The MBA has a great reputation for preparing students to launch successful careers in the corporate world. MBA programs typically provide a solid business generalist background along with excellent networking and job-placement opportunities. That's a true one-two-three punch.
Is the MBA as suitable to budding entrepreneurs? Until recently, the answer was less clear. These days, however, universities have begun creating alternative business degrees and concentrations specifically designed for innovators. These programs, including the entrepreneurship and corporate innovation MBA, teach students how to start and manage their own businesses, how to work with venture capitalists and startup incubators, how to manage the creation of new products, and how to handle growth.
Becoming an entrepreneur doesn't require a degree, of course. You can innovate outside the systems that govern the corporate world. But the fact remains that understanding how those systems and the entrepreneurial process work may improve your chances to transform your innovative but nebulous ideas into a sustainable company that is consistently in the black.
In this guide to an MBA in entrepreneurship and corporate innovation, we'll cover:
The general MBA is still a valuable degree. Bachelor's degree holders with business administration majors earn about $60,000 per year, while MBAs earn about $110,000.
Even so, the number of MBA concentrations is steadily increasing as the perceived value of the general MBA decreases. Modern business is more complex than ever, driving employers to seek more specialists and fewer generalists. Couple that with the fact that more and more people are becoming entrepreneurs and it's only natural that business schools are starting to cater to aspiring innovators.
The people drawn to an MBA in entrepreneurship and corporate innovation are those who'd much rather be the boss than work for a boss. It's not an easy road. A staggering 90 percent of startups fail. Those willing to face the risks of launching a company typically understand the odds, as well as the extraordinary time and financial commitments involved. Given these daunting challenges, they seek every advantage available. That's why many decide to pursue an entrepreneurship and corporate innovation MBA.
According to Indiana University's Kelley School of Business, entrepreneurship and corporate innovation MBAs typically choose one of three possible career paths:
You'll find business owners and sole proprietors who graduated with this master's degree in all industries, from banking to healthcare to real estate.
That said, while students in entrepreneurship MBA programs are definitely driven to start their own ventures, not all of them do. Many graduates go on to follow successful traditional corporate career paths, because plenty of companies value employees who are innovators, regardless of whether they have a history of successful start-ups. When entrepreneurs decide to rejoin the corporate world, they bring creativity, drive, and inventiveness to the table. Entrepreneurship and corporate innovation MBAs are valued across fields. Many forge successful careers as managers, consultants, and executives.
Earning an entrepreneurship and corporate innovation MBA isn't your only option. Some schools, such as Syracuse University and Babson College offer a Master of Science in Entrepreneurship. In quite a lot of cases, these non-MBA master's degree programs are more or less the same as entrepreneurship and corporate innovation MBA programs; many represent a partnership between a university's business school and engineering or technology schools.
Both degrees have advantages. An MS in entrepreneurship may cost less and take less time, but you'll still learn the basics of starting your own business and managing growth. Depending on the program, you may also learn more about designing and building products. MBAs, on the other hand, are multidisciplinary degrees that provide a broader view of business management and executive leadership.
The most significant difference between these degree pathways is that the MS might not look as good on your CV as an MBA if you choose to rejoin the corporate world. If there's any chance that you'll decide the startup life isn't the one for you, you'll be happy to have an MBA to fall back on.
The most important thing you'll need to get into an entrepreneurship and corporate innovation MBA program is a bachelor's degree; there's almost no chance you'll be accepted into a program without one. You'll also typically need to show either GMAT or GRE test scores, a curriculum vitae (CV), and your college transcripts.
There are some test-optional MBA degree programs, though these aren't the norm, and some business schools are willing to waive the GMAT requirement or even other admission requirements for applicants with exceptional career histories. In the case of entrepreneurship MBAs and corporate innovation MBA programs, applicants with significant startup experience, and those who've launched their own companies may be accepted over those with perfect grades and GMAT scores.
If you haven't yet completed your undergraduate education, you can make yourself a more attractive applicant by dabbling in entrepreneurship while you earn your bachelor's degree. Starting your own company may not be in the cards, but perhaps you can intern for a venture capital company or a startup incubator.
MBAs with an entrepreneurship and corporate innovation concentration give students the business knowledge, analytical tools, and leadership skills they need to build careers as autonomous entrepreneurs, product developers, innovators in the corporate world, or leaders in small- to medium-sized family-run businesses. The best entrepreneurship and corporate innovation MBA programs (which you can find at schools like Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, and Rice University) have strong core courses covering advanced business concepts and enough elective coursework in areas like managing creativity, creating business plans, and funding ventures to ground graduates in the fundamentals of launching their own firms or joining existing ones.
Most programs offer a traditional graduate business core curriculum with coursework in:
After gaining a foundation in how companies operate, students start taking entrepreneurship and innovation electives. Coursework can cover how to identify problems that need solutions, product fabrication and creation, prototype development, business plan writing, communications and negotiations, and new venture planning.
Typical classes include:
Some programs offer additional features. For example, the Entrepreneurship & Innovation MBA track at Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Business includes a Silicon Valley Study Tour, which gives students the opportunity to meet leaders in the venture capital community and founders and CEOs of successful companies in the life sciences, medical technology, information technology, advanced materials, and energy fields.
Keep in mind that every entrepreneurship and corporate innovation MBA program offers different core and elective courses and features. Read program descriptions very carefully before making the decision to apply.
An entrepreneurship and corporate innovation MBA program will take one to three years to complete, depending on the format you choose and whether you study full-time or part-time. Full-time, on-campus students can typically earn an MBA in about two years. There are also accelerated one-year online MBA programs and on-campus executive MBA programs.
What type of program you choose should depend on several factors. First, if you're currently working, you may need to take fewer credits each semester, which means you'll be in school longer. In that case, look into programs designed specifically for working professionals, which may be more flexible or have class schedules that will fit your schedule better.
Some online MBA programs offer an entrepreneurship concentration (Indiana University - Bloomington, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and University of Florida - Online are among the most prominent examples). On the other hand, if you can afford to devote a year or two to your degree, then a full-time MBA may be a better fit.
Having an MBA in entrepreneurship and innovation will not turn you into an entrepreneur or an innovator. You can study entrepreneurship and innovation—how ideas are generated and how startups are born—but the entrepreneurial spirit either exists within you or it doesn't. It's kind of like The Force that way.
The bottom line is that the only way to become an entrepreneur is to bite the bullet and start your own business or launch your own product. If you're considering getting an MBA because you're trying to avoid taking the leap for another few years, then this probably isn't the right degree for you.
That said, if you've got that entrepreneurial spirit and you're looking for a way to give yourself an advantage over your fellow entrepreneurs, getting an MBA with this concentration is probably a smart move. Indeed, the most successful entrepreneurs don't have degrees in entrepreneurship (or any degree at all), but that doesn't mean an MBA won't give you a leg up when you're launching your next venture. It may be that the vast majority of startups fail because so many innovators forget that creativity isn't enough to keep a company afloat. With an MBA in your hand, there's virtually no chance that you'll make the same mistake—and a much higher chance that your big idea will become the next big thing.
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