There are no specific degree programs in small business development, but closely related degree programs in entrepreneurship are available at the associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree levels. In general, students in these programs explore the building blocks of many businesses, such as marketing, finance and information systems, along with more specialized topics like product development, organizational management and venture capital. Students who earn an undergraduate or graduate degree in entrepreneurship may be prepared to start their own businesses or to become managers of existing businesses.
Associate's degrees and bachelor's degrees require a high school diploma or equivalent and a minimum GPA. Master's programs require a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA and some programs require GRE or GMAT scores. Ph.D. programs require a bachelor's or master's degree and GRE or GMAT scores. Prerequisite courses are required for those with only a bachelor's degree. Some Ph.D. programs require a dissertation and some programs might allow students without a master's degree to enroll if they complete a set of core graduate business courses. Students with prior business experience may also receive favorable consideration.
Students can find program specializations in business technology, e-commerce, global commerce, digital media, international business, technological innovation and business management. Programs in entrepreneurship can last from eighteen months to five years.
Associate's Degree in Entrepreneurship
An associate's degree program in entrepreneurship provides an introduction to common business practices and the process of establishing growing businesses. Students learn the basics of finance, budgeting, marketing and networking, as well as how to write a business plan. This associate's degree program is completed in two years.
Associate's degree programs in entrepreneurship include general education courses, in addition to the following course topics:
- Business software
Bachelor's Degree in Entrepreneurship
A bachelor's degree program in entrepreneurship covers business concepts as they relate to existing businesses and the process of establishing a new business. Students develop analytical thinking skills that enable them to recognize opportunities and practical skills in planning, finance and management. Most programs also require students to write a business plan; some programs will have students write and then implement a business plan as a group.
There will be a certain amount of subject matter overlap between an associate's and a bachelor's degree program in entrepreneurship. The latter two years of the bachelor's degree program includes more advanced courses such as the following:
- Information systems
- Business strategies
- Venture capital
- Resource management
- Operations management
Master's Degree in Entrepreneurship
In addition to requiring classroom work, master's degree program in entrepreneurship immerses students more intensively in the business-creation activities that are introduced in bachelor's degree programs. Students will explore topics such as opportunity recognition, market assessment, financing and commercialization. Many programs offer entrepreneurship as a specialization within their MBA programs. Others specialize in business technology, e-commerce, global commerce, digital media or other areas. Degrees may be completed in anywhere from 18 months to five years.
Much of the subject matter covered by a master's degree program in entrepreneurship is covered at lower degree levels, but with more specificity and interaction with working business professionals. Common courses include:
- Business research
- Business creation strategies
- Market assessment
- Product development
- Business law and regulation
Ph.D. Degree in Entrepreneurship
Ph.D. programs in entrepreneurship exist as stand-alone degrees, as specializations within a conventional business degree program or as an individualized program designed by a student. Stand-alone programs may specialize in such areas as international business, technological innovation and business management. Programs are built around core courses, seminars and research for a dissertation.
Classroom work is just a small part of a Ph.D. degree program in entrepreneurship. Students spend more time on their dissertations than they do in class. Possible course topics in a Ph.D.-level program may include:
- Data and statistical analysis
- Strategic perspectives
- Financial analysis and investment banking
- Business and entrepreneurial research
- Economic and business theory
Employment Outlook and Career Options
Prospects for small business owners and entrepreneurs will largely track with the U.S. economy. Entrepreneurs who are able to identify an unfilled niche or a more cost-effective way of providing a good or service that people view as essential will have the best chance of succeeding. Possible job titles for a graduate of an entrepreneurship program include:
- Small business owner
- Marketing director
- Chief executive or financial officer
- Managing director
Degrees in entrepreneurship attract individuals who seek self-employment or desire to start a new business. The skills acquired from entrepreneurship degrees can transfer over to many jobs in the corporate world too.