Are you considering a career as an entrepreneur? Starting a business may be a challenge, but those who are successful often enjoy financial stability, as well as significant personal satisfaction. The freedoms associated with working for yourself can also be highly alluring. If you have a strong work ethic, are creative, enjoy learning new things, etc., then becoming an entrepreneur may be a good fit for you.
Technically, an academic background in business is not necessary to be an entrepreneur, but deciding to earn an associate degree in entrepreneurship can help better prepare you to reach your goals. The process is complex and risks can be high. Whether you are interested in establishing a local or online company or want to grow a business that already exists, becoming knowledgeable about business basics will be extremely beneficial.
An associate degree in entrepreneurship will help you build a strong foundation for your future or current business. You will also have opportunities to gain and hone skills that are often essential to establishing, maintaining, and growing a company. Additionally, graduates can choose to continue their education by transferring credits earned to a bachelor’s degree program in the future.
Requirements of an Associate Degree in Entrepreneurship?
Associate degrees in entrepreneurship are undergraduate-level education programs designed to provide students with the basic technical and academic knowledge necessary for employment or further study in a business field. They also have a reputation for providing students with a wide variety of transferable skills that can be applied to numerous employment settings.
There are a few different types of associate-level degrees available, including the Associate of Science (AS), Associate of Applied Science (AAS), Associate of Arts (AA) and Associate of Applied Arts (AAA. The majority of in-person and online entrepreneur programs will be either AS or AAS degrees. These are generally better for individuals interested in joining the workforce right away. There are also some Associate of Business Administration (ABA) degrees with concentrations in entrepreneurship available.Read More
Entrepreneurship curriculums vary, but most associate degree programs consist of 60 semester credit hours that can be completed by full-time students in approximately two years. This means you will likely need to take roughly 20 college courses. Advanced placement (AP) classes taken during high school may also count towards some general education requirements, which can help students graduate ahead of the standard schedule. Additionally, some colleges and universities offer accelerated programs that can be finished in as little as a year.
It’s important to realize that students enrolled part-time will likely need more time to complete the necessary graduation requirements. Those taking only a couple classes per semester should expect to be enrolled for three to four years.
Where Do You Earn a Two Year Entrepreneurship Degree?
Most associate degrees in entrepreneurship are offered by community colleges. These schools specialize in two-year degree programs and play an integral role in preparing students to either join local workforces or advance to other higher education programs. Community colleges are often best known for providing students with valuable technical skills training, as well as an affordable alternative to traditional four-year institutions.
It’s worth noting, however, that some four-year colleges and universities also offer associate-level degree programs. This is less common, but some notable institutions are also accredited to distribute this level of degree.
Both community colleges and four-year institutions tend to offer in-person and/or online learning options. Distance learning programs are becoming more and more popular, as they offer flexible scheduling and can be completed from anywhere in the world.
Online Vs. Traditional Education in Entrepreneurship
Online entrepreneurship degree programs are often ideal for students who already work full-time or have restrictive responsibilities that prevent them from attending classes in person. They offer a level of convenience and flexible class scheduling options that can make earning a degree in this field much more attainable.
However, not all career fields and class subjects are well-suited to remote learning. Highly technical professions that require significant hands-on experience rarely have reputable online programs. Entrepreneurs need strong skills in budgeting, financial analysis, marketing, human resources, and production development. All of these subject areas can be taught via distance learning.
In-person and online associate degree programs in entrepreneurship generally have similar course requirements. Instruction and assignment types also rarely differ, as readings, video lectures, virtual forums, and quizzes can all be completed remotely. The biggest difference is that remote learners have fewer opportunities to interact directly with instructors. They are also unable to gain hands-on experience in lab settings and have fewer chances to network with peers and professionals in their field.
Some colleges and universities strive to bridge these gaps by offering hybrid degree programs. While students complete the majority of coursework online, they are periodically required to visit the campus for short residency sessions. This allows access to some in-person instruction, hands-on training, and networking opportunities.
What are the Admission Requirements?
Admission requirements can vary, but most colleges and universities that offer associate degrees have somewhat standardized expectations. While it’s important to review institution and program guidelines carefully before applying, most schools will request some variation of the following:
- Official High School Transcripts or GED
- Official Post-Secondary Transcripts (if applicable)
- Minimum Grade Point Average (GPA)
- Application and Fees
Those who plan to enroll in bachelor’s degree programs in the future will need to meet additional admittance requirements.
These prospective students may need:
- Letters of Recommendation
- Personal Statement or Supplemental Essay
- Scores from College Entrance Exams (SAT, ACT, etc.)
The most significant difference between associate degree and bachelor’s degree admittance requirements is the SAT and/or ACT score. Prospective students rarely need these standardized test scores to enroll at a community college, but almost every four-year institution will expect them. Additionally, it’s common for colleges and universities to set a minimum acceptable score, making it important to research this requirement prior to submitting an application. Students can take the SAT and/or ACT multiple times in order to achieve the desired score.
Why Earn an Online Entrepreneurship Associate Degree?
There are many reasons to pursue an associate degree. The main reasons prospective students consider enrolling in this type of academic program includes lower tuition costs, shorter program lengths, and the ability to transfer credits in the future.
Earning an associate degree also generally costs less than earning a bachelor’s degree. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average in-state tuition, fees, room, and board at traditional four-year institutions for the 2017-2018 academic year was $27,357. Associate degree students, on the other hand, paid an average of $10,704. This is a significant difference, especially for individuals concerned about the expense of earning a degree.
Additionally, you can complete an associate degree relatively quickly. While graduation timeframes can vary due to personal circumstances and enrollment status, most full-time entrepreneur students are able to graduate from associate programs within two years. Those enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs will likely need four or more years to complete the necessary requirements.
Associate degree credits can also be transferred to four-year institutions in the future. All completed coursework from an accredited school is likely to count toward future education, which can make it easier to attain a bachelor’s in business in the future.
Why a Degree in Entrepreneurship?
There are many reasons to pursue a degree in entrepreneurship. The top benefits are independence and autonomy in creating your own company. This includes deciding what type of work you will perform, who you provide products and/or services to, where you will be located, and even how much money you will make. You will also gain satisfaction in creating a new business and watching it grow.
Another benefit to business owners is personal enrichment. People who are self-employed often do a lot of independent and guided learning when the need arises. This means that, as you create your company, it’s likely you will have to take on a wide variety of different tasks and gain knowledge in numerous areas.
While pay for entrepreneurs will largely depend on the type of business created, earning potential can be quite high. According to PayScale, hourly rates for self-employed professionals range from $11.40 to $81.74. The average pay for those who are self-employed is $21.65.
Unfortunately, many new businesses fail within the first few years. Owners who gain the necessary skills in the field, however, have a higher chance of success. Completing coursework related to various business fundamentals, critical thinking, public speaking, presentation, and problem-solving can provide the edge you need to meet your professional goals.
What’s Involved in an Associate Degree?
There are a number of community colleges that offer in-person and online associate degrees in entrepreneurship. Programs are generally created and maintained by school business departments and are intended to provide learners with the foundational skills necessary to start, manage, and grow a business.
Degrees often place a strong focus on math, English, and economics. It’s also common for students to work through a core business curriculum, which is likely to include topics like accounting, marketing, business law, and business ethics. Students may also have to learn to use various spreadsheet, presentation, and word processing software.
Entrepreneurship is sometimes offered as a concentration within a broader business degree. Programs may also focus on particular areas of the field, such as e-commerce, funding, or product feasibility.
While the specific coursework and titles will vary from institution to institution, many associate degrees in supply chain management include classes such as:
- Professional Finances
- Business Law
- Inventory Control
- Spreadsheet Software
- Information Systems
- Public Speaking
- Business Management
What to Consider When Choosing This Degree
When looking for a program in entrepreneurship, it’s important to consider the college or university’s accreditation status. Every academic institution has the ability to become accredited. Earning and maintaining proper accreditation means the institution meets established academic and professional standards. Only accredited programs can guarantee students will be adequately prepared for work within the field after graduation.
Many community colleges and institutions offering associate degrees in entrepreneurship are likely to be regionally accredited by one of the six agencies approved by the Council for Higher Education Association (CHEA).
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
- North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCACS)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS COC)
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges Accrediting Commission for Schools (WASC ACS)
It’s also possible for individual programs to acquire accreditation beyond that provided by the regional accrediting agency. While not required, some associate degree business programs related to entrepreneurship are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). Those planning to earn a bachelor’s degree should look for programs accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).
Generally, prospective students should avoid educational institutions that lack proper accreditation. Degrees earned from these colleges and universities are particularly problematic when attempting to transfer credits for additional education. And some employers will not accept them as valid during the hiring process.
Further Entrepreneurship Education
You can also choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurship. These programs help develop student skills in leadership, organization, and problem-solving. Graduates often have a good sense of professional independence, as well as a substantial work ethic.
Most bachelor’s degree programs consist of 120 credit hours of coursework, which generally takes full-time students four years to complete. However, those who have already completed an associate degree will only need around two years to complete the rest of the required courses, assuming that all of their earned credits transfer. Students often learn about various subjects relevant to business.
While course titles will vary, students can expect to take classes like:
- The Entrepreneurial Mindset
- Low-Risk Startups
- Entrepreneurial Finance
- Social Entrepreneurship
- Entrepreneurial Consulting
A master’s degree in entrepreneurship is rarely necessary, but it can help graduates advance their businesses further. These programs are often designed to teach students how to contribute to the overall growth and developing of existing business ventures.
Most master’s degree programs consist of 60 credit hours of coursework and take full-time students approximately two years to complete. Most programs do not require previous work experience, but it can be beneficial.
Every institution has its own unique curriculum and course titles will vary, but students can expect to take classes like:
- Financial Management
- Strategic Marking Management
- Launching Startup Ventures
Enrolling in a Master of Business Administration (MBA) program is another viable option for individuals interested in entrepreneurship. Many of these degrees offer concentrations in startups and business development. As an MBA graduate, you are likely to have more employment opportunities, stand out among job candidates, make more money and qualify for senior-level and management positions.
Most MBA programs consist of 60 credit hours of coursework and take full-time students approximately two years to complete. Students focus primarily on developing and honing skills in strategy, marketing, global business, and supply chain management. Other concentrations available include data visualization, enterprise systems, security controls, and business analytics.
Doctorate or PhD
Those interested in opening their own businesses are unlikely to need a doctorate or PhD in entrepreneurship. Programs at this level are generally designed for individuals interested in learning how to conduct cutting-edge research in the field and/or become professors at research universities. Graduate may also choose to pursue positions as directors of operations and chief operating officers.
Doctorate and PhD students should expect it to take five to seven years to graduate, although some four-year programs do exist. Curriculums vary, but most place a strong focus on research. Students will also be expected to complete and present a dissertation. It’s also common for instruction to include research methods, econometrics, and multivariate analysis.
In addition to obtaining a degree in entrepreneurship, you can choose to pursue a number of certifications to help advance your company or enhance your professional qualifications. While not necessarily required, opting to earn one or more certifications can help you and your company stand out among the competition. Additionally, applying concepts from the certification materials can provide you with the knowledge and skills necessary to expand your business and increase salaries.
Because certifications are generally industry-based, it may be wise to research which credentials are best for your specific business. Make sure the program you select is relevant to your current model or a service and/or product you hope to offer in the future.
Some of the most prominent general business options include:
- Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)
- Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP)
- Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP)
- Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM)
- Certified Logistics, Transportation and Distribution (CLTD)
- Certified Professional Logistician (CPL)
- Certified Professional Contract Manager (CPCM)
- Project Management Professional (PMP)
- Oracle Certified Professional (OCP)
Business owners may also benefit from obtaining Green Business Bureau, ISO 9001, and Woman Business Enterprise certifications.
Individuals planning to open their own businesses will need to research specific state regulations in the location where they intend to work. Licensure and certification requirements depend heavily on the given industry and product offering. It is your responsibility to ensure you are properly licensed and certified in your state.
Potential Careers with an Associates in Entrepreneurship Diploma
There are plenty of opportunities available to individuals who earn an associate degree in entrepreneurship. If you do not plan to start your own business right away, it’s good to know that some employers may require additional education and/or certifications prior to employment.
Some of the most popular job options include:
- Small Business Owner
- Retail Manager
- Office Manager
- General Sales Manager
- Operations Manager
- Business Analyst
- Business Consultant
- Small Business Owner
Small business owners are responsible for managing their own businesses. They may take an active or inactive role, often performing a variety of duties themselves or delegating tasks to employees. Active professionals generally oversee company operations, direct production, oversee personnel management, develop policies, and direct financial activities.
- Retail Manager
Retail managers are responsible for overseeing the operation of the retails stores to which they are assigned. They often hire and fire employees, manage inventories, and handle customer service issues. These professionals also assist in planning annual budgets and track retail goals for the company.
- Office Manager
Office managers are responsible for overseeing activities, projects, and employees in their offices. They work with staff to ensure operations run smoothly, as well as update high-level executives on the status of various projects. These professionals also often develop budgets and make purchases.
- General Sales Manager
General sales managers are responsible for overseeing the sales departments at the companies or businesses they work for. They generally hire and train employees, assist the sales team, ensure targets are met, compile revenue data, and present relevant information to upper management. These professionals may also take on general marketing duties.
- Operations Manager
Operations managers are responsible for overseeing the production of goods and/or services for the companies or organizations they work for. They usually manage multiple departments to ensure that products meet client expectations. These professionals may also make sure all safety and environmental regulations are being followed.
- Business Analyst
Business analysts are responsible for ensuring the efficiency of various departments within the companies they work for. They spend a significant amount of time analyzing large volumes of data. These professionals use their findings to propose strategies that will maximize overall productivity and improve financials.
- Business Consultant
Business consultants are responsible for helping their clients create profitable business models. They are often hired by companies to assess current procedures and offer recommendations that will improve customer outreach or find better vendors. These professionals may also help identify and execute infrastructural changes.
Overall, the earning potential for individuals with an associate degree in entrepreneurship is promising. According to PayScale, the average base hourly rate for people who are self-employed is $21.65. This is higher than the average median wage for all other occupations, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Hourly wages can much higher, however, depending on the job sector and title. Self-employed psychotherapists, for example, earn an hourly rate of $96.99. There are also several jobs that have relatively low averages, which some self-employed professionals making as little as $9 an hour.
For entrepreneurs, pay is often impacted by a number of important influences. The most important include industry, location, business structure, and business longevity.
It’s worth noting that starting a business is not the only option for entrepreneur graduates. Several of the employment opportunities mentioned above offer quite lucrative salaries. The median annual wage for business analysts was $87,660 in May 2020. Prospective students should also be aware that earning a bachelor’s degree can result in higher salary potential.
The outlook for entrepreneurs is relatively promising, although a significant number of new businesses fail within only a few years of creation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracks establishment survival. Longevity generally varies significantly by industry, with healthcare and social assistance companies consistently ranking among those with the highest survival rates. Construction businesses, on the other hand, tend to rank among the lowest.
BLS projects that self-employment will grow in about half of all occupations. However, that fast growth does not necessarily mean additional employment opportunities. Some professions, such as radiologic technologists and family therapists, will maintain low levels of employment despite fast growth. Occupations with high employment levels and projected growth may offer the strongest employment opportunities. These jobs include personal care aids, management analysts, painters, childcare workers, and carpenters.
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