When you hear about Mark Zuckerberg dropping out of Harvard before the booming success of Facebook and about the similar successful dropout stories of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, it might be a tempting thought to follow in their footsteps. Although dropping out worked out for those moguls, it’s not the right choice for everyone—and we certainly don’t advocate it! Instead of modeling your education on Bill, Mark, or Steve, focus on these successful business leaders who earned their degrees:
- Jeff Bezos: After graduating from Princeton University with bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering and computer science, Bezos worked in telecommunications, banking, and hedge funds. In 1994, he founded Amazon, which started as an online bookstore in his garage.
- Mark Cuban: Currently the owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, a business investor, and the “shark” on the show Shark Tank, Cuban has a bachelor’s degree in business management. Although he started at the University of Pittsburgh, he graduated from Indiana University in 1981.
- Reed Hastings: Before becoming the cofounder of Netflix, Hastings graduated from Bowdoin College, served for two years in the Peace Corps, and earned a master’s degree in computer science from Stanford University. He also founded his own software company, which was bought out before Netflix was created in 1997.
- Elon Musk: After spending his childhood in his native South Africa, Musk immigrated to Canada to study at Queen’s University. After two years, he transferred to the University of Pennsylvania, where he received bachelor’s degrees in both physics and economics. He originally planned to continue his studies by earning a Ph.D. in applied physics and materials science at Stanford University, but later changed his mind. Shortly thereafter, he started X.com (which eventually became PayPal) and SpaceX. He is now CEO of Tesla, Inc.
- Howard Schultz: Although he grew up poor in New York City, Schultz received an athletic scholarship to attend Northern Michigan University and became the first in his family to attend college. He received a bachelor’s degree in speech communication. He eventually joined Starbucks and helped grow the company, assuming roles as CEO and executive chairman.
- Oprah Winfrey: After starting in radio, Winfrey moved into television before the launch of her iconic self-named show. The first black female billionaire in North America, she is considered one of the most influential women in the world. She graduated with a degree in communications from Tennessee State University.
- Susan Wojcicki: After graduating from Harvard University with bachelor’s degrees in history and literature, Wojcicki originally planned on pursuing a career in academia. After discovering her love of technology, she earned a master’s degree in economics from the University of California, Santa Cruz and a Master of Business Administration from UCLA. She worked in marketing for Google before taking over as the CEO of YouTube in 2014.
- Whitney Wolfe Herd: After graduating from Southern Methodist University with a bachelor’s degree in international studies, Wolfe Herd worked for a startup before joining the dating app Tinder as the vice president of marketing. After leaving Tinder two years later, Wolfe Herd cofounded the dating app Bumble.
Statistics show that earning a bachelor’s degree leads to more job prospects, a lower unemployment rate, and higher lifetime earnings than those enjoyed by individuals without a four-year education. There’s no guarantee that you’ll do as well as the business leaders listed above, but by finishing your degree, you’ll be giving yourself a chance!