Around the world, the number of entrepreneurs and startups has spiked. As demand for these innovators, creative thinkers, and problem-solvers grows, so do academic offerings.
Whether or not you’ve sought an undergraduate degree in entrepreneurship, a master’s designed for entrepreneurs is a great next step in your educational pursuits.
If you’re already running a company, preparing to launch or still considering the jump, we have five reasons why earning a master’s is a step in the right direction for an entrepreneur.
At the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business, this degree is called the Master of Business Creation and offers a unique opportunity to spend 9 months developing your business idea. This award-winning program is provided the top-10 ranked Department of Entrepreneurship & Strategy and Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute.
1. Learn While You Do
Master’s degrees for entrepreneurs take the phrase “experiential learning” to heart. You can work on your business plans and grow your business while also learning the hard and soft skills in the classroom. Don’t settle for one or the other.
“For a long time, my philosophy was that you didn’t need a degree to be an entrepreneur,” said Sam Norton, a founder in the Master of Business Creation program at the University of Utah and co-founder and CRO of SlideTech, a new company which created a tool that transforms slide decks into interactive — and measurable — presentation experiences.
“When I graduated high school, I got a lot of advice along the lines of ‘you learn about starting a business by starting a business,’” he said. “I agree with the advice I got as an 18-year-old, but that didn’t mean not pursuing a degree. It meant pursuing the right one. I can guarantee that no one giving me advice 10 years ago had ever heard of anything like the Master of Business Creation.”
2. Aligned Incentives
Any educational institution does well when you, the student or founder, do well. When you enter an entrepreneurship master’s program with a product or service idea, a team of big thinkers, or simply the motivation to get started, the professors and other students jump on your side.
“That’s one thing I’ve loved — our incentives are aligned,” Norton said. “My biggest priority is the success of my business. The graduate degree, of course, is great, but I’m here to help my business. Luckily, that’s what the school is here to do, too: if my startup flourishes, the school looks good, and gets more donors and higher rankings. They have as many reasons to want to see me thrive as I do, and that’s been so important.”
Jack Brittain, a professor in the Department of Entrepreneurship & Strategy at the Eccles School, as well as the Pierre Lassonde Presidential Chair in Entrepreneurship, designed the Master of Business Creation program alongside other visionaries.
“I constantly say that I’m going to retire, that this year or that year is the year. But when we started thinking up the Master of Business Creation, it was such a cool idea that I had to stay,” he said. “It was aligned with all of our goals, with everything we set out to do for and with entrepreneurs. It’s been a wonderful experience. Sometimes I’ll go sit in on classes and just listen to the discussions.”
3. Full-Time Business Accelerator (& Degree)
As an entrepreneur, you don’t want to drop your startup, or leave it to collect dust for the years it takes to get a degree. For many of the students in the Master of Business Creation program, this was a big roadblock for applying to schools.
“The cost structure of higher education inhibits entrepreneurs,” Norton said. “It’s too expensive to go to school and start a business for most people, so student entrepreneurs end up being super-rich beforehand, or they take out a massive loan in the hopes of seeing funding in the future. Starting a program and dropping my business didn’t seem like the smartest move in my opinion. I didn’t realize I could start my business full-time and get a degree in the process, simultaneously.”
Tiff Polmateer, the founder and CEO of TwoFerry, a ride service that takes incapacitated drivers and their cars home safely, originally decided to not pursue an undergraduate degree. A few years into her career, her boss, an entrepreneur, too, inspired her to go back to school and earn her bachelor’s in business management. After walking across the stage, she thought she was done.
“I had just finished, and it took 20 years to get my degree,” she said. “I was not interested in going back to school.”
That is, until she found the Master of Business Creation program.
“I am so thankful that this program came across my desktop,” she said. “It was structured in a way I’d never seen before. After enrolling, it’s obvious that it’s designed with entrepreneurs and startups in mind. I get to work on my business for nine months and get a degree, too? It was a no brainer.”
4. Meet Peers on Your Level
Owning and operating your own business — from coming up with the right idea to executing it well — is a very unique experience. Couple the stress and dedication that comes from being an entrepreneur with the drive needed for a master’s program, and you’ll want a cohort of support. Luckily, master’s in entrepreneurship degrees are designed with you in mind.
“It is so nice to be with other founders who know exactly what we’re going through,” Polmateer said. “We all share insight and stories from our past to help lift each other up. It’s great.”
Not only are you surrounded by driven, smart, and innovative peers, but your professors become more mentors, deeply invested in buoying up your business.
“I love working with mentor-minded faculty,” Norton said. “It’s so valuable to be around those who have already actually done what we’re trying to do. I love being able to create a strong enough relationship with these mentor faculty who really genuinely care about building the business with me.”
5. Access to Resources
All entrepreneurs are in a constant battle for time and money. They’re known for being resource-strapped, in college or not. While you may think that enrolling in a master’s program would simply take from your pot of resources, the opposite is true.
“It’s hard to pick where to put your money,” Polmateer said. “Should it go into school or your company?”
The structure of the program at the University of Utah made the decision easy for her.
“It’s an accelerated program, so we’re not wasting any time,” she said. “There’s nothing like it, especially for people who are under-resourced. I couldn’t have pursued a master’s in the traditional way while working on my business. I wouldn’t have had the time or money.”
Through the program, Polmateer received a full scholarship, as well as intent focus and support on her startup from peers and mentors alike.
“It was the best way to support my startup,” she said.
It’s more than physical resources, though. For Norton, the Master of Business Creation gave him and his brother, Matt, co-founder and fellow MBC student, the courage to dive into their business plans.
“We never had the technical capability, time, or, really, the guts to jump in,” he said. “If it weren’t for the University of Utah, I don’t know if we would have been brave enough to burn the boats, really lean into our project. But we are so glad we did – we love being all-in. We wouldn’t have done it any other way.”
Learn more about the Master of Business Creation degree at the University of Utah at eccles.utah.edu/mbc.