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The Best Graduate Degrees for Entrepreneurs to Boost Business Acumen

By: Andrew Deen


Group Of Young Candidates Sitting At Boardroom Table Listening To Presentation At Business Graduate Recruitment Assessment Day

Getting a graduate degree in business is a great way to pick up extra skills that can help you in your business ownership pursuits. Being an entrepreneur is often a passion project. You take on the responsibility because you have ideas and you want to watch them play out. However, all of those ideas have specialized requirements that you may not be qualified to carry out. So graduate degrees for entrepreneurs might be something to look at.

Because although you can hire people to fill in your skill gaps, that can create problems. For one thing, you have to lean hard on their expertise, trusting that they know what they are doing. This can get you into some trouble if you aren’t careful. The other issue? Cost. Hiring employees is expensive. In your business’s early days, you may not have the cash to make it work.

In this article, we will take a look at graduate degrees that can help improve your business acumen and make you a more effective entrepreneurial leader.

First, Do You Really Need a Graduate Degree?

Define need. You probably don’t need to get a graduate degree to be successful in business. In fact, there are many successful business owners who don’t have any degree at all. You do need extensive knowledge. Getting a graduate degree will provide you with a high level of expertise that will put you ahead of the game.

Here are some benefits of getting a graduate degree that you should keep in mind:

  • In-depth knowledge: Getting an MBA will provide you with an extremely in-depth understanding of key business concepts. These skills will be enormously helpful as you make early decisions that will set the entire tone for your business’s future.
  • Networking opportunities: Getting an MBA will also put you in contact with many business leaders in your community. This could serve as an excellent opportunity to brainstorm, or even form partnerships that will help your business grow.
  • Extensive options: MBAs are extremely desirable from a hiring perspective. They often command six-figure salaries and are well-positioned for carer advancement. If you plan on working a traditional job while you grow your business, or you just want credentials you can fall back on, getting an MBA is absolutely the way to go.

Of course, graduate school is extensive. You may spend north of six figures acquiring this degree. There are options available that will be more affordable. Loads of free online resources. Community forums. Places where you can troubleshoot problems or get answers to your questions online.

There are also short-term certifications you can earn that take weeks to get instead of years. Think of these as business crash courses. They won’t be as comprehensive as MBAs, but they will get the ball rolling at a fraction of the price.

Of course, if you do think that an MBA may be right for you, there are lots of options to consider. Below, we take a look at a few of the best MBA options for small business owners.


Getting a finance-related graduate degree is a common move for people who want to improve their understanding of business in a way that will be actionable for their own company. This degree can help prepare you for everything from setting a budget to orchestrating a financially sensible business plan and monitoring your accounts closely.

Many people are attracted to the idea of owning their own business because it appeals to their creative or whimsical side. That’s great, but the truth is that all businesses are about money. You begin with startup expenses and use that money to create more money. If you can’t make sense of that component of your business, it could lead to major problems down the line.

Your business needs a finance department. Chances are, that department will be you in the beginning. Make sure you know what you are doing.


The best product in the world won’t get very far without good marketing. Consequently, a mediocre product can also do pretty well with an excellent campaign. Marketing-related graduate degrees are a good way to get your product in front of other people. You’ll save lots of money that would have been spent on your marketing budget.

You’ll also learn about skills that are lateral to marketing. Keep in mind that sales, marketing, and customer success operate in largely the same circle, simply focusing on different stages of the sales funnel.

By concentrating on marketing, you will learn many adjacent skills as well.


You can even find MBA programs themed around small business ownership. These programs have the limiting quality of not having much marketability beyond entrepreneurial pursuits. In other words, you can’t expect to leverage this particular degree to get a high-paying job.

Still, there are great benefits to consider. These programs are an excellent way to get a good sense of what it takes to open and run a small business.

What you should know about graduate school

So, you’re sold on the idea of getting a graduate degree. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Graduate degrees can be earned online. There are lots of master’s programs that can be completed from the comfort of your home. These degrees are a great way to learn more about business under conditions that suit your busy lifestyle.
  • There is no mandatory timeline. Most people try to complete their graduate degrees in 2-3 years. However, there is no required timeline. You can, and should, take on only what makes sense to you and your schedule.
  • You don’t have to wait. A lack of a degree is not a barrier to small business ownership. You can start working on your business now, further developing your plans as you learn more about entrepreneurship.

Admittedly, the high cost of a graduate degree can be prohibitive. People looking to start a small business know that $80k on a degree could have been a lot of startup money. It’s best to think of your MBA as an investment.

Can you squeeze more money out of it than you wind up spending? If so, it is a great step to take in your business ownership journey.

If not, there are plenty of other ways to earn the ropes. Find the path that makes the most sense to you.

Published: July 5, 2024

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Andrew Deen

Andrew Deen has been a consultant for startups in almost every industry from retail to medical devices and everything in between. He implements lean methodology and is currently writing a book about scaling up business. Twitter @AndrewDeen14.

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