It’s a question that not even entrepreneurs can seem to agree on: is acquiring an MBA necessary to become a successful entrepreneur.
Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal, says no. In fact, in 2011 Thiel launched his own fellowship which actually incentivized students to leave college in order to start their own businesses. Successful applicants would receive $100,000 to turn their idea into the next big thing.
On the other hand – many argue that a higher education is an ideal time to become an entrepreneur because of the education, network, and flexibility. Mark Zuckerberg is the prime example of a college student who identified a need, found a team, and built a business – all of which started in college.
The statistics are similarly inconsistent – a 2017 study from CNBC and SurveyMonkey found that 44% of small business owners had either a college or post-graduate degree such as an MBA. About half of all entrepreneurs had gone to college.
So the question remains: do you need an MBA to become an entrepreneur? Here are 3 questions you can ask yourself to find the answer that’s right for you.
How Do You Learn?
The truth is that acquiring an MBA isn’t for everyone. If you are interested in learning about business but know that a classroom and textbooks just aren’t how you are best able to learn, perhaps there are other ways to start building a business education. Consider if there are internships, online offerings, workshops, or business incubators that might help you learn in the way that works best for you.
Alternatively, if you do thrive in an academic setting, college might be the perfect grounds for you to gain the education and make the connections that can help jumpstart your entrepreneurial venture. It’s all in how you learn.
What Do You Need To Learn?
The next question to ask yourself is what you need to learn. Understanding your skills, your competitive advantage, and most importantly, your gaps. Knowing where you require a stronger education will help dictate whether or not if an MBA is suitable.
The second part of this question is identifying who is the best person to teach you what you need to know. While it may be a professor, it might also be a mentor, a current business leader, or a subject matter expert in the field you want to start your business in. There are so many brilliant teachers out there – and many of them exist outside the walls of a classroom.
What Else Are You Interested In?
Entrepreneurship is an incredible way to make a living. It’s appealing, it’s flexible, it comes with control and ownership, and it’s fun. When you are just starting out, it’s easy to think that you would be more than happy to be an entrepreneur for the duration of your career.
The reality is that for many, that’s just not an option. Entrepreneurship is hard, and many entrepreneurs end up working in other careers at points along the way.
Have an understanding where else your interest may lie. It’s still worthwhile to try your hand at entrepreneurship if the passion is there, but it’s also important to know what else you are good at, and what else will make you happy.
There’s no easy answer to the question of whether or not you need an MBA to be a good entrepreneur. Whether you choose pursuing college or not, it’s about your willingness to learn from mentors and experts who can help advance your career as an entrepreneur. But most importantly, it’s about combining theoretical concepts with practice, experiencing trial and error, and demonstrating growth by learning from your mistakes in life.
What do you think? Do you need to go to college to be a good entrepreneur? Leave a comment and let me know!