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Career Advice

Degrees you could need before you launch your Silicon Valley startup

Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley need to be creative, charismatic and hardworking — but even more important than that, entrepreneurs need to be smart. Not only do entrepreneurs need to understand how to develop products not currently available on the market, but they also need to build a business that is stronger than any others that might compete. Plus, entrepreneurs need to be able to comply with industry regulations, which are constantly morphing as technology and policymaking advance.

It’s wise for budding entrepreneurs to return to school to boost their abilities and credentials before they launch their startups. While not all of the following degrees are necessary, all of them will help entrepreneurs find success in Silicon Valley.

Computer Science

In Silicon Valley, only one type of smarts matters: tech smarts. Considering that Silicon Valley was built on knowledge of computers and computer programs, it should hardly be surprising that computer science is among the most popular degrees for entrepreneurs in this area.

In a computer science program, budding entrepreneurs study not just computers but all kinds of popular and emerging tech. Computer science merges the most important aspects of programming and hardware engineering, so computer science majors gain a suite of technical skills to apply in building their Silicon Valley startup. Computer science, more-so than dedicated coding or engineering programs, focuses on theories, providing entrepreneurs with a solid foundation of tech knowledge on which they can build with additional studies or experience.

Plus, a computer science degree is a baseline credential in Silicon Valley. Before an entrepreneur launches their venture, it is wise for them to work within someone else’s, to see how a tech startup runs. The best way to get a job like that is to know computer science and have connections, both of which are obtainable through a degree program.

Business Administration

After graduating with a computer science bachelor’s degree, the wise Silicon Valley entrepreneur will pursue experience in the real world of tech startups — and multitask by pursuing an advanced credential in business administration. Studies in this field will provide knowledge of sales and marketing strategies, finance and accounting methods, human resources and leadership tricks.

An MBA might sound like a trite qualification, one that isn’t mandatory to the aspiring tech entrepreneur. After all, billionaire success-stories like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates never graduated from college; why does the entrepreneur of today need a master’s degree in business?

The answer is simple: Most entrepreneurs don’t have the world-shattering ideas of those examples. Most entrepreneurs need to rely on funding from banks and venture capitalists, who like to see that startup founders have the business chops to develop an idea into a thriving corporation. Entrepreneurs who have nothing more than grunt-level skills likely won’t receive funding, which means they will never get their Silicon Valley startup off the ground.

Legal Studies

Next, entrepreneurs could consider looking into legal studies programs at places like Santa Clara University School of Law. This will provide entrepreneurs with at least a rudimentary understanding of the legal environment of Silicon Valley.

Legally speaking, the tech industry is the most complex industry ever to emerge. This is because tech, more than innovations of the past, builds on existing ideas, programs and devices — many of which are still under copyright or patent. Intellectual property is a sticky subject, and being familiar with how the law works in matters of tech puts some entrepreneurs a major step ahead of their competitors, who might be scrambling to understand the same issues.

Liberal Arts

Finally, it doesn’t hurt for entrepreneurs to dabble in the liberal arts. Though degrees in fields like English literature, art history and philosophy are often considered useless, especially by those in so-called “hard” fields like science and tech, the truth is that liberal arts majors are in high demand in Silicon Valley. Studying liberal arts helps train one’s creativity and lateral thinking, and both skills are useful in developing tech. Though a full degree might not be necessary for successful tech entrepreneurship, it would behoove budding entrepreneurs to take electives in classes like creative writing, sculpting, history and ethics.

Millions of people dream of becoming Silicon Valley millionaires — but only a handful will ever achieve their goals. Those entrepreneurs are the best of the best because they are also more willing than others to pursue knowledge that will put them ahead.



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