The Best MBAs for Entrepreneurship Set You Up for Success
November 19, 2021
A Master of Business Administration can help you avoid becoming just another failed startup founder. You don't necessarily need an MBA in Entrepreneurship, however. In fact, the best MBAs for entrepreneurship may not be concentration-based programs at all.
Entrepreneurs generate half of all private sector jobs, payroll, and production in the United States. That's huge, and it suggests that contrary to many headlines, entrepreneurship isn't on the decline. It's actually alive and well: more more people are becoming entrepreneurs.
The problem is that becoming an entrepreneur isn't as simple as pulling the trigger on that startup idea you had a few years back. Just because you think your company will be the next Amazon doesn't mean your idea will lead anywhere. In fact, given that 90 percent of startups fail, chances are good that it won't.
What do the successful 10 percent have in common? Maybe the entrepreneurs whose companies make it are those who don't just have great ideas but also know how to manage a business, work with venture capitalists and startup incubators, manage projects, and handle growth.
Getting an MBA in Entrepreneurship may sound like a drag when what you really want to do is design the Next Big Thing in your garage à la Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin. The problem is that an amazing product can't finance, manufacture, market, or sell itself. That's up to you. Earning an entrepreneurship MBA can give you the skills, tools, and knowledge you'll need to turn your biggest and best ideas not just into products, but into profits.
In this article about the best MBAs for entrepreneurship, we cover:
- What is an MBA in Entrepreneurship?
- Who is most likely to choose this MBA specialization?
- Which schools have the top MBA in Entrepreneurship programs?
- What classes do students in these programs take?
- How do the best MBA for entrepreneurship programs support students?
- How can I choose the right entrepreneurship MBA program?
- What do people do after earning this degree?
- Is this degree worth it?
What is an MBA in Entrepreneurship?
An MBA in Entrepreneurship is a specialized Master of Business Administration degree that emphasizes entrepreneurial skills and thinking. These programs don't skimp on the business fundamentals, but they also teach students to generate ideas, identify opportunities, get funding, assess financial risk, and manage startups.
Don't make the mistake of thinking that entrepreneurship MBA programs are designed to turn people into entrepreneurs. The only way to become an entrepreneur is to start a business, launch a service, or create a product. This MBA concentration exists to provide entrepreneurs (or aspiring entrepreneurs) the knowledge and skills they'll need to be successful when creating new companies or products or funding innovation in others.
Who is most likely to choose this MBA specialization?
Many people assume that all entrepreneurs are plucky go-getters who forgo higher education, borrow a few thousand bucks from family and friends, and turn that startup capital into profit through sheer force of will. It's an inspiring story, but it's an overly simplistic one.
What gets lost in the typical unicorn startup founder story is that superior services and impresive products don't sell themselves. MBA in Entrepreneurship programs teach entrepreneurial people how to turn good ideas into successful businesses. Students in these programs prepare to take on leadership roles, manage businesses, build effective and diverse teams, strategize, and use assets wisely. They're in an MBA program because they're looking for the kind of solid grounding in finance, business management, and operations that will help them avoid the rookie business venture mistakes that sink so many startups.
They're also looking for professional connections; strong business relationships are clutch in entrepreneurship. And finally, MBA degrees for entrepreneurs often attract students who already know how to raise capital launch companies. Now they need to know how to grow them by investing, nurturing talent, and planning for the future.
Which schools have the best MBA in Entrepreneurship programs?
The traditional MBA is the most popular graduate degree in the United States. At the same time, applications to US b-schools are down.
To meet shifting and broadening demand, MBA programs are adding more concentrations, including specialized tracks for entrepreneurs. As a result, what was once a relatively rare concentration is now much more common. There are high-ranking MBA in Entrepreneurship programs at schools like:
- Babson College's F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business
- Indiana University - Bloomington's Kelley School of Business
- Harvard University's Harvard Business School
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management
- Saint Louis University's Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business
- University of California - Berkeley's Haas School of Business
- The University of Texas at Austin's McCombs School of Business
- University of Michigan - Ann Arbor's Stephen M. Ross School of Business
- University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business
- Washington University in St Louis's Olin Business School
And yet, the best MBAs for entrepreneurs may not be MBA in Entrepreneurship programs, but rather generalist MBAs. According to the Financial Times' school rankings, some of the best MBAs for entrepreneurship can be found at schools that don't necessarily offer entrepreneurship as a separate concentration. These include:
- Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management
- Stanford University's Graduate School of Business
- Yale University's Yale School of Management
What classes do students in these programs take?
Nearly every full-time and part-time MBA in Entrepreneurship program teaches students foundational business concepts and principles. Most programs offer a traditional core curriculum with coursework in:
- Business ethics
- Business law
- Human resources
- Microeconomics and macroeconomics
- Operations management
While some programs include entrepreneurship-focused classes in the core curriculum, many let students who choose this concentration select from among entrepreneurship and innovation electives to build a semi-custom degree. Examples of courses in this concentration include:
- Change, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship
- Entrepreneurial Thinking
- Entrepreneurship via Acquisitions
- Financing Innovation
- Management of Smaller Enterprises
- Managing Strategic Partnerships
- New Product Management
- New Venture Planning
- Organization Design
- Scaling Operations
- Sustainable Innovation and Entrepreneurship
- Venture Capital Finance
- Venture Growth Strategies
Some programs allow students to further specialize by choosing a sub-concentration related to specific industries or areas of entrepreneurship such as retail, IT, healthcare, social entrepreneurship, or entrepreneurial finance.
How do the best MBA for entrepreneurship programs support students?
As is the case across MBAs, the best MBA programs for entrepreneurship aren't the ones with the most rigorous academics or the most famous faculty members. You can pick up advanced business concepts, creativity management, venture funding, and organizational design in any business degree program, after all.
What sets apart the programs we chose is the career support they offer students before and after graduation. These schools sponsor business plan competitions and host regular entrepreneurship forums and symposiums. Students are given ample opportunities to meet leaders in the startup and venture capital communities, complete internships at startup companies and venture capital firms, and participate in student-run funds.
These programs also work hard to help students build valuable professional networks. For instance, at University of Michigan's Stephen M. Ross School of Business, MBA students can join the Entrepreneur & Venture Club. This provides the opportunity to work with organizations and startups outside of the required internships to solve real-world business challenges.
On-campus recruiting is also a big part of the best MBA for entrepreneurship programs. Top companies interview students, participate in career panels, attend alumni mixers, and publish open positions on student intranets.
How can I choose the right entrepreneurship MBA program?
The right entrepreneurship MBA program for you may be at one of the above-mentioned schools, or it may exist at an institution not on the list above. The key to finding it is looking at your circumstances, your passions, and your goals. Are you prepared to spend two years earning your MBA in a full-time, on-campus program with a residency requirement? Or are you looking for the flexibility that an online MBA in Entrepreneurship program can offer? Maybe you need to continue working and can only reasonably enroll in a part-time MBA program. The program you choose needs to fit your life.
The right program for you should gel with your interests. Though we give examples of the kinds of classes you'll find in entrepreneurship MBA programs above, every school approaches this concentration differently. Be sure to research thoroughly core and concentration course listings and capstone requirements for each program you're considering. One or more programs will offer concentration courses and electives that pique your curiosity and support your aspirations.
What do people do after earning this degree?
There are MBA in Entrepreneurship graduates in every industry, from banking and real estate to healthcare and retail. While the stereotype of entrepreneurial life involves generating ideas and launching new businesses, there are actually many sides to entrepreneurship. Some entrepreneurs specialize in marketing existing services and technologies to new industries or taking those things and making them better. Others work on the financing side in venture capital, giving small companies the resources they need to scale or grow in scope by helping them secure funding. With an entrepreneurship MBA, you might start your own venture, or you might become a consultant; work in a corporate role that lets you support creativity, drive, and inventiveness in other entrepreneurs; or become a financier focused on portfolio management involving startups and innovators.
What you probably won't do is get rich—at least not right away. The average salary for entrepreneurs in the United States is about $64,000. That's a lot less than the average CEO salary. The trade off is that the top-paid CEOs earn about $310,000 while entrepreneurs who hit it big can become billionaires.
Is this degree worth it?
It's true that most successful entrepreneurs don't typically have degrees in entrepreneurship. Still, you should consider the startup failure rate before you decide to forgo a graduate degree. Earning an MBA in Entrepreneurship won't immediately turn you into the next Travis Kalanick or even guarantee that your entrepreneurial efforts will be fruitful, but might help you avoid becoming just another statistic.
The fact that you're even considering a degree in entrepreneurship suggests that your tolerance for risk is quite high. That's an asset in entrepreneurs, but it can also lead to overconfidence. As you consider whether an entrepreneurship MBA is worth it, think about what you don't know. You're probably very good at coming up with lots of ideas for new ventures, but do you really know everything there is to know about founding a stable company or bringing a product to market and then keeping it there? If the answer is no, then an MBA in Entrepreneurship can make the road from startup to success a lot less bumpy.
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