By Sidnee Peck, Director
Center for Entrepreneurship
Question: Should I get a degree if I want to start a business?
Answer: I have personally seen the effects of education in various ways. My work history includes corporate roles, time as a tech-startup entrepreneur and now, a position as an entrepreneurship educator. For me, getting my MBA was life-changing. Not only did I significantly grow my skills, but I also met my business partner in school and took the proverbial entrepreneurship “leap.”
I am not alone. We see many stories of students who had life-changing experiences in either undergraduate or graduate schooling. Some met their mate, or like me, they met their business partner or they were led to their new business ideas by being exposed to new viewpoints or developing new skill sets and expertise. It is true that going to school is not the only way to meet new, smart people or to learn new things, but it is a very effective way.
If you are exploring starting your own company, and you think that getting another degree will catapult you to success, then think about these things:
Are you trying to develop a new skill? For example, if you want to learn to code or design websites, then explore programs that are at your local university, as well as programs online like Codecademy. You should take into consideration the flexibility of the program (do you want to do it in your free time or be completely immersed?), the price (know the full cost and what you’re getting for it) and the likely results (read reviews or talk to others who have graduated or gone through the program). Some places teach things in a more traditional way, and some are much more cutting edge. Know the content and the approach.
Are you trying to find a business partner? Oh, how I wish it were this easy. Going to school will not necessarily magically deliver you a business partner, but you might be on the right track. Putting yourself in an environment with people who have the chops you want is the right ticket. Merely being in the college environment has a special feeling about it. Creativity is maximized, and meeting new people and sharing your dreams is expected. This should obviously not be the only way you search for a partner, though. Look into CoFoundersLab and other similar meetups to expand your network.
Do you think letters after your name are powerful (or required)? Very rarely do opportunities come my way because I have “MBA” after my name. However, there are certainly roles (like teaching at a top business school) that would have been out of my reach without it. I have never thought prestige alone was a good reason to go to school. Instead, look at your goal, identify the path and consider multiple options. A new degree may be exactly what you need, but only do it for the right reasons.
First published in The Arizona Republic, March 10, 2015