4 Great Degree Options for Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs
By Will Erstad on 06/01/2023
Whether you were hustling to find new clients as a babysitter or plotting to build a neighborhood lawn mowing empire as a teenager, you’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. While that drive can carry you a long way, you also understand it takes some serious business know-how to turn an ambitious idea into a lasting legacy.
That’s where a college education comes in. Not only can business-centric degree programs help build a steady foundation of skills for your entrepreneurial pursuits, but they can also help provide a solid backup plan for the future if the whole “being your own boss” thing doesn’t work out.
Of course, there’s no one true degree path for aspiring entrepreneurs—you can pick up on helpful skills in any number of specialized business degree focus areas. So, where should you start? We’ve highlighted some of the best bets for would-be business owners.
The 4 great degree options for small business owners
1. Business Management
Getting a business management degree is a great option for anyone interested in owning and operating their own business. This degree tends to focus on leadership and a broad understanding of business functions.
In a business management program, you will learn about business technology, digital marketing, operational planning, managing relationships in the workplace and some foundational accounting and finance skills. Add it all up, and you’re looking at a great foundation for running a business.
In addition to the technical knowledge covered, business management courses will also focus on building your soft skills like effective communication and problem-solving, which are a necessity when running your own company.
Accounting is an undeniably important part of running a business. You need a clear understanding of your business’ financial health to navigate the critical operational decisions that come with a new and growing business. Earning an accounting degree can help you develop a clearer understanding of how businesses operate and how investment decisions can impact your bottom line. Throughout an accounting program, you will learn about financial reporting, account reconciliation, payroll, general bookkeeping and how to use spreadsheets and other current financial software in the field.
Will Schneider, founder of WarehouseingAndFulfillment.com, says that his degree in accounting has “really turned out to be a wonderful background” for running his companies.
“One of the most common reasons businesses fail is funding or mismanagement of startup funds,” Schneider says. “Knowing the ins and outs to accounting and finance has helped me avoid this outcome due to the implementation of proper budgeting, industry pricing schemes and systems to manage accounts receivable, to name a few.”
It’s not a shocking revelation, but most businesses need to attract customers to be viable. Knowing how to position your products or offerings in relation to your competition and what messages motivate your customers, as well as understanding the best medium for reaching them, is critical for growing a business.
If you pursue a marketing degree, you will learn about market research, public relations and product management. This focus area will also help prepare you to make the most of digital advertising and how to manage creative content, an essential in today’s technological age.
Isabella Flint, founder and CEO of FanaticallyFood.com, credits her marketing education with helping her expand her catering business.
“I already knew the ins and outs of catering, but it was the digital marketing side of my business that really put my catering business ahead,” Flint says. “I was able to use the skills from my degree to create a community and market my food, to attract more customers and grow my business.”
4. Human Resources
If you are interested in working closely with people to organize, train and recruit them to improve the workplace, a degree in human resources might be for you. This major focuses on leadership skills for working with people, critical thinking and effective communication to manage and organize teams within a business. This can also include training and development of employees.
One of the greatest perks of a background in human resources is that you can build plenty of experience working with diverse groups of people. If you’re planning on owning your own business, you will need to know how to build lasting connections that will help your company to grow. Plus, you will know how to best train and teach your employees about the work you expect and want from them when your company expands.
Additionally, human resources consulting may be a viable option for those looking to eventually be their own boss. Businesses regularly hire outside firms to help with HR functions like change management, talent acquisition, diversity, equity and inclusion training, and more.
These are just a handful of possible majors that could lead you to running your own successful business. While earning a degree is not a requirement for starting your own business, it can help you by building a solid foundation of operational business knowledge to expand from. Additionally, it can help keep other career pathways open if your entrepreneurial dreams don’t materialize—it’s never bad to have a backup plan.
If you are interested in learning more about different kinds of business degrees, check out our article “ The Beginner’s Guide to Different Types of Business Degrees.”