What Degree Do You Need to Own a Business?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Does owning a business require traveling down a set path? If you want to become an entrepreneur, you may wonder if you need a college degree and, if so, which one. Explore the various paths open to you for becoming a business owner.

[Featured Image] A business owner works in her shop after earning her degree.

What do Richard Branson, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg have in common? They're all wildly successful entrepreneurs who didn't earn a college degree. On the other hand, Elon Musk, Larry Page, Phil Knight, and Michael Bloomberg have undergraduate degrees and a Master of Business Administration (MBA). 

With that in mind, it’s clear that starting your own business doesn’t necessarily require having a college degree. Even so, earning at least a bachelor's degree can give you a strong place to start if you do want to become an entrepreneur, as it will help you develop your human skills, build your network, and put together a basic foundation of business knowledge. 

This guide will help any aspiring entrepreneur answer the question, "What degree do I need to own a business?"

What degree do you need to own a business?

You don't need a college degree to own a business, but having one can potentially increase your chances of success. Depending on your major and the classes you take, you can learn more about how businesses operate, how the economy works, and how to be a strong manager. For example, a marketing degree may help you learn how to build a brand and sell your products. 

No matter the major you choose, earning a degree can help you hone important human skills, which apply to various career options. Consider how a communications degree might help you grow in areas like teamwork, leadership, creativity, and interpersonal skills. You'll also meet other business-minded people you could one day want to work or network with. For this reason, if you can earn a degree before starting your business, you may want to consider taking it.  

Reasons to get a degree before starting a business

While a degree is optional for business owners, reasons to earn one often outweigh reasons not to. Some reasons why you might want to get that college degree before starting your business include:

  • Increasing your reputation and credibility among your stakeholders

  • Building a foundation of business knowledge

  • Gaining confidence in your ability to become an entrepreneur 

  • Gaining a better understanding of areas like marketing, accounting, and human resources

  • Becoming a strong leader

  • Honing important human skills like communication, organization, and time management 

  • Networking

  • Learning more about business laws and ethics

  • Gaining a better understanding of economics and how the economy works

Helpful bachelor's degrees for launching a business  

Earning a college degree can help you hone your skills and grow as a person, but certain majors might be more helpful for launching your own business. Some, like business administration, may be obvious, but some others on the list may surprise you.

Business administration

A bachelor's degree in business administration is a logical choice for aspiring entrepreneurs. Some schools even offer various specializations and concentrations within the degree program, like business management or entrepreneurship, so you can tailor your education to meet your personal needs.

When you study business administration, you'll get a basic understanding of the foundations of the business world. You'll typically take courses like accounting, finance, human resources, marketing, business law, business ethics, and organizational behavior. You'll also pick up leadership skills along the way, as well as human skills like critical thinking, communication, and organization. If, for some reason, you decide you don't want to own your own business one day, having a bachelor's degree in business administration can still open doors to other career opportunities.


As a business owner, it's important to understand a business's financial aspects and how the economy works as a whole. A degree in finance can help you understand these concepts and more. You'll study topics like personal finance, accounting, economics, statistics, marketing, and business law, and you'll gain a basic understanding of how important money management is for a business owner. As with a business administration degree, having a degree in finance can also open doors to exciting and high-paying careers should you decide that you don't want to be an entrepreneur after all.


Building a brand and advertising to potential customers are important steps in starting and running a business, so having a basic understanding of how marketing works can go a long way toward helping you reach your goals. With the constant advancement of technology and the evolution of digital marketing, how businesses reach their customers is always changing. For this reason, having a good foundational understanding of marketing concepts is helpful.

According to Franklin University, "Entrepreneurs with marketing degrees are able to effectively brand their business, promote their products and services, and reach the right customers. Undergraduate degrees in marketing also provide a broad base of business knowledge, which often includes a business core of accounting, finance, and management. These essential business skills can help you start, run, and manage your business as it grows" [1]. 


Building a business means building relationships with various stakeholders, including employees, customers, and investors. For this reason, earning a communications degree is another great option for entrepreneurs. You can learn to improve your written and verbal communication skills, and many communications courses and concentrations overlap with business topics, including marketing, public relations, interpersonal communication, and technical communication. Some schools even offer a business communication degree or concentration, which teaches you the basics of both areas and how they're related. 

Computer science    

Computer science may not be the first degree that comes to mind when you think of entrepreneurship, but it can actually be quite helpful in today's technology-filled world. Even for small businesses, having a digital presence is more important than ever. A computer science degree can help you gain the skills and knowledge to create and maintain that online presence and possibly save you some money upfront. Imagine having the skills needed to build an app or website for your business without having to hire an expert.

According to Entrepreneur magazine, "It's also an exceedingly valuable field for entrepreneurs. The better you understand and use the technology, the better you can streamline operations, crunch numbers, and much more. A computer science education can help you run your business more efficiently and scale more effectively" [2]. 

Consider a master's degree.

For many entrepreneurs, a bachelor's degree is only a starting point in their educational journeys. Going on to earn a master's degree in one of these areas allows you to continue building both your technical and human skills, as well as the skills you'll need to be a great leader.

One option for entrepreneurs is a Master of Business Administration (MBA). It can help you round out your knowledge. For example, an MBA may help you learn more about finance and the economic side of running a business than if you majored in marketing or communications for your undergraduate degree. It's also a great way to network and expand your worldview, two elements that may provide unanticipated benefits for growing your business. An MBA on your resume is also impressive and could attract investors.

You may even find a Master of Science in Entrepreneurship available at select schools. If you choose this option, you'll likely gain skills like creativity and innovation. You'll also study important topics, like business models, selling your business, gaining insights through customer feedback, financing new ventures, and how to manage a new venture.

Other ways to prepare for business ownership

Earning a degree is not an option for everyone, but you can still work toward business ownership. You may discover countless other ways to gain knowledge and improve your skills to become a successful entrepreneur.

Hone your human and technical skills.

As a business owner, you'll likely need both technical and human skills. Technical skills might include social media marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), budgeting, user experience (UX) design, and data analysis. Human skills might include time management, confidence, communication, and leadership. You can hone these skills without a formal education in many ways. For example, you can join professional communities, read books about these subjects, and become a lifelong active learner.

Earn certificates.

If you still want a formal education but don't have time to finish a bachelor's degree, consider earning a certificate instead. Many colleges and universities offer certificates in entrepreneurship that you can earn in just a few months. Each school's program will vary, but you might learn about topics like eCommerce, product planning, technology management, funding your venture, and contemporary economic issues.

Work with a mentor.

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor and Babson College, the US is home to over 31 million entrepreneurs [3]. That means you have plenty of options to search for a mentor or talk to someone about their experience starting a business. You can ask that person if they have a degree and if they felt it contributed to the success of their business. It can also expand your network.

Take classes.

 If you want some formal education but don't want to take time to earn a full degree, another option is to take some related classes in your spare time. For example, you can take a few marketing classes if you don't want to earn a marketing degree. You can still take a public speaking or writing class if you don't want to earn a communications degree. 

Get started with Coursera.  

On Coursera, you'll find many online courses to help you hone your skills and gain the knowledge necessary to become a successful business owner. Some options that might interest you include Creativity And Entrepreneurship offered by Berklee; English for Business and Entrepreneurship from the University of Pennsylvania; and Innovation Through Design: Think, Make, Break, Repeat offered by the University of Sydney.

Article sources


Franklin University. "Is a Marketing Degree Worth it? 6 Reasons The Answer Could be 'Yes', https://www.franklin.edu/blog/is-a-marketing-degree-worth-it." Accessed March 18, 2024. 

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