By Murray Newlands
Over the past three years I have been teaching Entrepreneurship at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. I see 100 new students come through my class each year, and almost all of them ask me if getting a degree is worth it.
The answer is that it really depends on you. Today, you can get both an undergraduate and graduate degree in entrepreneurship from an accredited university. In fact, these types of specialized business programs are becoming more and more common, and there are even more specializations available within traditional MBA programs.
But there’s a big difference between a business degree and an entrepreneurship degree — just like there’s a big difference between being a business owner or manager and being an entrepreneur. So what do these programs really look like, and are they worth it?
Expanding Your Options
Let’s look at two of your options. At the University of Houston’s Bauer College of Business, the Entrepreneurship program involves traditional classroom learning with apprenticeships and real-world experience. The titles of the courses include Entrepreneurship Overview, Intrapreneurship, Entrepreneurial Revenues, Entrepreneurial Costs & Budgets, Entrepreneur Capital, Entrepreneur Strategy & Perspectives, and Entrepreneurship Business Plan & Perspective.
At Babson College’s Entrepreneurship Center, students also combine class curriculum with internships and other means of getting involved with real-world entrepreneurial ventures. As an undergraduate, your entire first year is spent in the Foundations of Management and Entrepreneurship track. Electives are focused on topics like marketing, information tech, operations management and the like. There is also a graduate program, which requires a complementary capstone course and courses like Managing Talent: Your Own and Others.
These are just a couple of U.S. universities offering degrees in entrepreneurship and unfortunately (just like an entrepreneurial venture) there’s no guarantee they’re “worth it” or not. It’s the same with any other degree. The entire experience is what you make of it and what you want to get out of it. They may fit you better or worse than another candidate.
In terms of cost, it varies greatly between University of Houston’s in-state, $9,000 per-year tuition and Babson’s $40,000 yearly price tag. Only you can decide what you’re willing to pay. Some colleges in the U.S. run as much as $60,000+ a year.
DIY: The Entrepreneurial Way
How many successful entrepreneurs would recommend a bachelor’s degree followed by a graduate degree in entrepreneurship? No survey has been conducted to my knowledge, but it probably wouldn’t be an overwhelming majority. After all, entrepreneurs are time-driven risk takers and might not see the best ROI in taking such a costly and relatively time-consuming approach. This doesn’t mean a college degree is useless for entrepreneurs, but it might mean that it shouldn’t be the sole foundation for your dreams.
It’s too early to tell just how successful the newer programs will be, though some (like Babson) have been around for nearly 20 years. Just like any other educational program, only you can decide if it’s ultimately a good investment for your life.
So if you’re asking yourself whether a degree in entrepreneurship is worth it, you need to dig deep within yourself to determine what you want. If you’re looking to become an entrepreneur, this might just be the best way for you to learn every aspect of a business and really understand what it’s like to be a startup founder. It’s not easy, but to some it’s more than worth the cost.
Murray Newlands is the founder of Influence People, a marketing agency helping entrepreneurs from around the globe to succeed online.