top of page

Decoding Entrepreneurial Education: The Importance of a College Degree for an Entrepreneur / By: Sanaa Taqvi

America has always held a special allure for entrepreneurs, given its rich entrepreneurial history, featuring notable figures like John Rockefeller and Bill Gates. This fascination has only grown. “According to the U.S. Census Bureau, applications for starting a business spiked to an all-time high of over 550,000 in July 2020” (Teza, 2022) . The percentage of US young adults (aged 18-29) who consider having a college education to be ‘very important’ has dropped from 74% (2013) to 41% (2019) (Marken, 2019). In exploring the evolving dynamics of entrepreneurship and education, it becomes important to consider if a college degree is an essential prerequisite for entrepreneurial success.

According to Dr. Maija Renko, Coleman Chair and Professor of Entrepreneurship at DePaul, “Smart, passionate and kind entrepreneurs will find their way to success, be it with or without a formal degree. However, most entrepreneurs work in a variety of businesses before they start on their own, and learn from others’ successes and mistakes.” This is borne out by a Harvard study which found that the median age of a successful entrepreneur was 44 years, with one of the critical drivers being work experience in the field of business (Azoulay, Jones, Kim, Miranda 2018). On the other hand, Ioannis Paranikas, an entrepreneur who started a retail business during high school and later attempted to hone his business acumen at the Ross School of Business, held a differing opinion.“While academic pursuits offer valuable (networking) connections, self-learning, practical insights, and an internal drive are paramount, rendering traditional business degrees less important than real-world experience in the dynamic landscape of entrepreneurship.” 


Evidence shows that college is a place that can provide beneficial mentoring networking opportunities and can aid in building foundational knowledge, such as strategy, finance, and market research. Dr. Renko underscores the unique advantages that college provides for aspiring entrepreneurs, emphasizing that “College offers formal education, practical application of lessons in real-world business cases, and valuable mentorship opportunities through competitions, and mentorship programs." For instance, if a young aspiring entrepreneur has a fully developed idea or an already successful business, they could expedite the college process and significantly lessen the financial burden by taking specialized courses or courses online. However, if you’re just getting into entrepreneurship, college may be the right path for you.



bottom of page