Is there such a thing as a qualified entrepreneur? If so, what is it? Can you study to be an entrepreneur and what does that qualification look like? These are just the super high-level questions that are asked on a daily basis. The real crux of this article is twofold. The first is: can you teach someone to be an entrepreneur? The second is: does an entrepreneur need a qualification?
Let’s start with the second question first. Do you need to be qualified to be an entrepreneur. This is of course an absolute minefield of a question. There are definitely two schools of thought, the first is that you are nothing if you don’t have a degree. The second is the absolute opposite end of the spectrum which says that degrees are not the be all and end all of career opportunities.
As with all things in life; there is a very big grey area that needs to be explored. My personal opinion is that not every line of entrepreneurial business needs a highly degreed person at its helm. Given recent announcements from organisations like EY who are no longer looking at degree results as a marker for employment .
EY, the global accountancy firm, announced that it was scrapping the requirement for applicants to have a minimum 2:1 degree pass or Ucas point score of 300 (the equivalent of three B grades at A-level).
This way of thinking says that degrees are important to instill a way of thinking; not necessarily a level of ability.
This leads us to the first question. Do entrepreneurs need a degree? This is equally murky water. I believe that it depends on how the entrepreneur wishes to see their business grow as well as what their role in the business will be; however the most important overriding factor would be: in what line does the business function?
To clarify; I would not wish to trust my legal needs to an entrepreneur who has not passed the Bar exam; nor would I wish to entrust my businesses financial well-being with an “accountant” who has not qualified. Similarly I would not ask a freehand graphic designer to design my house ensuring that it is structurally sound.
There are, of course, specific trades and specializations where a degree or some form of tertiary education is essential as the bare minimum criteria to get through the gate.
This leads me squarely around to asking – can you get a degree in entrepreneurialism? I don’t believe you can. Look through any varsity course guide today and you will see courses preaching the ins and outs of being an entrepreneur. I believe these are pitched incorrectly. These should be around the principles of small business management or the principles of marketing differentiation. How to be agile and effective. Yes, all of these combine as the skills needed to be a good entrepreneur. But they are by no means a marker for entrepreneurial success – no more than a degree qualifies a doctor to cure cancer!
Entrepreneurialism is about blood, sweat and tears. About passion. About sacrifice. No one can teach you those things. Yes, you can learn the basic skills that you need to own and operate a business; but at their core, those are not the defining characteristics that make an great entrepreneur. An entrepreneur needs to understand so much more that cannot be taught – that’s the difference between a successful small business and an unsuccessful one.
Education is important; but labeling that education correctly is more important, lest we have a disillusioned generation of entrepreneurs who think that they have qualified for a career in entrepreneurialism with all the wrong skills!