Do I need to further my education to get my business to the next level? Do I need formal education from a university to run a successful business? Does furthering my education strictly mean getting a graduate degree? Is online education enough to start and run a business? These are all questions business owners grapple with at some point in their entrepreneurial journey.
Many successful business owners tell gripping stories about how they had to learn on their feet and endure business storms like you wouldn’t believe to get to the level of business success they’re at now. But many others speak in droves about the inherent value of attending a university or college degree program to further their business education and how it’s resulted in success.
Even if you can successfully break into your industry without a formal college or university education, you will still need some form of continued education to be a successful business owner. In this article, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of 7 different ways to further your education in business and ultimately find success in your venture.
6 Ways to Further your Education in Business
Figuring out whether or not you need further education to run your business can be an overwhelming decision. Although formal education is highly sought after, there is an even bigger pool of successful business owners who educated themselves without ever stepping foot into a classroom.
Do you wonder: "Do I need to further my education to start or run a business"? Here are six ways to further your education that can result in a successful business:
When we think about what it means to further our educations in any respect, most of us think about a college or university education that results in a degree. Associate degree programs can start you out with the basics of business while a bachelor’s degree or master's degree can give you a more complete business education with classes specific to your chosen degree.
An MBA can deepen your education by not only developing specific business knowledge but also focusing on the emotional maturity, mental strength, and interpersonal skills needed to run a business. This includes:
● Financial literacy
● Time management
● Effective networking
● Relationship building techniques
● Productivity hacks
We completely understand that not everyone should have a master's degree or follow higher education programs. The financial obligation and tuition costs alone deters many people from furthering their business education with a college or university program. Before completely writing off this avenue of higher education, be sure you’ve researched resources for student loan repayment, financial aid and any payment plans offered by the programs you’re considering. Curb all of your financial fears, time commitment conflicts, and other school-related fears with thorough research of what’s available to you.
Don’t want to spend four years or more at a university and shoulder the financial burden that comes with it? Taking a certification course, following online programs or a career education training program may be a better option. The course work is focused on one specific industry skill or one set of particular skills to master.
You also get a certification once all the course criteria are satisfied. This certificate can be leveraged just as a degree can. Showcase your commitment to completing an entire course to better your business skills and your ability to perform that skill.
Certification courses are shorter than an entire university education. You leave with the same high-level skills, network, and focused education as you would with a degree program. Along with IT, human resources, project management, sales, and software certifications are all top skills to acquire for a smooth-running business.
What's great with (online) certifications is that you can pass them at any time during your career and leverage continuing education.
If you don't have the will, funds or financial aid to afford graduate studies, there are other avenues you can explore. Higher education is not a must and there are many successful entrepreneurs out there without one. Let me give you one that you definitely know: Steve Jobs. Don't get me wrong, it's not because you don't attend college that you will become the next Apple founder.
An internship, apprenticeship, or fellowship all offer on-the-job experience combined with a guided education on what’s most important to successful businesses. Do some meaningful, practical work related to your specific industry or business interest, explore career and development opportunities, and learn valuable skills.
An internship is when an organization or company offers an on-the-job experience for a short period to students enrolled in college and others that they establish as qualified. An internship can be paid or unpaid.
An apprenticeship combines on-the-job training with academic instruction. You’re usually paid at a similar rate to employees and once completed, a job is almost always guaranteed or waiting for you. Apprenticeships are offered in a variety of industries but the most popular are plumbing, carpentry, electrician, and construction-related.
A fellowship program can be offered by a college institution for specific graduate study activities, an organization for advanced research on a pressing topic, even a company for training and personal growth opportunities. Fellowships can be long-term or short-term, and usually require an application process to be accepted. Although most fellowship programs do provide a living allowance or stipend, it’s not nearly as much as you’d get as a full-time worker.
Volunteer/Pro Bono Work
Pursuing volunteer or pro bono work with some heavy hitters in your industry may provide you with all the education and experience you need to run and grow your business efficiently.
Many companies, even small businesses, are looking for talent to help them out in a variety of ways. They’re almost always open to volunteer or pro bono work if it can be done seamlessly. It saves businesses money and gives you the experience you’re looking for.
When paired with the right organization or company, you can learn from successful business owners, get on-the-job experience, insider industry knowledge, or other information pertinent to you running a business generally and/or in your specific industry. This type of work can also result in a potential partner, an investor for your venture, and a network necessary to thrive as an entrepreneur. Be sure to only agree to volunteer/pro bono work if you can ensure a high-quality standard.
Get a Mentor or Business Coach
Whether you’re a new business owner, student, or deemed a successful entrepreneur, all levels of business owners can benefit from getting a mentor or business coach. They can act as an accountability partner, coach, and friend. They can help you identify areas of improvement in your business, keep you on track to meet your business goals, and give you the emotional support you need when things are going well and not so well.
Mentors and business coaches can keep you level. They understand the ups and downs of business and should be well equipped to help you navigate every one of them. Getting a mentor or business coach should be a thoroughly researched and well-thought-out business decision.
Hiring a business coach or enlisting a mentor should make sense financially and shouldn’t be a forced relationship. It will take time to find the right mentor or business coach. It’s important to never depend on the relationship a coach or mentor had with a friend in business or industry competitor, ensure your choosing the right fit for you.
Using social media to follow other entrepreneurs, listening to podcasts, following online programs, attending conferences and other workshops are just a few of the self-education techniques used by successful business owners. Any type of continuing education will help you grow. Take free courses online with Khan Academy or Coursera, explore LinkedIn’s paid courses, or take it upon yourself to dive into Hubspot’s free academy.
While it’s ideal to invest in paid courses, workshops, and other educational resources provided by well-known entrepreneurs, you may not be able to afford it yet. Don’t let this stop you from educating yourself in the meantime with the help of technology and the internet.
Network with other entrepreneurs, start a support group, or join one virtually or in-person to be able to exchange business tips, tricks, and challenges. Visit startups in your area, network with new business owners, and attend their events virtually or in-person if at all possible. Don’t be afraid to guide or shape your education by learning the things you want to or feel are most important to your business success.
Closing Thoughts about Whether I need to Further my Education to Run a Successful Business
You Want to be an Entrepreneur? Be a Lifelong Learner and Leverage Continuing Education!
There are always good reasons to learn new skills. Whichever route you take to further your education in business (Online education, getting a Master's degree through higher education, working with a business mentor or getting hands on experience with an internship), it's essential to continue your education in some capacity. You have to be a lifelong learner if you want to be an entrepreneur. Gaining relevant business knowledge, best practices for navigating each stage of a new business, a supportive network, and valuable hands-on experience are integral to success and longevity.
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