Common sense might tell you that the more educated an entrepreneur is, the greater their chances of success will be. Going to college, getting an advanced degree and undergoing multiple training programs should equip them with more knowledge and experience they can use to build their business.
But at the same time, there are plenty of stories of entrepreneurs who dropped out of college (and even those who dropped out of high school) and still did something incredible. So how much education does an entrepreneur truly need to succeed?
First, we need to acknowledge the fact that you can find anecdotal evidence to back your claims no matter what your position is. For example, the found of Tumblr, David Karp, dropped out of high school and is now a billionaire — along with fellow billionaires Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, Amancio Ortega and Francois Pinault.
Similarly, you can find stories of entrepreneurs who dropped out of college and became wildly successful. Famously, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Michael Dell, Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs all left college at some point — and many of them did this so they could focus on their landmark business full-time.
And of course, there are plenty of stories of entrepreneurs who became successful only after graduating college with an advanced degree.
Anecdotal evidence doesn’t tell the full story, however.
Zooming out, we can see that the alluring tale of the “college dropout entrepreneur” is a bit unfounded. Although there are some specific examples of people who abandoned their education and became successful, these tend to be exceptions rather than the rule.
Looking at the data, we can confirm this. Among the Forbes 400 (the 400 wealthiest people in the United States), there are 362 people with publicly available education records. Among them, only 44 were college dropouts — meaning 12.2 percent of billionaires were college dropouts. In fact, the vast majority of wealthy individuals hold at least a bachelor’s degree.
It also doesn’t take much research to confirm the idea that education leads to better results for the average person; with a college degree, on average, you’ll make something like $630,000 to $900,000 more in lifetime earnings than your high-school-educated counterparts.
No matter how you look at it, education has some imperative benefits for entrepreneurs, including:
There are some drawbacks to getting more education, however:
Some specific situations might call for a person to drop out of college or even high school to pursue their dreams of becoming a successful entrepreneur. But overall, the pros of education far outweigh the cons — and more education will increase your chances of success. Don’t let the stories of dropout entrepreneurs convince you otherwise.
Originally appeared in Entrepreneur