Today, a select number of high-profile business leaders argue that college is not the key to professional prosperity often arguing that "college is not for everyone."
While sky-high college costs make this theory attractive, it's not entirely true. Going to college greatly increases your lifetime earning potential and is one of the biggest predictors of business success — just look at the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.
Companies run by business executives with undergraduate and graduate degrees dominate Fortune's annual list. Every CEO of one of the top 10 Fortune 500 companies went to college, and seven also earned a graduate degree.
Of course, there are famous examples of successful college dropouts like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, but these tech titans are the exceptions to the rule — most successful CEOs spend some serious time studying.
Here's where the most powerful industry leaders hit the books and what they studied:
10. Mary Barra, General Motors
Revenue, last fiscal year: $157.3 billion
Undergraduate: BA in electrical engineering, Kettering University
Graduate: MBA, Stanford University
9. Randall Stephenson, AT&T
Revenue, last fiscal year: $160.5 billion
Undergraduate: BA in accounting, University of Central Oklahoma
Graduate: MA in accounting, University of Oklahoma
8. Jeff Bezos, Amazon
Revenue, last fiscal year: $177.9 billion
Undergraduate: BA in electrical engineering and computer science, Princeton University
7. Larry Merlo, CVS Health
Revenue, last fiscal year: $184.8 billion
Undergraduate: BA in pharmacy, University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy
6. John Hammergren, McKesson
Revenue, last fiscal year: $198.5 billion
Undergraduate: BA in business administration, University of Minnesota
Graduate: MBA, Xavier University
5. David Wichmann, UnitedHealth Group
Revenue, last fiscal year: $201.2 billion
Undergraduate: BA in accounting, Illinois State University
4. Tim Cook, Apple
Revenue, last fiscal year: $229.2 billion
Undergraduate: BA in industrial engineering, Auburn University
Graduate: MBA, Duke University
3. Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway
Revenue, last fiscal year: $242.1 billion
Undergraduate: BA in business administration, University of Nebraska
Graduate: MA in economics, Columbia University
2. Darren Woods, Exxon Mobil
Revenue, last fiscal year: $244.4 billion
Undergraduate: BA in electrical engineering, Texas A&M University
Graduate: MBA, Northwestern University
1. Doug McMillon, Walmart
Revenue, last fiscal year: $500.3 billion
Undergraduate: BA in business administration, University of Arkansas
Graduate: MBA, University of Tulsa
As in other years, companies run by business majors dominated the 2018 Fortune 500 list. Executives like Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett and McKesson CEO John Hammergren all studied business administration at large public universities. Seven of the 10 CEOs also earned their MBAs.
Overall, a majority of these top-tier business executives attended big state schools for undergrad. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and General Motors CEO Mary Barra were the only two leaders to earn their bachelor's degree from a private institution, though overall, graduates from selective schools out-earn those who attended less selective institutions.
The CEOs of these top 10 companies who did not study business all earned degrees in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) field. Three CEOs — Exxon Mobile's Darren Woods, Amazon's Jeff Bezos and GM's Mary Barra — studied electrical engineering.
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