Tips to Run a Successful Business Without a College Degree

Are you interested in starting your own business? You might think that you will have a more challenging time if you don’t have a college degree. Fortunately, that is not the case. The majority of business owners don’t even have a bachelor’s degree.

You can consider getting a fake degree if you want to make a good impression. However, you also have other options that you can consider as well. 

It is easy to look at anecdotal stories of entrepreneurs that became wildly successful without ever finishing college. Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard during his sophomore year to start Microsoft. Around a decade later, he became the youngest billionaire in American history. Mark Zuckerberg followed in his footsteps 20 years later when he dropped out of Harvard to grow Facebook. Michael Dell, Richard Branson and Steve Jobs also became billionaires without finishing college.

Are these fabulously successful entrepreneurs all outliers? Not at all. Most business owners never finish college.

One survey found that 25% of business owners have a high school diploma or less. Another 17% have some college education but never completed their degree requirements. Yet another 14% only have an associate degree. This means that 56% of entrepreneurs never got a four-year degree or a graduate degree.

That is encouraging news. The bad news is that you will still be at somewhat of a disadvantage if you don’t have a college degree. You are going to have to make up for your lack of formal education in other ways. Fortunately, this is possible with the right attitude and preparation.

How to be a successful business owner without a degree

You don’t need a degree to become a successful business owner. However, there are some essential requirements that you do need to meet. In addition, you might have a longer learning curve if you never got a formal education. Fortunately, you can still be very successful if you follow the tips below.

Make sure that you find a business idea that you are really passionate about

Some people never attend college because they have dreams that don’t require it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. These people can be very successful in business if they focus their energy on their passions.

However, other people forego higher education because they aren’t sure what they want to do in life. These are the entrepreneurs that are most likely to struggle.

You don’t want to make the mistake of simply trying to copy the blueprint of Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. They were successful because they pursued dreams that they were truly passionate about. Bill Gates learned to code when he was 13 years old, and creating a company like Microsoft was a lifelong dream.

Find your passion before trying to start a business.

Learn the basics of accounting

You don’t have to earn an MBA to learn the nuances of running a business. However, business school programs would be a lot shorter if they focused on teaching the skills that would actually be transferable in business. For example, the theoretical marketing concepts taught in MBA programs aren’t very applicable in the real world.

However, one useful class that is taught in business school is accounting. You don’t need to get a business degree to learn the basics of accounting. However, you are going to need to master them one way or another. One study by US Bank found that 82% of businesses fail due to cash flow problems. This is likely usually due to poor accounting and money management.

You can buy an accounting book on Amazon or audit an accounting class at your local community college. Make sure that you understand the basics before trying to start your own business.

Become an expert in your field

Although most entrepreneurs don’t have college degrees, those that do have one important advantage. They can earn specialized skills that fewer people will have. You can’t just go out and start a law firm if you never attended law school or become a self-employed accountant without an accounting degree and CPA license.

Business opportunities that are available to people without degrees usually have fewer barriers to entry. The trade-off is that they face greater competition.

You will have to really excel if you are in a field that has greater competition. So, make sure that you do your due diligence and master the skills of your profession to the best of your ability.


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