While exciting, starting and running a company comes with countless unknowns and a high level of risk. According to data from the US Small Business Administration, 20 percent of new businesses don’t survive their first year, and only about 50 percent survive five years or more.

In a field where so much is up to chance, it’s important to focus on the factors you can control—such as your knowledge, skills, and effort—and invest in them. One option for doing so is taking an entrepreneurship course. Whether you’re a seasoned professional breaking into the startup world or a newcomer with a big idea, furthering your entrepreneurial education can bolster your skills and help you gain confidence in your ability to run a business.

Entrepreneurship course offerings range from general “101” programs to deep dives on specific topics. Before choosing a course, you should identify gaps in your knowledge and skill set. For instance, data from financial software company Intuit shows that 68 percent of small business owners wish they’d spent more time mastering financial skills before launching their venture. If finance isn’t your strong suit, consider an entrepreneurship course that can help you develop financial literacy.

Taking a course is an investment in yourself and your business, so make sure you find one that’s right for your needs. Here are five questions to ask yourself when selecting an entrepreneurship course.

Questions to Ask When Selecting an Entrepreneurship Course

1. Where Am I in My Entrepreneurial Journey?


Have you decided you’ve got what it takes to be an entrepreneur but haven’t thought of your business idea yet? Maybe you have a validated idea but aren’t sure how to make it a reality, or you’re a year into your startup and realize you need some brushing up.

Determining where you are in your entrepreneurial journey can help you decide what type of course to take. Entrepreneurship courses can be:

  • Broad introductions to the startup world
  • Deep dives on specific skills, such as financing a business or market validation
  • Hands-on workshops that prompt learners to apply entrepreneurial concepts and techniques to real-world situations

Depending on the knowledge and experience you bring to the table, one of these course types may be a better fit than others.

Related: 6 Questions to Ask Before Starting a Business

2. What Format and Schedule Do I Need?


As an entrepreneur, your time is a valuable and often scarce resource. Taking a course needs to work for your schedule and be presented in a format that fits your availability.

Many professionals opt for online courses because of the flexible timing and ability to take them from anywhere. Consider your current schedule, and block out the time you can dedicate to your learning.

Whether you’re working around children’s schedules, client meetings, or simply need to give yourself time to sleep at night, catering your education to your needs can help you stay dedicated.

Related: Are Online Classes Worth It? 12 Pros & Cons of Online Learning

3. What Is the Background of the Course Instructor?


When researching an entrepreneurship course, look into the instructor’s background. Did they start a business you admire? Perhaps they founded several failed companies before finding success or worked in a different field before teaching.

Ensure the instructor has a background that inspires you and evokes questions. What might they have learned during their entrepreneurial journey that could impact you?

For instance, Harvard Business School Professor William Sahlman, who teaches Entrepreneurship Essentials, has been a director, advisor, and investor at over 200 companies, venture capital funds, and nonprofits. The experiences he’s had in the business world inform the content he presents in the course.

4. Will I Learn Concepts Through Case Studies?


Another factor to consider when selecting a course is whether the curriculum contains case studies. By reading about or hearing from other entrepreneurs, you can apply the advice of those who’ve been in your position and learned along the way.

For Anita Umoh, director of the Ayzer Center for Entrepreneurship and a former HBS Online participant, the case studies included in Entrepreneurship Essentials were her favorite part of the course.

“They brought everything to life,” Umoh says. “Successful entrepreneurs are real people and not superhuman. They pursued their passion, followed the principles, and continued pushing forward despite the challenges they encountered. It was something I could relate to, and it helped me understand and know that fear can be good because it fuels your passion to keep moving forward.”

5. Does the Course Offer Networking Opportunities?


Your network is an invaluable resource as you build your business. Try to find an entrepreneurship course that enables you to grow your professional network and foster lasting relationships with like-minded peers.

If the course is taught in person, networking may happen naturally before or after class. But if you’re considering an online course, look for programs with a networking component built in, like HBS Online’s Community.

Your network can not only provide practical advice about starting and running a business, but offer support when times get tough. It can also be tapped into when you begin hiring your team.

Entrepreneurship Essentials - Succeed in the startup world. Learn more.

Level Up Your Entrepreneurial Skills

With these questions in mind, research and find an entrepreneurship course that can meet you where you are in your career, fit your lifestyle, provide meaningful wisdom from instructors and case studies, and help you expand your network.

No matter which course you decide to take, broadening your knowledge is an investment in yourself and your business's future.

Do you want to bolster your skills while running a business? Explore our four-week online course Entrepreneurship Essentials, and learn to speak the language of the startup world.

Catherine Cote

About the Author

Catherine Cote is a marketing coordinator at Harvard Business School Online. Prior to joining HBS Online, she worked at an early-stage SaaS startup where she found her passion for writing content, and at a digital consulting agency, where she specialized in SEO. Catherine holds a B.A. from Holy Cross, where she studied psychology, education, and Mandarin Chinese. When not at work, you can find her hiking, performing or watching theatre, or hunting for the best burger in Boston.