I'm currently employed as assistant developer in a medium-sized company in my town. I'm stuck in this position because I don't have a college degree (which is required for analysts).

I have recently started college (studying by night, working by day), to try to fix that.

This past week, a family friend approached me with a business idea (an application) he wants to develop. He is the owner of a very successful company. He tends to be very smart with businesses, and the idea does sound good. He has the money and the 'smartness', which make it seem like a very good opportunity. He wants a partner, not an employee -- which means no payment during development and no guarantees of money afterwards.

Because of the 'no payment' thing, quitting my current job is not an option. I'm [recently] married and have bills to pay. I could develop the application at night, but that would mean putting a hold on getting a degree. I can't help feeling I'm way past due (I'm 25, most people are graduated by then), which makes me feel like if this experience fails, I'd be an almost 30 year old man without a college degree, with an income as little as that of an intern in my current company and without any real chance of successfully searching for better jobs.

Some people have assured me that experience as entrepeneur is great for the curriculum, but others have warned be about the 'dangers' of being 30 with no degree.

I'm not sure how the market perceives a 30 year old man still in college, even if he has good professional experience. I started working as a programmer part-time when I was 16, working full time since 18 and "playing" with programming since the age of 9-10. That usually grants me some advantage when compared to some recent graduates. I like to think I'm good enough, but the people evaluating my curriculum don't know me, don't know the quality of my work and I'm not sure I could compete with bachelors/masters in a resumé evaluation.

The question is: what is the real importance of college education and how it compares to entrepeneur experience/professional experience?

For those who might be confused by the purpose of this question (I'm talking about starting my own business and yet I'm worried about job-hunting, which doesn't make much sense), I'm just trying to cover all by bases. I'd like to make a decision knowing the consequences of every possible scenario, which obviously includes starting the business and failing.

  • You do not need a degree to be an analyst you just need more real world experience. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Sep 18 '13 at 17:56
  • No, you do not need the degree to be a good analyst. But you may need the degree to be hired as an analyst. – kleineg Jul 10 '14 at 14:32
  • Sadly without a degree you may end up working as an analyst or programmer, but with a lower job title. – kleineg Jul 10 '14 at 14:34
  • Have you started a degree program? If so how far along are you? The calculus changes depending on how much time and money you already put into acquiring the piece of paper. If you have not started then the questions are if you have a program in mind and whether your current job will reimburse you for attending school. – kleineg Jul 10 '14 at 14:38
  • Also, some (okay very few) Masters programs will accept applicants without Bachelors degrees if they can demonstrate proficiency in all required skills, or can take a few remedial courses. I could not find a question specifically about this on the Academia Exchange, but this OP is indicating he has an M.S. without a B.S. and is asking about PhD eligibility here. Some Masters programs take a year, and can help you get business for your company. – kleineg Jul 10 '14 at 14:45

The very first step is to talk to your wife. If you make a life decision like this without consulting her that [recently] may become [formerly].

Starting businesses are a hit or miss thing which can be very similar to gambling, where as a degree can be seen more like an investment. Do you want the steady slow growth that comes with the security of a degree or do you like to take the chances of starting (partnering) in a new company.

If you have a good deal of faith in the project that family friend brought to you and believe that he would contribute equally enough for the balance of a partnership then approach him about bringing you in on his other successful company while you work on this project. Something that would provide you with a net while working on this project. Be aware of how interested he is in this idea and how much commitment or knowledge he has on this subject. Think about worst case scenario how you would handle it if he made a business decision in 6 months to drop out of the project, how would you continue?

| improve this answer | |
  • Talking with your wife is easily the most important piece of advice here. Any major change in your career path effects her deeply, and she may have advice from a different perspective which can be useful. – kleineg Jul 10 '14 at 14:25

what is the real importance of college education

It's a token that gets you past HR departments (during application or promotion).

It's a great way to learn about yourself and network with people who can help you down the road. And occasionally, you actually learn things in your field of study too.

This varies due to locale, but in general, not having a degree will exclude you from opportunities and allow companies to pay you less when you do get the job.

entrepeneur experience/professional experience

Successful entrepeneurs are exceptionally valuable. Unsuccessful entrepeneurs are wistful dreamers who cannot be counted on. Part of that is how well you can sell the experience, part of that is how the potential employer values that sort of experience.

| improve this answer | |

what is the real importance of college education and how it compares to entrepeneur experience/professional experience?

My take would be it depends on which kind of work environment do you want to be:

  1. Large companies with formal processes - In this case, HR will look at your resume and want to see a degree as this is often listed in the requirements for a position. This is more to get past this point and get to the next stage of interview. There can times where in getting the degree you find a passionate area within the subject matter or you find a connection that proves useful in the long term of your career.

  2. Start-ups - In this case, the entrepreneur experience will be more useful since small companies may have a different focus where you may gain experience in how to handle that. How do you keep costs down? How do you initially build up a team? These are things that may be done in companies that are just getting started where you'd be known more for your skills than whether or not you have a degree.

| improve this answer | |
  • I work at a large company and I have a colleague who is honestly much more experienced at programming than I am, but because he does not have a degree he cannot hold the title (or pay) and is technically a lab tech. However when I worked at a small company we had a principal that did not have a degree, and he was paid just as well as the other tier 4 employees. – kleineg Jul 10 '14 at 14:31

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .