education

  • 79% of business owners have a college degree.
  • 47% of business owners have a bachelor’s degree.
  • 20% have an associate degree.
  • 12% have a master’s degree.

So while you don’t need a degree to open a business, having one can help provide knowledge, skills, and connections that make success more likely Let’s look at some of the key potential benefits of getting a degree before entrepreneurship

Benefits of Earning a Degree Before Starting a Business

Though not universally required, there are good reasons why a college degree can better equip you for entrepreneurial success:

Gain Foundational Business Knowledge

A college business program will teach you the essentials of starting and managing a company This includes key concepts like

  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • Human resources
  • Business law
  • Sales
  • Economics

Having this core knowledge can help you avoid rookie mistakes and get your business off the ground more smoothly.

Develop In-Demand Skills

Beyond specific business skills, a college degree helps you build transferable abilities like:

  • Communication
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem-solving
  • Time management
  • Research
  • Data analysis
  • Leadership

These skills allow you to wear many hats and thrive in a startup environment.

Grow Your Network

In college you’ll meet peers, professors, guest lecturers, and alumni who can become valuable connections. These relationships can help you with funding, partnerships, hiring, mentorship, and more down the road.

Gain Credibility

Earning a degree shows dedication and worthiness of trust. This can make it easier to get loans, win over investors and partners, attract top talent to your team, and bring on high-profile clients.

Overall, a degree lays a strong, multifaceted foundation for commercial success. Next, let’s look at which degrees are most useful.

Helpful Degrees for Entrepreneurs

Not all degrees are created equal when it comes to starting a business. Some areas of study are more directly relevant and helpful. Here are some of the top degrees to consider:

Business Administration

A business administration degree is arguably the most universal path to launching your own company. Variations of this degree include:

  • Business management
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Small business management

This type of program covers all the core topics like marketing, accounting, finance, human resources, operations management, business law, economics, and more. You graduate with well-rounded fundamental business knowledge.


For consumer product companies, marketing is especially critical. A marketing degree teaches advertising, market research, branding, PR, social media marketing, and effective selling techniques. This helps entrepreneurs promote and position their company strategically.


Finance helps entrepreneurs understand capital, cash flow, investments, profitability metrics, and accounting—keys to acquiring funding and managing a company’s financial health.

Information Systems

For tech companies, an information systems degree provides software development skills to build products or digital platforms. It also teaches how to manage data and analytics.


Strong communication is vital for pitching ideas, motivating teams, negotiating deals, resolving conflicts, and sales. A communications degree develops written, verbal, interpersonal, and public speaking skills.


For entrepreneurs with products requiring advanced technical design like medical devices, a degree in engineering (mechanical, electrical, chemical, etc.) can provide that specialized knowledge.

In addition to these focused bachelor’s degrees, an MBA is also a prized credential among entrepreneurs.

Master of Business Administration (MBA)

Earning an MBA after your bachelor’s degree can provide several advantages:

  • MBA programs offer advanced courses in entrepreneurship, investment strategies, branding, leadership, and more.

  • You gain access to business connections, mentorship, incubators, and accelerators.

  • An MBA signals prestige, expertise, and management potential to investors.

Top entrepreneurs who have MBAs include Michael Bloomberg, Phil Knight, Pierre Omidyar, Sheldon Adelson, and J. Willard Marriott.

So while not always mandatory, the right bachelor’s or master’s degree can set you up for startup success in many ways. Let’s now look at some alternative options.

Other Paths to Gain Entrepreneurship Knowledge

If a full degree isn’t the right choice due to cost, time, or other factors, here are a few alternative ideas for getting educated:

Take Individual Courses

Enroll in specific entrepreneurship, marketing, finance, or management courses at a local community college or university on a non-degree basis. This lets you build skills in areas you need help.

Earn a Certificate

Many schools offer short entrepreneurship certificate programs focused on startup basics in a fast, affordable way. These take less time than a full degree.

Find a Mentor

Learn from someone who has done it before. A successful entrepreneur can mentor you and share invaluable first-hand advice.

Attend Workshops and Conferences

Look for local meetup groups, workshops, and entrepreneur-focused conferences to learn and network.

Leverage Free Online Resources

Utilize free online courses, podcasts, blogs, videos, and articles to soak up as much knowledge as possible for little or no cost.

With the right amount of dedication and effort, it’s possible to gain a solid entrepreneurship education without a formal college degree.

Key Takeaways: Do You Need a Degree to Start a Business?

While there is no absolute requirement for a college degree to open a business, the statistics show most entrepreneurs have some level of college education. Earning a relevant degree like business, marketing, finance, or communications can provide knowledge, skills, and connections that facilitate startup success.

However, many famous founders have proven it’s possible to build hugely successful companies without a degree through innate talent, determination, and business savvy. For those without degrees, focusing on alternative education through online resources, workshops, mentors, and specialized courses can help fill experience gaps.

Overall, see college as one potential path—but not the only path—to gaining the expertise needed to accomplish your entrepreneurial dreams. With thorough preparation, tenacity, and a great idea, your startup can succeed with or without a diploma.

degree needed to open your own business

But what are some of the reasons for not getting a degree?

The financial investment as well as the time it takes to earn a degree are probably the biggest considerations, but there are others.

A degree will teach you useful skills, but there are some skills you may already have that do not require a degree, such as critical thinking, problem solving, and leadership skills.

Or maybe you inherited your family business and learned the skills you need during a lifetime of on-the-job training.

If you’re not sold on the idea of earning a business degree, you might be wondering if there are additional options to learn business best practices.

Some alternatives to traditional degree programs include:

  • Take classes
  • Getting career-relevant certificates
  • Attending conferences
  • Working with a mentor
  • Joining a professional society or club

Some states require business owners to be licensed to perform work in specific professions, including the health professions and others. You can get licensed to open your own business, and in that way add to your skill set and broaden your knowledge.

If you want to increase your knowledge in one aspect of your business, getting a certification from a reputable company can give you invaluable tools. For example, an IT certification could help you expand the services your business offers, or you could get a general certification available for small business owners, such as the Certiport Entrepreneurship and Small Business (ESB) certification.

Just as the different types of businesses vary widely, so do the opportunities you have to gain the knowledge and skills you need to be successful.

If you want to learn to run a business, you can do it without earning a degree, but unless you already have a lot of experience or you have natural talent and ability, it may take you a lot longer.

You’ll Acquire Specialized Knowledge and Industry-Specific Expertise

Tailoring your degree to your interests can help you develop the specialized knowledge and skills you need for your specific industry.

These are hard skills, or competencies that help a company solve problems. They are measurable abilities to perform tasks such as writing JavaScript, designing a marketing campaign, or analyzing data.

How to Legally Start a Business – 8 Steps

What degrees can help you start a business?

Here are five degrees that can help you start a business: 1. Business administration A business degree is a popular choice for many entrepreneurs. Getting a bachelor’s or master’s degree in business can introduce aspiring business owners to important topics like business strategy, data analysis and leadership skills.

How do I become a business owner?

The most important thing you need is a passion for the field you are entering, as well as dedication, hard work, and a willingness to learn as much as you can. But, it might be a good idea to get some kind of degree or additional education. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 50% of business owners have a bachelor’s degree.

Should a business owner get a degree?

But, it might be a good idea to get some kind of degree or additional education. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 50% of business owners have a bachelor’s degree. But what are some of the reasons for not getting a degree?

What degree do you need to start a small business?

Some students who want to start and grow a small business earn a master’s degree in finance. However, a bachelor’s degree provides enough useful knowledge and skills for maintaining a business. Programs include courses in accounting, investments, entrepreneurial finance, portfolio management, asset management, securities and related topics.

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