Being an entrepreneur is exciting. Looking for investors, solving new problems and growing a business can be fun, rewarding and thrilling – but also stressful. You may have heard that many graduate schools have entrepreneurship courses and programs. Most business schools also offer entrepreneurship as one of their MBA specializations. Is an entrepreneurial MBA degree the right path for you?
An entrepreneurial MBA can help your career, but there are several things to consider before applying. First, focus your search on schools that have strong entrepreneurial programs. Take a look at various classes, clubs, organizations and events (like business plan competitions) offered for entrepreneurs at target business schools. Will they provide you with the skills, resources, support and networks to be successful?
Consider that some business schools have stronger MBA entrepreneurship programs than others. Make sure you look outside the box and don’t rely too heavily on overall business school rankings during your search and application process. Sure, Harvard and Stanford have great MBA programs. But check other rankings too: the top entrepreneur program in the nation right now is at Babson College, outside of the top fifty overall programs on most lists.
As an applicant with an interest in entrepreneurship, you don’t necessarily need to have already started your own company (or companies) or worked at a startup. If you have, that’s great. If you haven’t, help admissions officers understand why you’re interested in entrepreneurship and highlight those qualities and skills in your past experience that you believe will help you achieve your short-term and/or long-term career goals.
Keep in mind as an applicant with an interest in entrepreneurship, you will stand out from the crowd. Most applicants are interested in traditional career paths, like finance or consulting. Differentiating yourself with a focus in entrepreneurship is a plus, but be aware of the potential red flags. Admissions officers may be concerned about the likelihood of you achieving your short-term career goals. Make sure you proactively explain how, despite the challenges, you will be able to start your own company or identify a startup to join.
There is some debate as to whether an MBA is necessary for a successful career as an entrepreneur. While there are plenty of examples of those who have had great entrepreneurial careers without an MBA, there is still plenty of value in going to business school. Business school is a serious investment, however, so be sure to think long and hard about your decision. Chances are high that regardless of where you end up, you will not regret the knowledge gained with your MBA.