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.
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One common thread among the world’s most successful and inspiring entrepreneurs and business leaders is that many went to college — even if only for a short while.
It would appear that for some of the world’s top business leaders, college shaped their lives and paid off — especially considering the company earnings reports that have recently flooded the news.
- College: Princeton University
Former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is one of the richest people 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 has gone 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.
- 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 enrolled at Stanford University but left after just two days to start his first company, Zip2.
Musk was the highest-paid CEO in the world in 2018, according to The New York Times, with compensation totaling nearly $2.3 billion.
- 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 worked for Compaq and IBM.
- College: University of Southern California
Marc Benioff was a pioneer of cloud computing and now serves as the chairman and co-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
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, New York.
- 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.
- College: Kettering University and Stanford University
Mary T. Barra — listed by Forbes as one of the world’s most powerful women — became the first woman to lead a major automaker when she was named CEO of General Motors in 2014. In 2018, she earned $21.9 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’s the company’s CEO and the CEO of its parent company, Alphabet, after Google’s co-founder Larry Page stepped down in December 2019.
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.
- 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 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
Nvidia founder and CEO Jensen Huang is the leader of a company that 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.
- College: Dartmouth College and Stanford Graduate School of Business
John Donahoe took over as the CEO of Nike on Jan. 13, 2020, and although he didn’t have experience in the apparel industry, he’s a whiz in the tech world. He recently was the president and CEO of ServiceNow, an enterprise cloud computing company, and was the president and CEO of eBay from 2008 to 2015. Donahoe earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Dartmouth College and an MBA from Stanford University.
- 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. He then completed Harvard Business School’s Management Development Program.
- College: New York University and Missouri University of Science and Technology
After a brief stint at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, Jack Dorsey transferred to NYU, where he dropped out. At the age of 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.
- College: Harvard University
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has weathered a scandalous — yet financially successful — past few years. But in 2004, he was a computer programmer and a recent Harvard dropout focused on spreading his emerging online platform from Harvard to campuses across the country and, eventually, the world. Dropping out of college hasn’t prevented Zuckerberg from becoming one of the richest people in the world.
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