Do You Need College To Start Your Business? : Under30CEO Do You Need College To Start Your Business? : Under30CEO
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Do You Need College To Start Your Business?

| July 6, 2013 | 7 Comments

Mark ZuckerbergBill Gates. Steve Jobs. Mark Zuckerberg. Michael Dell. What do these hugely successful entrepreneurs have in common? They are all university dropouts. If the founders of some of the most successful companies of all time don’t need to complete a degree, then why would you?

1. You need hard skills

Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg might have dropped out of Harvard, but they were already highly skilled computer programmers. If you’re developing ‘hard’ skills for your business, continuing on with education is an opportunity to grow and hone your skills. University, or even vocational training, is useful for developing the technical skills you need to succeed in some fields of business.

2. You need to instill confidence in customers & investors

Let’s face it, qualifications look good. Would you trust a doctor without a medical degree? An engineer who hasn’t done an engineering qualification? You might not need such demanding qualifications; however official documentation of your skills & abilities can be an asset. Those pieces of paper are a simple but effective way to demonstrate your abilities to other people.

3. You need to meet legal obligations

Operating in some industries is wrought with legal complications. Some industries require you to have specific vocational or university qualifications in order to deliver your product or service. True, you could employ someone with the right qualifications to fulfil your legal obligations – but when you’re bootstrapping your start-up, having those qualifications yourself can save you time and money you can’t spare.

4. Education delivers more than a qualification

Too often we overlook the unquantifiable benefits of education. Your qualification might be evidence that you’ve learnt how to calculate 2 + 2. It doesn’t demonstrate the ‘soft’ skills you’ve been developing – how to learn, how to overcome adversity and how to manage time. Education is also important for developing your discipline and confidence. These changes might be so subtle you don’t notice them, but the overall effect can make a huge difference to your success in business.

5. Education can be a passion

I’ve met several people who’ve gone to university, despite already running successful companies worth millions of dollars. Why? Education has something to offer them. Sometimes education helps them reach their business goals. Other times it has been the pursuit of a lifelong passion. Sometimes it’s been both. If further education will enrich your personal and business life, then it’s worth pursuing.

6. Education is a networking opportunity

Many famous entrepreneurs might have dropped out of university, but would they have ever have founded those companies if they hadn’t gone in the first place? Further education is not only about learning skills, it’s also a chance to grow up, develop your world views and, importantly, meet skilled people who share your passions.

We tend to focus on the most famous ‘face’ of successful companies. Bill Gates is Microsoft to most of us – but the company was co-founded by Paul Allen. Apple is synonymous with Steve Jobs, but Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne were also there at the start. Facebook founders include Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes – not just Mark Zuckerberg. Most of these people met and laid the foundations for their companies at university. Studying at an educational institution is an opportunity for networking and finding partners who bring their own connections, funds, and, most importantly, expertise to the table.

7. Education is a backup

Businesses fail. Hopefully it never happens to you; if it does, you might be fortunate enough to have the support of family and friends. You might even have enough personal wealth to keep you going. If you aren’t that fortunate, then having the education and qualifications to find work can keep you on your feet during the hard times.

Should you continue your education?

In most cases you can learn more practical business skills by working for someone else, or diving straight into your own business venture. The lessons might be harsher – but they’re also more valuable than second or third hand experiences described by a teacher.

You don’t need to major in business. A business degree might lessen the learning curve for you own start-up, but that doesn’t mean it is the most useful degree. Technical skills – such as programming, science and engineering – are far more useful in many new ventures. Psychology is more relevant for getting inside the customer’s head and making the sale. Don’t think university is the only option either – vocational training can teach many practical, hands-on skills.

So does education have something to offer you? Could you spend that time and money better elsewhere?

Those are questions you need to answer.

William Cowie is an inbound marketer at Inspire Education, which has grown quickly to become one of the leading education & training organisations in Australia.

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Category: Career Advice, Entrepreneurship

  • Mike Darche

    William–nice article! I think many of the benefits of a college education are off the record like you said. If you have the technical skills that you need to start-up, then you’re in great shape and maybe you don’t need school. But the college experience teaches you all about dealing with and working with other people. You grow your network and build interpersonal/management skills that will set you apart down the road. Your new perspectives challenge your old ways of thinking while you learn a lot about yourself in the process…Looking forward to more of your work!

  • cesar romero

    Mike, William, these are great points, but I just don’t agree with getting into a lot of debt for an education you can get somewhere else for cheaper. You need to develop skills? go online and take some courses/classes; need to network? go to networking events/meetups and build relationships with people already in the industry; need help with particular subject, go online/networking events and ask for help. I’m all for Education and College Experience, but I do not agree with getting into so much debt when there are other alternatives.

  • Will Cowie

    Thanks Mike!

  • Will Cowie

    Hi Cesar, I definitely agree there are other ways to get most of the same skills and networking opportunities at much less cost. Even with heavily subsidised university places here in Australia, a degree can be quite expensive. There is also a significant opportunity associated with university education – it can take up several years of your life, during which you may not be working, earning income, and developing experience that will further your career.

    That said, the university lifestyle can be quite enjoyable and offer other experiences you won’t necessarily get in the workplace. For many people it’s a chance to grow up a bit more after highschool and discover lifelong interests & passions. If it’s something you can afford and has value to you, then I wouldn’t dissuade you from going.

  • Daniel DiPiazza

    Great read, Will – and solid points. One thing worth mentioning is that education really is a passion for most entrepreneurs – we love tinkering with new ideas and learning. and I think now, more than ever, that learning doesn’t even have to come at a university.

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