3 answers

Can you become a CEO without a degree?

Asked Granada, Andalusia, Spain

How to become a successful CEO without a college degree? #college #business #job-search #ceo

3 answers

Daniela’s Answer

Updated State of Goiás, State of Goiás, Brazil


Yes, for sure. The thousands of wait-listed would-be MBAs who may not get the chance to go to their dream B-school might want to draw inspiration from the following group of CEOs. Not only did they not get graduate degrees, they didn't get undergraduate degrees -- and some never even attended college.

Of course, not having a degree didn't stop them from being a big name on campus. You'll find Alfred Taubman's name at Brown, Harvard, the University of Michigan, and Lawrence Technological University; at least one building on each campus bears his name, although the retail magnate and philanthropist never finished college. Read on to learn who else made it into corporate top spots without the benefit of a bachelor's degree.

Dennis AlbaughChairman, Albaugh Type of Business: Pesticides Education: Associate's degree from Des Moines Area Community College Fun fact: He has a collection of more than 100 classic Chevrolets

Paul Allen

Founder and chairman, Vulcan Type of Business: Media, telecommunications Education: Dropped out of Washington State College after two years Fun fact: He persuaded Bill Gates to drop out of Harvard. They later founded Microsoft (MSFT) together.

Richard BransonCEO, Virgin Group Type of Business: Travel, radio, TV, music, venture capital Education: No college degree Fun fact: He became an entrepreneur at age 16 with the creation of Student magazine.

Maverick Carter

CEO, LRMR Innovative Marketing & Branding Type of Business: Marketing Education: 3.5 years of college at Western Michigan University and University of Akron combined Quote: "Don't be afraid if you see an opportunity to go and give it shot. You can finish school later; it's always there."

John Paul DeJoria

CEO, John Paul Mitchell Systems Type of Business: Hair-care products Education: No college Fun fact: He started out selling greeting cards at age 9.

Michael Dell

Founder, chairman, and CEO Dell (DELL) Type of Business: Computers Education: Attended University of Texas, Austin; did not finish. Quote: "When I started our company, it was very much an idea outside of the conventional wisdom, and if there were people telling me that it wasn't going to work, I wasn't really listening to them."

Felix Dennis

Founder and chairman, Alpha Media Group, formerly Dennis Publishing Type of Business: Publishing (Maxim, The Week) Education: No college degree Fun fact: He wrote a biography and published a magazine about Bruce Lee; sales surged when the martial arts star died suddenly in 1973.

Barry Diller

Chairman and CEO of IAC/InterActiveCorp (IACI) Type of Business: Media Education: Dropped out of UCLA after three weeks Fun fact: He started his career working in the mail room of the William Morris Agency.

Bill GatesCo-chair and Trustee, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Chairman, Microsoft (MSFT) Type of Business: Philanthropy. Software. Education: Dropped out of Harvard Fun fact: As a schoolboy, he created a program that allowed people to play tic-tac-toe on the computer.

Mukesh "Micky" Jagtiani

Chairman, Landmark International (Dubai) Type of Business: Retailing Education: No college degree Fun fact: The billionaire mall developer flunked out of a London accounting school as a teenager and worked as a taxi driver before becoming an entrepreneur.

Dean KamenFounder and chairman, Segway Type of Business: Motor vehicles Education: Dropped out of Worcester Polytechnic Institute Fun fact: Kamen founded FIRST, a robotics competition for high school students.

David Oreck

Founder, Oreck Type of Business: Vacuum cleaners Education: No college. At 17, enlisted in the army, and flew B-29 bombers during World War II Quote: "Things are never as bad as they seem to the pessimist and never as good as they seem to the optimist."

Amancio Ortega GaonaPresident, Inditex Group Type of Business: Fashion retailing (Zara, Kiddy Class, others). (A Coruna, Spain) Education: No college Fun fact: Often cited as the richest man in Spain, he reportedly has never given any media interviews

Phillip RuffinOwner, Treasure Island Type of Business: Casinos Education: Attended Washburn University for three years and Wichita State University but never got his degree. Quote: "You get the most experience from the business of life."

Alfred Taubman

Founder, Taubman Centers (TCO). Philanthropist Type of Business: Shopping malls Education: Attended the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor for three years but left to start a family and his career Quote: "Become an expert in one fundamental area of your market or business. No one starts out as a generalist."

Ty Warner

Founder, Ty, Inc. Type of Business: Toys (stuffed animals) Education: Dropped out of college to pursue a career in acting. Later founded Ty Inc. Fun fact: The plush animals his company manufactured retailed for only $5 in the 1990s, but Beanie Baby-mania drove prices up to $30 or more for the hard-to-get characters.

Source: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/pf_article_107141.html

Best of luck in your achievements!!

Keith’s Answer


I think it's important to caveat the above advice. These individuals are the exception, not the rule. For example, every Fortune 100 CEO has an undergraduate degree.

A degree alone is no guarantee of success. Success is the result of many factors, but education and effort are chief among them. It is certainly possible to be successful without a degree, but you run a great risk by turning down the opportunity to get an education.

Take a look at some of the data comparing college graduates to high school graduates. Having a degree makes you more than 3 times likelier to be employed: http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/02/11/the-rising-cost-of-not-going-to-college/

I hesitate to share some of this with you, because it paints a bleak picture. Again, a degree alone is no guarantee of success, and the lack of a degree is not a guarantee of poverty, either. Effort makes the difference in both cases. But I feel it's important to encourage you to pursue your education as much as possible.

Donald’s Answer

Updated Paoli, Pennsylvania

Richard Branson. CEO of Virgin Group. . Bill Gates. Former CEO of Microsoft. ... Michael Dell. CEO of Dell. ... Micky Arison. CEO of Carnival Corporation. ... Mark Zuckerberg. CEO of Facebook. ... John Mackey. CEO of Whole Foods. ... Barry Diller. CEO of IAC/InterActiveCorp. ... Robert Pittman. CEO of iHeartMedia, Inc.

None of these CEO's has a degree......

Ask a question