Is College a Waste of Time for Entrepreneurs?

If you want to start your own business, should you spend four years immersed in academia?

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I've pondered the question of what kind of education is right for an entrepreneur. The difficulty is that little of what entrepreneurs learn when getting a standard four-year bachelor's degree has much direct practical impact on their day-to-day business. Yet there's undeniable evidence that entrepreneurs who go to college are more successful than those who don't. I think Charles Murray's op-ed on higher education is very important for entrepreneurs, even though it doesn't explicitly mention them. Murray says that we need to stop putting a bachelor's degree on a pedestal and admit that for many people, simply getting certified for skills would be a much cheaper and less time-consuming process for launching careers.

I think that many entrepreneurs may feel the same way. Launching a business is expensive and requires a lot of start-up capital. The cost just grows when you factor in the price of the education that society expects a professional individual to possess. But Ben Miller at the American Prospect fires back at Murray with some good arguments in defense of the current higher education system.

In other words, it isn't useless to write a lengthy paper on some arcane subject, because doing so imparts skills such as how to synthesize, analyze and present reams of information in a clear and concise manner—abilities that are crucial for any number of jobs.

Those qualities are definitely important for entrepreneurship, which requires you to wear many different hats. Getting certified in one skill may not be enough of a broad-based education.

One thing I've learned from interviewing many different entrepreneurs is that most of them knew that they wanted to start their own businesses from an early age. They were the kids selling lemonade in the neighborhood. Once they got to school, they were the ones who made money off of classmates by offering innovative services. That might suggest that born entrepreneurs will find their way eventually, whether they go for the classic liberal arts education or for something more practical.

What do you think is the proper education for an entrepreneur, if any?

continuing education

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