Warren Buffett has said he doesn’t stress higher education in the hiring process, and yet he went to some of the most prestigious schools in the country. One common thread among the world’s most successful and inspiring entrepreneurs and business leaders is that most went to college — even if only for a short while.
Click through to learn about the academic histories of the world’s most important business leaders.
College: Harvard University
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is under fire and scrambling to control the damage of a data-mining scandal enveloping the social media giant. But in 2004, he was a computer programmer and recent Harvard dropout focused on spreading his emerging online platform from Harvard to campuses across the country and, eventually, the world. He has a net worth of $50 billion.
College: Princeton University
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who has a net worth of $124 billion, is the richest person in the world and, according to Forbes, is the first billionaire to break the 12-figure mark. The son of a single mother, Bezos earned early admission to Princeton, originally intending to practice theoretical physics. After graduation, however, he realized the power of the internet and began selling books online, a small business venture that grew into the world’s most powerful online retailer.
College: University of Pennsylvania, University of Nebraska and Columbia University
Warren Buffett followed his father’s advice and went to the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton School of Business — but only reluctantly. The man who would go on to become the “Oracle of Omaha,” arguably the most successful investor of all time, completed his undergraduate education at the University of Nebraska before attending graduate school at Columbia University. Despite many years of schooling, Buffett doesn’t think college is for everyone and doesn’t base his hiring decisions on degrees, according to CNBC. The Berkshire Hathaway CEO and global philanthropist has a net worth of $82 billion.
College: University of Pennsylvania and Stanford University
Elon Musk is the co-founder of PayPal, the creator of SpaceX and the CEO of Tesla. In 1989, however, the South African immigrant entered Queen’s University in his mother’s native Canada and eventually transferred to the University of Pennsylvania, graduating with a degree in physics and economics in 1995. Musk then enrolled at Stanford University but left after just two days to start his first company, Zip2. Musk has a net worth of $22 billion, but he works for cheap.
College: Auburn University and Duke University
Tim Cook earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from Auburn University and an MBA from Duke University, where he was a Fuqua Scholar. Today, he’s the CEO of Apple.
Before reaching the executive level at Apple, Cook, who has a net worth of $650 million, worked for Compaq and IBM.
College: University of Southern California
Marc Benioff, who has a net worth $6.7 billion, was a pioneer of cloud computing and now serves as the chairman and CEO of Salesforce. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Southern California in 1986. He enjoyed college so much that he never severed ties — he currently serves on the school’s board of trustees.
College: Ithaca College
Disney CEO Bob Iger has a net worth of $350 million. Before he saved Disney, Iger graduated from Ithaca College in 1973, where he cut his teeth in one of the toughest gigs in show business. Intent on landing a television career, Iger spent five hard winter months working as a local weatherman in notoriously frigid Ithaca, N.Y.
College: Tufts University and Harvard University
Harvard graduate Jamie Dimon runs America’s largest bank as the CEO of JPMorgan Chase. He’s famous — or infamous — for protecting that bank by dumping $12 billion in subprime mortgages in 2006, which helped the bank survive the Great Recession. Dimon graduated from Tufts University in 1978 and later enrolled in Harvard Business School. He parlayed the MBA he earned there in 1982 into a billion-dollar career. According to MarketWatch, Dimon was paid $28.3 million in 2017 — or 364 times the amount earned by the median JPMorgan employee. He has a net worth of $1 billion.
College: Kettering University and Stanford University
Mary T. Barra — one of the world’s richest female CEOs — became the first woman to lead a major automaker when she was named CEO of General Motors in 2014. In 2016, she was the highest-paid auto CEO in the world, earning $22.58 million in total compensation at GM. She graduated from Kettering University in 1985 — it was called General Motors Institute then — and earned an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business in 1990.
College: Stanford University and University of Pennsylvania
Sundar Pichai interviewed with Google on the day the company launched Gmail in 2004 — now he is the company’s CEO. The metallurgical engineering student did so well at the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur that he won a scholarship to Stanford. After earning his Master of Science, he earned an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. He has a net worth of $600 million.
College: University of Wisconsin and University of Chicago
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is credited with moving the software giant away from a failed mobile strategy and toward winning endeavors such as augmented reality, cloud computing and the purchase of LinkedIn. Nadella, who has a net worth of $180 million, has two master’s degrees. He earned a Master of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin and an MBA from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.
College: Oregon State University and Stanford University
Fortune’s 2017 Businessperson of the Year, Nvidia founder and CEO Jensen Huang, is “leading an AI revolution in Silicon Valley,” according to the publication. His company pioneered computer gaming in the 1990s and invented the GPU card. He earned a BSEE degree from Oregon State University and, like so many others on this list, a master’s degree from Stanford. Also known as Jen-Hsun Huang, he has a net worth of $6.6 billion.
College: University of California at Berkeley and and Bowling Green State University
Shantanu Narayen earns more than $20 million a year as CEO of Adobe, the company that gave the world Photoshop and the PDF. A native of India, Narayen earned an undergraduate degree in electronics engineering, a master’s in computer science from Bowling Green and an MBA from Berkeley.
College: Penn State University
Nike CEO and chairman Mark Parker has a net worth of $250 million. In 1977 he graduated from Penn State with a degree in political science. He joined Nike two years later as a footwear designer and worked his way up the corporate ladder.
College: University of Massachusetts-Amherst, MIT, Fairleigh Dickinson University and Harvard University
T-Mobile CEO John Legere has more than 30 years of experience in the telecommunications industry — and he built his career on an impressive academic resume. According to his UMass alumni page, he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from UMass Amherst, a master’s degree as an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an MBA from Fairleigh Dickinson University — all before completing Harvard Business School’s Management Development Program.
College: University of Minnesota and Xavier University
John Hammergren already had earned a world-class education as an Eagle Scout before he completed a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Minnesota and an MBA from Xavier University. He now is chairman and CEO of healthcare giant McKesson. His net worth isn’t known, but his total compensation in 2017 was $131.2 million.
College: Princeton University and Harvard University
A self-made woman, Meg Whitman has a resume that would put most business leaders to shame. The former CEO of eBay and Hewlett-Packard, Whitman has a net worth of $3.3 billion and is the CEO of media startup NewTV. She’s a member of Princeton University’s class of 1977 and went on to earn an MBA from Harvard Business School.
College: University of Michigan and Stanford University
Larry Page didn’t wait until graduation to achieve greatness — the Alphabet CEO formed Google in 1998 with Sergey Brin, who also was a grad student at Stanford. Page, who has a net worth of $53 billion, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of Michigan in 1995. He shocked instructors by announcing his senior project would be to hack a Palm Pilot.
College: Northern Michigan University
Howard Schultz graduated from Northern Michigan University in 1975. He was the first person in his blue-collar family to graduate from college, going to Northern Michigan on a football scholarship. Schultz is the executive chairman of coffee giant Starbucks. He acquired the company in 1987 when it had 17 stores, and by mid-2015, it had grown to 22,519 worldwide. Schultz has a net worth of $3 billion.
College: Northwestern University
Before she spent more than 30 years climbing the corporate ladder before reaching the top of IBM in 2011, Ginni Rometty earned a bachelor of science degree from Northwestern in 1979. Rometty, the first female CEO of the iconic company, studied computers and electrical engineering and graduated with high honors. She has a net worth of $90 million.
College: Missouri University of Science and Technology; and New York University
After a brief stint at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, Jack Dorsey transferred to NYU, where he dropped out. At the age 29, he was out of work, living in a tiny apartment and unable to find a job — even at a local shoe store. He dabbled in fashion, and then the self-taught coder went on to found Twitter. That final act made him one of the richest CEOs in Silicon Valley with a net worth of $2.1 billion.
College: University of Vermont and MIT
Brian Halligan graduated from the University of Vermont with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and earned a master’s from MIT in 2005. Just one year later he formed inbound sales and marketing company HubSpot with fellow MIT grad student Dharmesh Shah.
College: Stanford University
With a net worth of $1.1 billion, Richard Fairbank recently joined the vaunted three-comma club. One of the country’s longest-serving bank CEOs, Fairbank leads Capital One Financial Corp. Long a CEO who shuns the limelight, Fairbank graduated with an MBA from prestigious Stanford University, where he also studied as an undergraduate.
College: Bowdoin College and Stanford University
Reed Hastings is an entrepreneur with a net worth of $4 billion. He studied mathematics at Bowdoin College and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1983. Afterward, he joined the Marine Corps and traveled the world with the Peace Corps. If you’ve ever binge-watched movies or TV shows from beginning to end, you probably have Hastings to thanks — he founded mail-order DVD service Netflix in 1997.
College: University of Alabama, Columbia Business School and Harvard Business School
One of the most powerful women in business, Marillyn Hewson is the CEO of Lockheed Martin. Her more than three decades with the company came on the heels of one of the most impressive academic careers in the business world. She earned a B.S. in business administration and a master’s degree in economics from the University of Alabama. She went on to complete both the Columbia Business School and Harvard Business School executive development programs.
College: University of Pennsylvania
In the decade of leadership under Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn has ballooned from 33 million subscribers to more than 467 million, and a company with a few hundred employees became one that employed 10,000 people. Weiner, who is worth about $200 million, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School with a degree in economics.
College: Northwestern University and University of Pennsylvania
Bill McDermott is the CEO of software giant SAP — and the grandson of basketball great Bobby McDermott. He’s also a man who overcame a host of traumas and challenges, both in childhood and as an adult, and went on to earn an MBA from Northwestern University and to complete the Executive Development Program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. The way he financed his education, however, might be more impressive than his academic record — he bought a deli when he was just 16, which earned him enough to pay for college. McDermott’s net worth isn’t known, but he earned about $14 million in 2016, according to Money Inc.
Laurence D. Fink
Laurence D. Fink graduated with a bachelor’s degree from UCLA in 1974 and earned an MBA in 1976. Twelve years later he founded BlackRock, which holds $5.4 trillion in assets and dominates the global ETF market. His efforts have earned him a net worth of $340 million.
College: University of British Columbia and Oxford University
Dominic Barton is the managing partner of McKinsey & Co., a global management consulting firm, and the author of more than 80 articles. He’s also an adjunct professor at Beijing’s Tsinghua University. His international college credentials, however, began as a student, not as a teacher. He graduated with honors as an undergraduate economics student at the University of British Columbia and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford.
College: University of Southern California and Pepperdine University
In 2017, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz was in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons when a passenger was dragged off a flight in a violent, videotaped incident. The oldest of nine children, the former soda executive was the first in his blue-collar family to attend college. He credits a guidance counselor with pushing him to apply to colleges he never thought would accept him. USC eventually did, and he graduated with a business degree before earning an MBA from Pepperdine.
College: California (Pa.) University
In 2017, Money magazine crowned Charter Communications CEO Thomas Rutledge as the highest-paid boss in business. The $98.5 million he commanded in the previous year was more than double the salary of the next-highest-paid CEO. Before he was a member of the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame, however, he studied economics as an undergraduate at California (Pa.) University and graduated in 1977.
Brian L. Roberts
College: University of Pennsylvania
Like Thomas Rutledge, Brian L. Roberts is a well-paid media chief. The CEO of Comcast earned a bachelor ‘s degree from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. His father was one of the founders of the company, and Roberts started with Comcast as an intern at age 15.
College: University of Arkansas and University of Tulsa
The youngest Walmart CEO since founder Sam Walton, Doug McMillon began his career at the world’s largest retailer unloading trucks as a teenager. Like Walmart, McMillon’s education was based in Arkansas. He completed his undergraduate work at the University of Arkansas and then enrolled in the MBA program at the University of Tulsa. Before he finished, he enrolled in Walmart’s buyer-training program and, upon graduation, started as an assistant manager at store No. 894 in Tulsa. McMillon’s net worth is $100 million.
College: West Point and University of Pennsylvania
Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky is a military veteran who was accepted to the elite United States Military Academy at West Point. After graduating in 1982, he joined the Army Rangers. In 1996 he returned to school to earn an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
College: Harvard University
Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff has a long resume that includes work in private equity, Wall Street investment banking and the founding of Hotwire.com. In high school, according to Bloomberg, Rascoff was an “overachiever” who was an athlete, the president of the student body and the editor of his school’s newspaper. His efforts earned him a spot at Harvard, where he graduated in 1997. Rascoff’s net worth is not public.
College: Lincoln Technical Institute, Santa Clara University and Stanford University
VMware has nearly doubled in size since Pat Gelsinger took over in 2012. Gelsinger, who is credited with developing the original 80486 processor while working at Intel, didn’t start his academic career at Harvard or Penn’s Wharton School, like so many of his contemporaries. Gelsinger, who holds seven patents, started studying electrical engineering at Lincoln Technical Institute. After earning his associate degree in 1979, he graduated magna cum laude from Santa Clara University in 1983 before earning a master’s degree in 1985 from Stanford.
College: Baylor University
Oracle Corp. CEO Mark Hurd graduated from Baylor University in 1979. After earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration, he remained active with his alma mater. A member of the school’s board of regents, Hurd received the 2012-13 Baylor Legacy Award, and he even has a few buildings named after him. He has a net worth of $70 million.
College: Cornell University and the University of Virginia
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals CEO Leonard Schleifer has impressive academic bona fides in business and medicine. He was accepted to Cornell on a scholarship and pursued a career in medicine. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree, he earned his medical degree at the University of Virginia, where he also was awarded a Ph.D. He has a net worth of $1.1 billion.
College: MIT and UCLA
The chairman and CEO of Northrop Grumman, Wes Bush earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from MIT. After that, he went to the University of California at Los Angeles, where he entered the school’s executive management program. He earns a fairly modest salary for a CEO — about $1.53 million a year. His net worth isn’t known.
W. Craig Jelinek
College: San Diego State University
Costco chief W. Craig Jelinek graduated from San Diego State University with two degrees: a bachelor’s in business and another in marketing, both earned in 1975. When he took the job of Costco CEO in 2012, Jelinek’s starting salary was $650,000, plus a bonus of as much as $200,000. By that time, however, he already had earned millions as company president and COO. Jelinek’s current net worth isn’t known.
Robert A. Kotick
College: University of Michigan
Longtime Activision Blizzard CEO Robert A. Kotick has served at the company’s helm since 1991. His alma mater is the University of Michigan, but he serves on the boards of both the Center for Early Childhood Education and Harvard Westlake School. Under Kotick’s tenure, Activision Blizzard has developed hit franchises such as “Call of Duty,” “Candy Crush” and “World of Warcraft.”
Richard K. Templeton
College: Union College
Richard Templeton is the boss of Texas Instruments, and he’s been with the company since 1980 after earning his bachelor’s degree from Union College in Schenectady, N.Y. In his private life, he’s a major player in advancing education, including his push to improve access to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education.
Under his stewardship, Texas Instruments has given $150 million to the cause. Templeton’s net worth isn’t known, but he made about $15 million in total compensation in 2016, according to Salary.com.
College: Brown University
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who has a net worth of $200 million, graduated from prestigious Ivy League school Brown University in 1991 — but getting there wasn’t easy. At age 9, the future Expedia CEO escaped Iran with his family in 1978 on the eve of the country’s Islamic revolution. His father returned to care for an ailing relative, only to be captured and held for six years while his family was in America.
College: Madras Christian College, Indian Institute of Management and Yale University
The president and CEO of PepsiCo since 2006, Indra Nooyi held several executive jobs with the company before taking the helm. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Madras Christian College, an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management in Calcutta and another master’s degree from Yale. Nooyi has a net worth of $80 million.
College: Smith College and the University of Pennsylvania
The CEO of defense giant General Dynamics, Phebe Novakovic earned her undergraduate degree from Smith College in Northampton, Mass., and then, like so many of her contemporaries, earned an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. Forbes considers her one of the most powerful women in the world.
College: Polytechnic Institute of NYU and Columbia University
Former Xerox CEO Ursula Burns is a classic American rags-to-riches story. Raised in the projects on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Burns excelled at math and was accepted to the prestigious Polytechnic Institute of NYU in Brooklyn, N.Y. She went on to earn her master’s degree in mechanical engineering at Ivy League school Columbia and joined Xerox via an internship that paid for part of her schooling. Burns’ net worth isn’t known, but she earned $13.1 million in total compensation in 2016, according to Salary.com. She left Xerox in 2017 and now is the executive chairperson of Amsterdam-based VEON.
College: University of Colorado
In 2017, Michael Wirth was named CEO of Chevron after the departure of longtime leader John Watson. Wirth earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Colorado in 1982. That same year, he joined the energy giant as a design engineer.
Darren W. Woods
College: Texas A&M and Northwestern University
Darren Woods has been the chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil since Jan. 1, 2017. He joined the company as an analyst in 1992 after earning a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering at Texas A&M. Following that, he earned an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
College: Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro and Stanford University
As the CEO of Anheuser-Busch InBev, Brazil native Carlos Brito is the brewmaster of the world — and he also is a man who earned college degrees on two continents. He received his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering at Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro and went on to complete an MBA at Stanford University.
College: Durham University
Control of the world’s largest restaurant chain has been firmly in the hands of Steve Easterbrook since he took the job as McDonald’s CEO in 2015 — but he’d worked for the company since 1993. An accountant by trade, he played cricket during his time as a student at Durham University in the United Kingdom and also was a visiting fellow of the Oxford University Centre for Corporate Reputation.
In 2017, Target CEO Brian Cornell took a massive pay cut of about one-third as the troubled company struggled to perform. He’ll now have to get by on $11.3 million a year. He joined the retailer in 2014 after gaining more than 30 years of experience with retailers and other companies around the world. Before that, he earned a bachelor’s degree from UCLA in 1981 and also went to the university’s Anderson School of Management.
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About the Author
Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. An award-winning writer, Andrew was formerly one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the largest newspaper syndicate in the country, the Gannett News Service. He worked as the business section editor for amNewYork, the most widely distributed newspaper in Manhattan, and worked as a copy editor for TheStreet.com, a financial publication in the heart of Wall Street’s investment community in New York City.