One of today’s most popular myths about successful people is that the top tier of American CEOs are all college dropouts. But for every Mark Zuckerberg (who dropped out of Harvard to pursue Facebook), there are dozens of innovators and top earners who followed through with their educations, some attaining advanced degrees. Some achieved degrees in their fields, while others explored different avenues on their way to success and notability. Here are some of the best-known CEOs in modern business, where they got their educations, and what degrees they earned ahead of their success.
There are few investors more savvy than Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett. He’s a household name not just for having an impressive net worth, but also because his expertise in his field is beyond reproach, and his dedication to philanthropy is extensive. Buffett was a businessman before he ever went to college, from door-to-door cola sales to small investments in the stock market in his high school years. That’s why he chose to attend the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, eventually transferring to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration, moving on to Columbia University in New York City as well as the New York Institute of Finance, earning his Master’s degree in economics. All that education has served Buffett well: he’s estimated to be worth just short of $60 billion today.
The most recent CEO of computer giant Microsoft is also the most educated person to ever hold the post. Bill Gates is one of those famous, one-in-a-million billionaire dropouts, while Satya Nadella‘s predecessor Steve Ballmer had a Bachelor’s degree from Harvard. Nadella himself has a literally world-class education. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in electronics and telecommunications at Manipal Institute of Technology in his home country of India. Nadella came to the United States and attended the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where he achieved a Master of Science degree in computer science, followed by a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.
For the first time in history, women are joining the ranks of the most powerful CEOs in the world. A shining example of this inspiring trend is Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer. Mayer received recognition for her excellence in science at a young age, which encouraged her to pursue technology degrees at Stanford University. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in symbolic systems, which is the study of how humans and computers interact and how artificial intelligence is developed. She continued at Stanford to earn her Master of Science degree in computer science. Her work at tech giants like Google and Yahoo! also earned Mayer an honorary doctorate from the Illinois Institute of Technology in 2009. Her story of success as a woman in a male-dominated field. If Mayer can reach the top of the tech world on her own energy, you can definitely finish your degree, especially if you use creative solutions like online courses and night classes.
The CEO of financial giant JPMorgan Chase is one among many Harvard University graduates to reach the top of a major American corporation. Harvard has more of its graduates on the Fortune 500 list than any other institution. Jamie Dimon double-majored in psychology and economics for his undergraduate work at Tufts University, then attended Harvard’s legendary business school to achieve his Master of Business Administration degree. Getting his education there certainly gave Dimon a leg up. He spent his summers taking internships at some of the most prominent financial institutions in the nation, graduating into a gig with American Express and becoming a CEO after less than a decade in his field.
The top CEOs in the United States today come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and each had their own set of challenges to overcome. Education was the factor that made the biggest difference in their careers. By developing good work ethics and taking advantage of the opportunities connected to their degrees, these successful individuals rose to the tops of their fields with a foundation of a college education.