I’m probably too certain about this one, in an age when certainty is usually a sign of not understanding the problem. Still, I am. There is no “best major” for a college student who wants to be an entrepreneur. The best major is whatever you want to study.
I got to this yesterday on Twitter, with somebody referring me to this site–not particularly impressive, to be honest–where a freshman is asking that question.
In the meantime, I’d been meaning to post here about Fred Wilson’s post One Thing You Don’t Need To Be An Entrepreneur: A College Degree, on his A VC blog. I like his work a lot, and I recommend it a lot, too. It’s on my blogroll here.
Still, Fred is answering the wrong question–or at least, we could say, a different question. He says you don’t need a degree to be an entrepreneur. Not like for a doctor or lawyer, he explains. And I don’t disagree with that; it’s a plain fact. But given the whole range of his writing, I’m willing to bet he’d agree with me that having a degree is much better for you than not having it. Even Bill Gates, the world’s richest dropout, agrees with that–and he now has several.
So the question isn’t whether or you need a degree to be an entrepreneur. It’s do you want one. And the answer to that is yes. Education makes your life better. If you have to drop out to support your ailing grandmother, so be it. But for the record, I practice what I preach. I earned two graduate degrees after marriage, the second one after marriage and kids, and my wife and I paid for both. I worked while getting a Stanford MBA degree, and we’re still married.
But that isn’t the question the student asked, either. He wanted to know what to major in. So here’s my answer to that one:
You should major in whatever you want to study, what you like. The best advice I got was to choose your major as if you were going to die at graduation.
And I’m an entrepreneur, not entirely just guessing. I studied literature first, because I liked it–and I ended up in software.
If you study what you like, that will help you figure out what to do when you’re on your own. My literature led to Journalism, business writing, MBA and then starting companies. And I was always better off for studying what I liked when I was in college.
Business skills are easier to get than straight education.
If business is what you’re really interested in, that’s cool. You can learn a lot about entrepreneurship, marketing or finance. But if you’d rather study art, literature, history, anthropology or math or science, do that. Your business career won’t suffer. The best career path there is heads toward what you like to do.