Celebrities With Surprising College Degrees
Most celebrities aren’t really known for their brains — unless they’re famous for being smart, like Neil deGrasse Tyson or Bill Nye. In reality, a lot of famous folks know way more than we give them credit for.
Some of them have college degrees that might surprise you. Keep reading to find out which Monty Python star almost became a lawyer and what degree the legendary Gene Simmons holds!
Natalie Portman Has A Bachelor’s In Psychology
“I felt like there had been some mistake,” she later recalled, “that I wasn’t smart enough to be in this company, and that every time I opened my mouth I would have to prove that I wasn’t just a dumb actress.”
A conflict she had within herself, she handled mightily by grabbing her degree from Harvard. She went already a star, just after the release of Star Wars and came back with the paper to show that she wasn’t just some dumb actress.
Alison Williams Is a Yale Grad
Girls star Alison Williams made a host of bad decisions as Marnie in the show, from awful romances to ditching her chosen career path for music when she couldn’t really carry a tune. Marnie may have been a sandwich short of a picnic, but Alison isn’t.
The actress wasn’t allowed to act professionally until she graduated from college — Yale to be exact. She studied English and archaeology but didn’t land a part in Yale’s big musical as a freshman. Instead, she joined the improv group and discovered where her true talent lay — comedy. Good for her.
Sacha Baron Cohen Graduated From Cambridge
Sacha Baron Cohen rose to fame in the ’90s, breaking through to mainstream success for his creation and portrayal of Ali G, an uneducated and jungle music obsessed character. Since then, Cohen has become a staple of the Hollywood scene, playing dumb characters like Borat.
It might surprise you to know that London-born Cohen attended a private school before going to one of the most prestigious colleges in England, Christ’s College, Cambridge. He graduated with an upper-second-class degree in History, while also being a part of the university dramatic society. It’s hard to imagine him being serious, isn’t it?
Will Ferrell Has A Bachelor’s In Sports Information
Will Ferrell graduated from the University of Southern California in 1990 with a Bachelor of Arts in Sports Information. In 2017, Ferrell received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree from the same school.
The sports information program actually no longer exists. Ferrel said, “Yes, you heard me, sports information. A program so difficult, so arduous, that they discontinued it eight years after I left. Those of us with sports information degrees are an elite group. We’re like the Navy Seals of USC graduates. There are very few of us, and there was a high dropout rate.”
Mayim Bialik Is a Literal Neuroscientist
Mayim Bialik made a name for herself playing the title role in the NBC sitcom Blossom from 1991 to 1995. While Blossom wasn’t dumb by any means, she was often in a world of her own as she tried to navigate living life without a mother.
Although it went relatively unknown for years, Mayim has the kind of smarts that put most of us to shame. Her Ph.D. in Neuroscience isn’t the kind of qualification most actors have, and while she returned to our screens as the super smart Amy in The Big Bang Theory, she continues to be active in the medical field, having published books on parenting and puberty.
Ashton Kutcher Has A Bachelor’s In Biochemical Engineering
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No, we aren’t punking you. Ashton Kutcher may be one of the funniest people in entertainment, but that doesn’t mean he’s short on knowledge (people often mistake him for an airhead). The multi-talented star attended the University of Iowa where he graduated in 1996.
He earned his degree in Biochemical Engineering, which is one of the harder majors to study. He hopes to find a cure for his brother’s heart disease. Now that’s a funny, yet a nobleman for you.
David Duchovny Has a Master’s Degree From Yale
For millennials, David Duchovny isn’t as recognized for his role in The X Files. Instead, he’s hailed as the boozy writer and social dope, Hank Moody in Californication. If you’ve ever seen the show, you can’t really blame yourself for thinking that Duchovny might be a little bit of a dunce too. He isn’t.
He graduated with a BA in English Literature from Princeton University before earning his Master’s from Yale. Wanting to become a screenwriter, he thought of acting as research. “I thought, ‘Well, if I’m going to write things that are going to be performed by actors, then it’s probably helpful for me to know something about what that’s like.” Little did he know he would drop his Ph.D. to act full time.
Carrie Underwood Has A Degree In Mass Communications
Carrie Underwood is quite the achiever. As you may or may not know, Underwood was victorious when she tried out on American Idol. And once she won that, she decided to go back to Oklahoma to finish her degree.
At Northeastern State University, she was only three credits short of obtaining her degree before she left for American Idol. She went back to earn her bachelors in Mass Communications with an emphasis in Journalism. She also graduated magna cum laude.
Bradley Cooper Has A Bachelor’s In English
The stud, the myth, the legend Bradley Cooper is also very in tune with the English language. He went to Georgetown University and was very into the readings he read in all his classes. He was brought to immediate joy when GQ asked him about his first encounter with Paradise Lost.
He wrote his thesis on Vladimir Nabokov’s Loita. It sounds like he was very passionate about this degree and even cried tears while reading Romeo and Juliet in the campus library.
Rebel Wilson Has A Law Degree
One of the most popular characters from Pitch Perfect, Rebel Wilson confirmed with Seth Meyers that she indeed graduated law school back in 2009. She attended the University of New South Wales.
“A lot of people look at me and think I’m stupid,” she said, “But no, I graduated from a school that’s kind of like the Harvard of Australia.” And law, in general, isn’t the easiest subject to tackle so kudos to Wilson for this great accomplishment.
JK Rowling Has A Degree In French
The genius behind Harry Potter is fluent in other languages. JK Rowling studied at the Univerity of Exeter and earned her degree in French with additional Greek and Roman Studies.
Her parents wanted her to get a vocational degree but that didn’t happen. “A compromise was reached that in retrospect satisfied nobody, and I went up to study Modern Languages,” she said. “Hardly had my parents’ car rounded the corner at the end of the road than I ditched German and scuttled off down the Classics corridor.”
James Franco Is a Ph.D Student at Yale
James Franco is a controversial star as of late, but he’s still a star. His odd behavior sometimes gets him into trouble, while his roles in the likes of Pineapple Express and The End paint him as the quintessential dumb stoner.
In the real world, James is highly intelligent, graduating from Columbia with a Masters in Fine Arts. He has been seriously invested in his education for the majority of his adult life, choosing to study for a Ph.D. at Yale alongside acting. “I go to school because I love being around people who are interested in what I’m interested in,” he told The Washington Post.
Danai Gurira Has A Bachelor’s In Social Psychology
Danai Gurira was beating down bad guys for years in The Walking Dead. Then she impressed even more with her performance in Black Panther and Avengers. But well before she was Wakanda, she was studying at Minnesota’s Macalester College in 2001.
“I was really looking at race, population, gender and how we psychologically function in a way that affects our societal outcomes around those issues,” she told Rolling Stone. She earned her degree in Social Psychology while there.
Brian May Has A Ph.D. In Astrophysics
Brian May of the band Queen got his Bachelor of Science in Physics, with honors, in the ’70s. In 2007, he went back to school to finish up his Ph.D. in Astrophysics at Imperial College London.
His doctoral thesis was on the motions of interplanetary dust. That sounds pretty rock and roll to me.
Ken Jeong Is A Doctor Of Medicine
That’s right, Ken Jeong is an actual medical doctor. Yes, the same guy who jumped naked out of a trunk in The Hangover. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine with his M.D. in 1995.
Ken Jeong doesn’t practice medicine anymore. He’s thrown himself into acting, and honestly, we think he made the right choice.
Did you know that Vinny from Jersey Shore has a degree? Read on to find out what it’s in!
Lionel Ritchie Has A Bachelor’s In Economics
Lionel Ritchie got his bachelor’s in economics at the Tuskegee Institute. While he was there, he met the musicians who later joined his first band, the Commodores. He graduated in 1974.
He had to put his studies on hold while he was touring, but he eventually went back to school to finish his degree.
Weird Al Yankovic Has A Bachelor’s In Architecture
Weird Al Yankovic graduated from California Polytechnic State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture. Right after he graduated, he realized that architecture wasn’t the best fit for him.
He decided to work in a mail room at a radio company in Culver City while he worked on his music in his spare time. Eventually, his music career took off, and the rest is history.
David Spade Has A Bachelor’s In Business
You probably don’t think of David Spade as a serious businessman, but he actually graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor’s in Business in 1986.
He was already performing stand-up and making people laugh while he was in college. Eventually, he decided to make comedy his full-time career.
Freddie Highmore Has A Bachelor’s In Spanish And Arabic
Even though Freddie Highmore became a successful actor at a young age, he still thought it was important to go to college and get a degree.
In 2014, he got a Bachelor’s in Spanish and Arabic from Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He graduated with a double first, the British equivalent of first-class honors.
Julia Stiles Graduated From Columbia College
Julia Stiles was already famous for roles in movies like Save The Last Dance and 10 Things I Hate About You when she was attending Columbia University. In 2005, she graduated from the prestigious school with a degree in English Literature.
Reflecting on studying while acting, Stiles told PEOPLE, “there were some really funny, weird moments. Like a limo for the MTV Movie Awards pulling up in front of my dormitory with my name on it.”
Gene Simmons Has A Bachelor’s In Education
Can you imagine KISS frontman Gene Simmons as a middle school teacher? He actually has an Associate Degree from Sullivan County Community College and a Bachelor of Arts in Education from Richmond College.
He even taught sixth grade before he became “The Demon.” He formed KISS in 1970, just after he finished his studies. Read on to find out which desperate housewife isn’t so desperate after all.
Rooney Mara Has A Bachelor’s In Psychology, International Social Policy, And Nonprofits
Rooney Mara graduated from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University. She got her bachelor’s degree in a whole bunch of subjects. She graduated in 2010 with more knowledge than most people can fit into their brains.
Psychology, international social policy, and the formation of nonprofit organizations seem like a big course load.
Lisa Kudrow Has A Bachelor’s In Biology
Lisa Kudrow’s father was a renowned physician and researcher who did work in the field of headaches. Before she went into acting, Lisa was planning on following in her father’s footsteps.
She got a Bachelor of Arts in Biology at Vassar College, and she even worked on her father’s research team. Keep reading to find out which KISS member could have been your sixth-grade teacher.
Eva Longoria Has A Master’s In Chicano Studies
In 2013, Eva Longoria graduated with a Master of Arts in Chicano Studies from California State University, Northridge. She also has a Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology from Texas A&M University.
When she got her Master’s, Eva Longoria excitedly said, “You’re never too old or too busy to continue your education!”
What do future Jersey Shore stars major in? Read on to find out.
Gabrielle Union Has A Bachelor’s In Sociology
Gabrielle Union has a Bachelor of Science in Sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her original plan was to go into law after she finished her undergraduate studies. In her final year of college, she started working at a modeling agency, and the owner of the agency encouraged her to go into modeling.
She started acting pretty soon after she graduated. Acting is way more glamorous than law, anyway.
Wanda Sykes Has A Bachelor’s In Marketing
Comedian Wanda Sykes earned her degree in marketing in1986 from Hampton University. She used her degree to land a job at the NSA as a contract specialist.
In1987, she tried comedy for the first time. The world found out just how funny she is, so she left the marketing world behind and became a full-time entertainer.
Chris Martin Has A Degree In Latin And Greek
Coldplay frontman, Chris Martin, met his bandmates while he was still a student at University College London. He didn’t put his studies on hold to pursue music, though.
He managed to balance school and music until he graduated with first-class honors with a degree in Ancient Latin and Greek Studies.
Ron Jeremy Has A Master’s In Special Education
Adult film performer (to put it tactfully) Ron Jeremy has a pretty surprising academic background. He has a Master’s of Education in Special Education from Queens College.
He wasn’t making much money as a teacher, so he decided to go into adult films. That’s what we in the business call a complete 180.
Rowan Atkinson Has A Master’s In Electrical Engineering
Mr. Bean might not be the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, but Rowan Atkinson, the man who brings him to life, is actually a wiz with lightbulbs of all kinds. He got a Master’s of Science in Electrical Engineering from the Queen’s College, Oxford.
He was already performing while he was in university. Ultimately he left the electrical life behind and became a comedic legend.
John Cleese Has A Bachelor’s In Law
John Cleese would have been a lawyer if it weren’t for Mony Python. He graduated from Downing College, Cambridge, where he got his Bachelor’s in Law.
He joined Cambridge’s theatre troupe, the famed Cambridge Footlights, met his writing partner Graham Chapman, and took to comedy like a fish to water. Nobody expects a sudden career shift!
Vinny Guadagnino Has A Bachelor’s In Political Science
Jersey Shore’s Vinny Guadagnino got his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the College of Staten Island. Surprisingly, he graduated with a 3.9-grade point average. He also says that he has a “Master’s in womenry.”
Maybe he should have got a Master’s in something else… like speaking properly or being a gentleman.
Arnold Schwarzenegger Has A Bachelor’s In International Business And Economics
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s stint as the governor of California may not be as surprising as we all thought. The man we know and love as the Terminator got a Bachelor of Science in International Business and Economics from the University of Wisconsin-Superior.
As far as we’re concerned, his brain is as impressive as his huge muscles.
Hugh Laurie Has A Bachelor’s In Anthropology And Archaeology
Hugh Laurie comes from a well-educated family. Academia was somewhat of a “family tradition” for the Lauries. Hugh graduated from Selwyn College, Cambridge.
He got a Bachelor’s Degree. His major was Archaeology and Anthropology, with a concentration in social anthropology. I wonder if all of that anthropology helped him in his acting career.
Aziz Ansari Has A Bachelor’s In Marketing
Bring on the funny talk. Master of None creator Aziz Ansari has steadily climbed the ranks in the entertainment industry. From not having too big of a role in Parks and Recreation, to creating and starring in his own show is marvelous. Does his degree in marketing from New York University have something to do with that?
At first, he interesting in being an entrepreneur, and in many ways, he is. He revealed in an interview “it was such a weird culture” during his time at NYU. Still, he coasted by and earned it.
J. Cole Has A Bachelor’s In Communications
The rapper Jay-Z signed first to his label Roc Nation has the talents and smarts. J. Cole (Jermain Cole) attended St. Johns University in New York while chasing his music dreams. In his downtime, Cole would make music and do performances on the campus, all while he was the president of the BSU (Black Student Union).
Cole graduated in 2007 summa cum laude while majoring in Communications and minoring in business. He didn’t get his degree until 2015, however, because he owed some money for a missing library book.
Kourtney Kardashian Has A Bachelor’s In Theatre Arts
Before the Kardashians became household names, the oldest sister had to think about navigating life without all the fame and money. That’s why Kourtney Kardashian attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas, spending two years there. Then, she decided to finish the rest of her undergrad the University of Arizona.
She graduated in 2002 with a degree in Theater Arts while minoring in Spanish. Up until the infamous tape involving Kim leaked, Kourtney was living like she wouldn’t one day have to work as hard.
Ben McKenzie Has A Bachelor’s In Economics And Foreign Affairs
Who knew the Gotham and O.C. star was so well accomplished? Ben McKenzie attended the University of Virginia and graduated in 2001 in Economics and Foreign Affairs. He later recalled how much of a blessing it was for him to have this opportunity.
“The ability to study econ and foreign affairs during the day and perform onstage at night was a true blessing,” he later told the school’s alumni magazine. “I’m not sure I would have had the opportunity to receive such a well-rounded education anywhere else.”
John Legend Has A Bachelor’s In English
That now makes two A-listers that were dedicated to the English major. John Legend has his bachelor’s in English with a concentration in African American literature from the University of Pennsylvania. He started his studies at the young age of 16 and ended up graduating in 1999.
The EGOT winner also performed as part of the acapella group Counterparts during his studies. It seems like Legend was always bound to be a real legend sooner or later.
Dr. Oz Is An Accomplished Cardiothoracic Surgeon
There’s no denying that most television “doctors” have some seriously questionable credentials. Most of the time, they’re little more than quacks who cashed in on the medical side of TV, but not in this case.
Dr. Oz is hailed as one of TV’s biggest idiots, but he’s actually far from it. Despite the fact that his show consists of people running around obstacle courses of gigantic body parts, The New York Times hails him as “one of the most accomplished cardiothoracic surgeons of his generation.” He’s got 5,000 open heart surgeries under his belt as well as a successful lung transplant operation. How many of us can say that?
Conan O’Brien Is a Harvard Grad
Wisecracking late-night host Conan O’Brien hardly seems stupid, but it’s still rare for a talk show host to be as intelligent as he is. He majored in history and literature at none other than Harvard University, but even back then his knack for comedy prevailed.
His classmates dubbed him the “pre-eminent jokester” in 1985, and he was the president of a semi-secret social organization called Harvard Lampoon, which published a humor magazine. His 72-page thesis studied William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor. He graduated Magna Cum Laude and continues to speak fondly of his college days.
Harry Hill Is a Neuroscientist
British comedian Harry Hill may be lesser known in the United States, but he’s done very well for himself on TV across the pond. The Bafta-winning comedian has a goofy style and usually wears signature big-collared shirts. Basically, he looks like a walking cartoon.
Harry got his big break in 1992 at the age of 28, but comedy wasn’t his first career choice. He’s actually qualified in neuroscience, earning his degree at the University of London. He later quit medicine because he “Didn’t feel in control of what was happening.” Despite his comedy career, he remains on England’s list of medical practitioners.
Rashida Jones Has A Degree In Comparative Religion From Harvard
Rashida Jones is an Ivy League graduate who attended Harvard University. Jones was originally studying to become a lawyer but changed to comparative religion. She graduated from Harvard University in 1997 and eventually broke out in Hollywood.
The acting bug wasn’t just a recent calling for Jones, she participated in several on-campus plays and helped write musicals while attending Harvard. We can’t imagine Parks & Recreation without her participation in the hilarious TV comedy.
Gerard Butler Has A Law Degree
Gerard Butler attended the University of Glasgow School of Law where he graduated and accepted a job as a trainee lawyer at a law firm. Butler later admitted that he was always missing work because he liked to party.
When Butler turned 25 he moved to Los Angeles, ditching the law degree for a chance at becoming an actor. We’d say his very different choice in a second career worked out well for Butler.
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Has A Degree In Criminology And Physiology
It’s a well-known fact among his fans that Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson played football at the University of Miami, but did you know he graduated with a Bachelor of General Studies degree in criminology and physiology?
The Rock graduated from the university in 1995. A knee injury kept Johnson from possibly entering the NFL. He decided instead to follow in his father’s footsteps, becoming a wrestler. As we now know, his decision to not pursue a career in law enforcement led him to become one of the most sought-after stars in Hollywood.
Brooke Shields Has A Degree In French Literature From Princeton
Brooke Shields has been in the spotlight for decades but somewhere along the way, she made time to attend Princeton University.
Shields chose to earn her bachelor’s degree in French Literature. Her senior thesis was titled, “The Initiation: From Innocence to Experience: The Pre-Adolescent/Adolescent Journey in the Films of Louis Malle, Pretty Baby, and Lacombe Lucien.”
Danica McKellar: Mathematics
While many of the celebrities on our list earned their college degrees and then became movie and TV stars, Danica McKellar went in the opposite direction.
The Wonder Years star finished her incredibly popular TV show and then attended the University of California. During her time at the university, she earned a degree in Mathematics. McKellar co-authors the scientific paper titled, “Percolation and Gibbs States Multiplicity for Ferromagnetic Ashkin-Teller Models on Two Dimensions, or Z2.”
Dexter Holland From ‘The Offspring’ Has An Impressive Ph.D.
The Offspring guitarist Dexter Holland attended the University of California, where he earned a B.S. in biology and an M.S. in molecular biology. When The Offspring became rock stars he was forced to suspend his higher education aspirations to focus on music.
Holland never gave up on his Ph.D. dreams and in 1995 he told an interviewer that he would rather be a 40-year-old college professor than still playing the role of rockstar guitarist. In 2017 Holland earned his Ph.D. in molecular biology. In 2013 he was even a co-author on a study titled, “Identification of Human MicroRNA-Like Sequences Embedded within the Protein-Encoding Genes of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus.”
Shaquille O’Neal Has A Doctorate In Education
Shaquille O’Neal may be best known for his four NBA championship titles and for his role as a member of the 1996 gold-medal placing USA men’s basketball team, but his impressive streak doesn’t end there. Shaq also has an Ed.D in Human Resource Development from Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida.
Shaq earned his doctorate one year after retiring from the NBA. his doctoral capstone paper is titled, “The Duality of Humor and Aggression in Leadership Styles.”
Bad Religion Singer Greg Graffin Has A Ph.D. in Zoology
Bad Religion’s Greg Graffin when only 15-years-old when he co-founded the SoCal punk group. While Graffin continued to support his bandmates he also earned a double major from UCLA where he studied anthropology and geology. Graffin then remained at the school for his master’s degree.
Years later, already as a bonafide rockstar, Graffin attended Cornell University where he earned his P.h.D. in Zoology. Graffin’s doctorate thesis is titled “Evolution, Monism, Atheism, and the Naturalist World-View: Perspectives from Evolutionary Biology.”
Supermodel Christy Turlington Has A Master’s In Public Health From Columbia
Christy Turlington rose to fame as a supermodel and now she’s a fashion icon. She’s also the owner of a Master’s Degree in public health. Turlington rose to fame at just 17-years-old when she appeared in the Duran Duran music video for the single “Notorious.”
After years atop the fashion world, Turlington turned her focus back to education, graduating cum laude from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study of NYU in 1999, where she earned a B.A. in Comparative Religion and Eastern Philosophy. Later, she would earn her Master’s Degree in Public Health at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. She now actively uses her higher degree and celebrity to promote women’s health initiatives all over the world.
Ashley Judd Earned Her Master’s In Public Administration From Harvard University
Actress Ashley Judd won over fans of country music and then took on the big screen. During her formative years, Judd says her childhood was a bit of a mess and that she attended thirteen different schools in 12 years. Despite a lot of educational turmoil, Judd eventually landed at the University of Kentucky where she majored in French.
Judd missed her own graduation, instead choosing to leave for the Peace Corps. Following her volunteer time, Judd decided to pursue a Master of Public Administration degree from the JFK School of Government at Harvard University.