Entrepreneurship & Small Business Management Degrees: Master, PhD & Online Info

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What will you learn in an entrepreneurship or small business management degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of a master's and Ph.D., and potential careers.
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Studying Entrepreneurship & Small Business Management: Degrees at a Glance

If you're interested in starting up your own business, taking responsibility for a family business, or introducing new innovations to an established company, a master's degree in entrepreneurship or small business management can give you the foundational knowledge and business network to develop a thriving company. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the overall health of the economy can play a role in the number of new businesses established in a year. For example, the actual number of new businesses launched in the year ending March 2010 was at its lowest point since data became available in 1994.

If you're considering a career researching and teaching about entrepreneurship, Ph.D. programs are available, but you may find that successfully running your own business is a key component on the path to becoming a professor in this field. The BLS reports average growth of all postsecondary teachers from 2010-2020.

Master's Doctorate
Who is this degree for? People who are interested in starting new companies, running small businesses, or creating change at larger companies People who are interested in academic or research careers
Common Career Paths (with approximate salary) - Small Business Owner/Operator ($29,000-$192,000)**
- Chief Executives ($167,000)*
- General or Operations Managers ($95,000)*
- Associates, Venture Capital Firm ($59,000-$152,000)**
- University business professors ($75,000)*
- Economists ($91,000)*
Time to Completion 1-2 years full-time 4-5 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Applied lab or practicum related to launching a business
- Direct work with a mentor
- Comprehensive exams
- Dissertation
- Teaching and/or research assistant requirement
Prerequisites - Bachelor's degree and work experience
- Quantitative and/or technological expertise
Bachelor's or master's degree in business or related field
Online Availability Yes None found at this time

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 median salary figures), **Payscale.com (May 2012 10th-90th percentile salary figures).

Master's in Entrepreneurship or Small Business Management

Even though it might be tempting to jump right in and try to turn an idea into a new business without postgraduate education, the topics covered in an entrepreneurship graduate degree program could help you get started faster and more profitably. Formally learning the best ways to write a business plan, pitch your idea to investors, run day-to-day operations and finances, and create a brand image can give you an advantage in the marketplace. Some universities offer this degree as a major within an MBA program, while others offer stand-alone Master of Entrepreneurship degrees, so you may wish to consider your own current level of business knowledge as you compare programs.

Though some programs focus on theoretical aspects of small business management, others are designed around the concept that you have a business idea that you'd like to explore. These programs give you fundamental business knowledge and then give you the chance to gain practical entrepreneurial experience as you work with a mentor to develop a business plan, seek funding, and attempt to launch the business.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Some programs specifically address technology issues to help students who are interested in high-tech startups.
  • Working with established entrepreneur mentors can provide practical advice as well as networking opportunities.
  • Graduates who launch successful companies can potentially earn high salaries as CEOs.*

Cons

  • Taking a year or two away from the marketplace to enroll in a master's program could put you at a competitive disadvantage.
  • If you have limited access to funding, you many prefer to invest in your company rather than pay tuition.
  • Launching a small business can be difficult and risky and survival rates of new businesses might be lower than you expect.*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

Master's programs in this area can take 1-2 years to complete. If you are pursuing an entrepreneurship major as part of an MBA program, you can expect completion to more likely be in the 2-year range, since you'll be covering a greater number of general business courses. Courses that are specific to the entrepreneurship master's degree can include:

  • Entrepreneurial marketing
  • Accounting
  • Entrepreneurial operations
  • Strategy
  • Legal issues

You may also take technology, management, and negotiation courses. Some programs require you to participate in an applied lab or practicum where you actually go through the steps necessary to launch your own business.

Online Degree Options

There are numerous options available for students who wish to pursue a master's degree by taking online courses. The courses required are similar to traditional programs, but programs may offer flexibility in scheduling, allowing you to take courses on a part-time basis while you work. You may also be required to complete a practicum and can interact with faculty and on-campus students while creating your business project.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

Since many programs are constructed around the notion that you are pursuing this degree in order to launch your own business, be prepared to develop one or more entrepreneurial ideas before you even begin the coursework. If your startup idea is in the technology field, consider finding work experience opportunities that can help you advance your knowledge of the essential underlying technology for your business venture. This can help you communicate effectively with advisors and potential investors you may encounter during your studies. Finally, take advantage of the exposure you will have to mentors, investors, and your fellow classmates, because these connections can be extremely important as you seek funding and develop your own company.

PhD in Entrepreneurship or Small Business Management

Ph.D. programs in entrepreneurship can be rigorous and research intensive and typically take 4-5 years to complete on a full-time basis. Programs may require you to be a research assistant, and some require you to teach undergraduate courses in entrepreneurship as well. Ph.D. programs are a good match for someone who is interested in entrepreneurial theory and who would like to contribute to advancing research in the field, rather than someone who is looking to start their own business.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Programs can be very small (as few as three students admitted every other year), so you'll have ample individual attention as you complete the program.
  • Hands-on opportunities to practice what you will pursue as a career.
  • Some programs provide financial support as students complete the doctorate. This can come in the form of tuition stipends or payments for teaching and research work.

Cons

  • Programs may not accept incoming students every year, and small class sizes can mean intense competition for limited spots.
  • If you are primarily interested in teaching, you may find students are more concerned with the faculty's actual entrepreneurial experience and investment community network versus academic credentials.
  • Career opportunities apart from teaching and research are limited. If you are interested in running your own business, a master's program could be more useful.

Courses and Requirements

Students will need to show knowledge of core business concepts, such as those that are covered in an MBA program. Incoming students may need to take certain foundational courses to prepare themselves before they begin the actual program. Once the Ph.D. program begins, you can expect to take several courses in statistics and research methodology. Other courses might include:

  • Management
  • Product strategy
  • Economics
  • Organizational behavior

At some schools, you can expect to spend at least half of the program focused on research for your dissertation. You'll likely also need to complete comprehensive exams and prepare required papers.

Online Degree Options

Because typical Ph.D. programs in entrepreneurship focus so heavily on hands-on research and teaching experience, online options for this degree aren't generally available. In fact, these programs typically require full-time study, and you can expect to spend significant time working directly with a faculty mentor, who can help you with your research and dissertation.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

To make the most of your Ph.D. program and prepare for a teaching and research career, you can look for ways to stand out among other students. For example, you might look for opportunities to get your research published or find conferences where you can present your findings. At some schools, you may be able to showcase your research during faculty seminars. Another option is to stay current on advancements in your field. You may be able to find programs that allow you to work with faculty on their technological innovations and experiential research in the field of entrepreneurship.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Business Mgmt & Project Mgmt.
      • MBA Dual Concentration: HR & Project Mgmt.
      • MBA Dual Concentration: BS Mgmt. & HR
  • Campus and Online Programs
    2. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science - Innovation and Entrepreneurship
      • M.S. - Entertainment Business
      • M.S. - Internet Marketing
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master : Business Admin
      • MBA: Project Management
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Ashford University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Entrepeneurship
      • MBA - Media Management
      • MBA
      • MBA - Human Resources Management
      • M.A. - Organizational Management: Human Resources Management
      • M.A. - Organizational Management
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Admin - Entrepreneurship
      • Master of Business Admin - Accelerated General MBA
      • Master of Business Admin - General Business
      • Master of Business Administration - Building Creativity
      • Master of Business Administration - Change and Innovation
      • Master of Business Administration - Strategic Management
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Regent University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - Small Business Data Analytics
      • Master of Business Administration - Small Business Information Technology
      • Master of Arts in Law - Business
      • Master of Business Administration - Entrepreneurship
      • Master of Business Administration
      • Master of Business Administration - General Management
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Management
      • MS - Organizational Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Johns Hopkins University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MA in Public Management
  • Online Programs Available
    10. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Admin: Management

Featured Schools

Herzing University

  • MBA
  • MBA Dual Concentration: Business Mgmt & Project Mgmt.
  • MBA Dual Concentration: HR & Project Mgmt.

What is your highest level of education?

Full Sail University

  • Master of Science - Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • M.S. - Entertainment Business
  • M.S. - Internet Marketing

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • Master : Business Admin
  • MBA: Project Management

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Ashford University

  • MBA - Entrepeneurship
  • MBA - Media Management
  • MBA

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Grand Canyon University

  • MBA

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Northcentral University

  • Master of Business Admin - Entrepreneurship
  • Master of Business Admin - Accelerated General MBA
  • Master of Business Admin - General Business

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Regent University

  • Master of Business Administration - Small Business Data Analytics
  • Master of Business Administration - Small Business Information Technology
  • Master of Arts in Law - Business

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Colorado State University Global

  • MS - Management
  • MS - Organizational Leadership

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