The Entrepreneur and Education

Education is a recurring theme in discussions of public policy, economic growth, and personal development. Unfortunately, there seems to be a widespread belief that schools and education are one and the same. It is true that education and schools often overlap to a significant degree, but it is problematic to limit your view of education on the content presented in the classroom. The truth is that there are many things that successful people need to learn during their lives, and not all of them are taught in a structured curriculum. Thus, as your knowledge base increases, it will become true that independent education will eventually meet and transcend structured education in its effects on your life.

This is particularly important for people in entrepreneurial endeavors, since the traditional regimen of structured education through school does not cover many of the key skills that are needed to realize success. This is not due to any sort of malicious plan on the part of educators, it is simply reflective of the reality that the current education system is designed to train future employees. It is not a coincidence that tiers of education are articulated in degrees and certificates such as a high school diploma, associates degree, baccalaureate degree, masters degree, and doctorate.

These degrees and certificates are highly important to employers, because they send a signal of educational achievement. Thus, it has become true that employers are increasingly insistent on education credentials for the people it hires. Over time, this has led to a system of credential-ism for major employers where people who possess superior skills are filtered-out of the interview process because they do not possess the desired credentials. This has created a unique situation for employers, employees, and entrepreneurs in regards to education.

The Impact of Credential-ism
The proliferation of employers who insist on credentials for their employees has led to a ‘self fulfilling prophecy’ for education institutions where the skills and abilities sought by employers are increasingly emphasized. The extended impact of this emphasis on skills for employers has been a reduction in the building of skills that will enable people to become entrepreneurs. Thus, the value of education over time has tilted more toward the credentials that you receive and less toward the content that you learn.

This impact has become even more stark over the past few decades as the content taught at varying educational institutions has become increasingly similar. This means that the actual education you receive will be very similar from one university to the next. However, the ‘prestige’ of certain universities, along with the social-economic caliber of the alumni association and student body allows them to charge significantly higher fees than other institutions where the actual education is very similar.

Over time, the compounding impact of this effect has made education more about earning credentials to achieve a prestigious, well-paying job than the specific content that is learned. This sentiment is echoed by many parents in their exhortation for children to get a college degree so that they can get a good job. The causal connection in this sentiment is hard to argue with, but it glances past one very important question. What if you don’t want to spend your entire adult life working for an employer? What if you want to become an entrepreneur at some time in the near or distant future?

The Value of Self-Education
This is where self-education becomes very important. Self-education is the process where you personally seek out the information and insights that you need to achieve your goals and ambitions. It is critical for entrepreneurs, because the skills that most entrepreneurs need are not typically included in the curriculum that contributes to traditional education credentials.

So where do you find independent education? That’s a million dollar question. The truth is that pursuing independent education is a personal journey for each individual. The part of independent education that will prove the most difficult is separating legitimate opportunities for learning and development from fraud and get-rich-quick schemes that often enrich the originators at the expense of participants.