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Business remains the most popular major on American college campuses, with about a quarter of all bachelor’s degrees awarded in this area. Business studies can be divided into specific areas such as accounting, finance, marketing and management. Many business majors, however, are interdisciplinary, drawing upon each of these areas. Entrepreneurial studies is one of the most practical of the business majors; it focuses on the skills needed to set up and run your own small business. (The U.S. Small Business Administration defines a “small business” as one that employs less than 500 people.)
Most new businesses fail within their first five years of operation. For this reason, budding entrepreneurs need to learn how to maximize their chances for success. Learning to write a business plan, discovering ways of funding a business, understanding sales and marketing, getting a handle on business accounting and developing strategies to provide leadership for a team are all much-needed skills. The entrepreneurial studies major must learn to do strategic planning, become grounded in business law and ethics, develop management skills, and understand business communications and networking. This is the major of choice for individuals who want to learn how to recognize and respond to new business opportunities. It’s also an excellent choice if you wish to use your energy and creativity to enhance and grow a family-owned business. Successful entrepreneurs need to communicate well and be both well-organized and persuasive. You’ll need to convince others that your ideas have merit and that you have a concrete plan to reach your goals. The entrepreneurial studies major is ideal for creative, energetic types who want to chart their own course, and who are comfortable taking risks.
Although courses required for this major vary from college to college, nearly all schools require students to first take a core of general business courses. Classes in accounting, finance, economics, management and marketing provide a financial and managerial knowledge base. Additional courses in the major generally focus on developing and writing business plans, financing a business, sales and marketing, taxation and new product development. Elective courses look to the individual interests of emerging entrepreneurs, with classes in family business, mergers and acquisitions, franchising, managerial law, organizational effective-ness, solving business problems, and launching a company.
A major difference between entrepreneurial studies at different colleges is the variety of courses available. While the coursework can provide the theoretical and practical information needed to start, operate and manage a small business, the best programs have a strong experiential component, providing students with opportunities to practice what they’ve learned. Some offer courses such as Student Venture Experience and New Venture Planning (Rider University) in which students choose a hypothetical business that they are interested in starting, complete a business plan involving market research and marketing strategy, and look at business locations and staffing issues. Rider even encourages students to apply for a $5,000 grant as seed money to help launch their new business after graduation.
When considering programs, look for faculty who have strong academic credentials coupled with real-world experience as entrepreneurs or as consultants to small businesses. Classes should be project-oriented and provide opportunities to interact with local companies. The availability of internships that allow students to work with real-world issues is invaluable. Look for other program enhancements such as incubator space to launch your own company, business plan competitions, access to experts in the industry, and access to venture capital and seed financing.