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The basics
Study abroad : Career Prospects

Developing entrepreneurial skills at university

Ever thought of starting your own business? We explore how gaining a university degree can support this goal.

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When you think of well-known entrepreneurs, the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates might come to mind. As some of these figures demonstrate, you do not necessarily need a degree to start your own successful business. However, we’re going to take a look at the benefits of gaining a degree before becoming an entrepreneur and how you can use this route to your advantage. Even if you’re not set on starting your own business, an entrepreneurial spirit is a skill that many employers are looking for.



One major advantage of gaining a degree is having the chance to meet new people within a specific field area such as lecturers, other students, researchers and experts in various fields. This will enable you to gain the relevant knowledge and background necessary for certain industries.


Let’s face it, few people leave high school with a fantastic business idea and are equipped with the experience and contacts to launch it themselves. So, while a degree is not completely necessary for becoming an entrepreneur, it is beneficial within the working world as you can prove your abilities when applying for roles or when trying to recruit others to work for you. 


Careers fairs

Other networking opportunities at university include careers fairs where representatives from different companies visit institutions to speak to students about their line of work. You can usually ask to be added to the company’s mailing list to receive updates about job vacancies and graduate schemes. You can also speak directly with employees from large corporations and find out about their route into the company.


Clubs and societies

Many universities are keen to support students interested in starting their own business. For example, at UCL in London, you can join the entrepreneur’s society where you can meet like-minded individuals, share ideas and create new ones.


One benefit of joining such a society is attending speaker events where you can hear from CEOs and founders of successful businesses. Not only is this a great networking opportunity but you can also find out how these leaders came to launch their careers as entrepreneurs. Everyone has to start somewhere.


Relevant undergraduate and postgraduate degrees

If you know you want to start your own business someday, it is probably useful to study one of the following programs as they will equip you with useful and necessary skills:



Business is an obvious field where you will gain the skills needed to set up your own company. However, there are many other subjects which would give you the knowledge you need. Marketing for example is a vital pillar of any business in order to reach the appropriate audiences and inform the market of your product or business idea.


Similarly, having a mathematical aptitude or financial sense would be hugely helpful, particularly when first starting out. Keeping track of your finances is a vital aspect of running a successful business and finding different ways to source new revenue.  


You might be surprised to see that psychology would be a useful degree course for budding entrepreneurs. This is because an understanding of people is a unique skill that is useful within any business whether that’s knowing your market, responding to clients or managing relationships with colleagues and other stakeholders.


In fact, you can hire people to sort your finances but being personable can take you far and does not come naturally to everyone. So, if you understand people and decision-making, this is going to be valuable when networking and starting your own business.


Find out what other skills employers are looking for.



As mentioned, some of the world’s most famous entrepreneurs didn’t gain a university degree, such as Mark Zuckerberg who dropped out of Harvard to launch Facebook. Obviously, this was a worthwhile risk for him but not everyone can expect their idea to be so successful.


So perhaps a more realistic or attainable goal is to find out how different universities support students who want to start their own business. The contacts of universities can be hugely useful and might support you with funding and advice that otherwise would be difficult to get access to.


Here are just a few schemes set up by universities around the world to support student and graduate entrepreneurs:



Graduate entrepreneur scheme – London South Bank University

This programme is designed for individuals who graduated from the university within the last five years and who have an idea for a business. The university has helped 27 ventures run by graduates in the last four years. This scheme involves access to mentors, legal advice and start-up loans to help students launch their business.



University of Toronto

Students and alumni of the university are able to access a range of entrepreneurship programs. Some of these schemes are specifically focused on health and computer science while others are more general to help young entrepreneurs with early-stage business development, starting with just an idea.



Accelerator programs – University of Sydney

This university in Australia offers its students access to several programmes to help them launch their business ideas. One of their schemes helps support start-ups that have been founded by at least one graduate of the university. The successful business will receive an investment of AUD 25,000, as well as mentorship and media exposure.



Student Entrepreneurship Centre – University of Bridgeport

The centre helps students to set up their own business by providing resources and services free of charge. Specialist advice is provided by business professionals across a range of disciplines such as products, non-profits, sales and more.


These are just a few examples of universities around the world that help to support students with their business ventures. Hopefully, this gives you a taste of the opportunities available to you as a student and the resources you can access to help you get started as an entrepreneur.


Interested in one of the degree courses mentioned here? Use our course matcher tool to input your qualifications and find a university and program that’s catered to you. Don’t forget to check our news bulletin to get the latest international student updates.

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