Do You Need a Degree to Succeed in E-Commerce?

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Right now, with no training, schooling, or experience whatsoever, you can sell stuff online. Using an established retail system like Amazon, eBay, or Etsy, or even developing your own web store through a platform like Shopify or Wix, you could make you first sale today. When your very own e-commerce business is so readily at your fingertips, you might be wondering: Why would someone ever spend time and money going to business school?

E-commerce is popular among entrepreneurs because starting an online store is quick, easy, and relatively cheap. However, just because you can open a web shop without much hassle doesn’t mean you can run an online retail business profitably. Instead of risking your time and funding on an unplanned e-commerce venture, you should invest in yourself by pursuing an advanced business degree, like an MBA.

Do MBAs Pay Off?

In a word: generally. An MBA isn’t a golden ticket to success in any field, and seeking an MBA without the right intentions is a recipe for wasted time and tuition. Thousands of college grads enroll in business school fresh from undergraduate programs solely because they are afraid of entering the real world. Few of these students will ever be satisfied with their MBAs because they likely spend their years in business school attempting to relive their college days. After they graduate as fully minted MBA-holders, they likely won’t put their new knowledge and skills to proper use.

However, for MBA-holders who enroll with a specific goal – prepare for entrepreneurship in the e-commerce sector – and apply themselves after obtaining their advanced degree, the MBA definitely pays off. The Financial Times found that MBA alumni had 53 percent higher income than their non-business-school-educated peers, which allowed them to earn the equivalent of their tuition in just over four years of work.

The key is to ensure your expectations for the program align with the reality of the degree. Because you are looking to enter entrepreneurship, the credentials of your degree will not pave the pathway to your success, which means you must work hard to learn the knowledge and skills taught in your classes.

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How Do MBAs Apply to E-Commerce?

The goal of most MBA programs is to imbue students with practical leadership abilities, including business strategy and management skills, which are essential in forming and building an e-commerce empire. An entrepreneur’s job doesn’t begin and end with opening a store; before you even consider your online shop’s name, you should draft a business plan that includes strategies for marketing and progress to ensure your business survives the first few years.

Eventually, if you achieve sufficient growth, you will be tasked with managing a team of workers, and if Michael Scott taught you anything, it was that management isn’t easy. Learning effective business strategies and developing personal skills in the sterile environment of business school will help you feel confident and in-control when you do finally open up shop.

Additionally, MBA programs provide you with opportunities to connect with peers and professionals, which in the isolating e-commerce industry is difficult to do. During the course of your e-commerce career, you will need to secure funding from investors, hire reliable staff from a pool of valuable applicants, partner with suppliers and freelancers of all shapes and sizes, and more. No entrepreneur is an island, which means the network you establish during your time in business school will be instrumental in your e-commerce success.

When Do Online Retailers Need MBAs?

If your big business plan is to sell hand-made hemp bracelets on Etsy, you probably don’t need an MBA. It’s unlikely that a home-grown, one-person venture will ever generate enough profits to justify two years in a competitive business school environment. However, if you do anticipate developing an entire line of hemp jewelry, perhaps adding clothing and footwear in the future and opening up physical stores in cities around the globe, you absolutely will need an MBA.

Ultimately, you might be able to find modest success without attending business school, but you will never achieve the astonishing growth and international acclaim that most entrepreneurs dream of. As soon as you have bigger dreams for your self-started e-commerce business, you should consider enrolling in an MBA program.


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