Time and time again, the story of young actors and actresses dropping out of school to go and wait tables in Hollywood until they are discovered is heard over and over again. For this reason, the public is often surprised to hear that their favorite celebrities have college or universities degrees. They are even more shocked when their favorite musicians or actors have masters degrees. Even rarer than that is when celebrities have PhDs. PhDs are the highest level of education that can be received in a field of study. A PhD requires intense study on the topic followed by original research and the composition of a dissertation. The PhD candidate must devote himself wholeheartedly to their study and with unfailing concentration. This type of work often takes many years to complete. Yet it is achieved by a few celebrities. The stereotypical image of a PhD candidate is often that of a nerd and certainly not that of a celebrity. This is maybe why universities with celebrity alumni often solicit the help of their former students for advertising their schools. A famous example is James Franco’s ads for UCLA stating that “Even A listers can get As”. Education and fame do not often go hand in hand but it is very inspiring to see celebrities return to school and praise education. After all, it takes a certain level of skill and intelligence to make it in Hollywood. Here is a list of 7 celebrities who have and are working towards completing their PhDs.
7. Bill Cosby- PhD in Education
One of the most recognisable faces on television is also the recipient of a PhD. Bill Cosby graduated in 1976 with a doctorate in education. Cosby is an American actor, author, television producer, musician and activist. After the Bill Cosby Show left the air, Cosby started his graduate studies at the University of Massachusetts. Because of his previous experiences, he applied for a special program for students who have not completed their undergraduate degrees but who have made a special impact on society through their careers. As part of his studies, he wrote a dissertation on one of his shows entitled An Integration of the Visual Media Via Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids Into the Elementary School Curriculum as a Teaching Aid and Vehicle to Achieve Increased Learning. Since then, he has received honorary degrees from more than a dozen colleges and universities, including nine doctoral degrees!
6. Mayim Bialik-PhD in Neuroscience
Mayim Bialik, famous today for her role as a neuroscientist on The Big Bang Theory, actually has a PhD in neuroscience. Bialik plays the role of Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler on the CBS hit comedy The Big Bang Theory. Before this role, she was famous for her portrayal of Blossom Russo in the 90s sitcom Blossom. After Blossom ended, Bialik returned to school to continue her studies. She attended UCLA, although being accepted by both Harvard and Yale Universities. She claims she chose to attend UCLA so that she could stay close to her parents in California. She completed her PhD in neuroscience in 2008. Her dissertation was about the investigation of hypothalamic activity in patients with Prader-Willi Syndrome. Along with her educational successes, she has been nominated twice for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her portrayal of Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory. She completed her bachelor’s degree in neuroscience and Hebrew & Jewish Studies in 2000.
5. James Franco- Working Towards a PhD in English
James Franco is one of those young actors famous for his intelligence as well as his filmography. Franco is famous for placing a very high priority on education. He is currently working on his PhD in English at the prestigious Yale University. He is an actor, director, producer, former Oscar host, teacher and author but despite all of these titles, Franco felt dissatisfied with the direction his career was taking and went back to school. He re-enrolled in UCLA in September of 2006. Franco completed his undergraduate degree in June 2008. He has three masters degrees: two writing degrees from Columbia University and Brooklyn College and a third masters in directing from New York University. A lucky group of third year film students got the chance to be James Franco’s students! He taught a class on the modification of poetry into short films to a small group of 10 to 12 students. Franco claims he loves attending school and does not see it as a chore. He appeared in a series of ads for UCLA with the catchy slogan of “Even A Listers can get As”. He often foregoes Hollywood appearances because of his obligations towards school. His famous movies include 127 Hours, Pineapple Express and Oz The Great and Powerful. The only downside to having a celebrity such as James Franco in your class is that he just might be a know it all!
4. Ken Jeong- Medical Doctor
Ken Jeong, or better known as the beloved Leslie Chow character from The Hangover Trilogy, is a qualified medical doctor. Jeong is an actor and comedian who was definitely not bussing tables before he made it big in Hollywood. Jeong was born in Detroit to South Korean parents. His father was a professor at the North Carolina A & T State University. Jeong completed his undergraduate studies at Duke University in 1990. He received his M.D. qualification from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1995. He went on to complete his internal medicine residency at the Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans while at the same time, working on his stand up comedy. Today, he is a licensed physician in the state of California. His acting career began with the role of Dr. Kuni in the film Knocked Up but it was the character of Leslie Chow that gave him a permanent spot in Hollywood audience’s eyes. He is also known for his work on the TV show Community. His wife Tran Ho is also a family physician. What a handy guy to have on set!
3. Shaquille O’Neal- PhD in Education
Shaquille O’Neal is not the usual PhD candidate. For one, he is a 4 time NBA champion. When he was drafted by the NBA, he left Louisiana State University to pursue his dreams of playing professionally. His parents were not happy about their son not completing his education but O’Neal promised to return to school as soon as he got the chance. And so he did! O’Neal graduated in 2012 with a PhD in education from Barry University. His team coach allowed him time off to go and attend his university graduation. Despite his success with the NBA, he is extremely down to earth and was even quoted saying “Who knows when I will have to return to a regular 9-5 job”. His plans for more formal education are not yet complete. He plans on attending law school!
2. Miuccia Prada- PhD in Political Science
Miuccia Prada, the youngest granddaughter of Prada’s founder Mario Prada, has a PhD in political science. She studied at the University of Milan and after graduating, studied performing miming for 5 years. She was also a member of the Communist Party making her an unlikely heir to the Prada fortune. But she took over the company in 1978 and turned it into a successful conglomerate. This powerhouse includes the brands of Fendi, Helmut Lang, Jil Sander and Azzedine Alaia.
1. Brian May-PhD in Astrophysics
Brian May is famous for being the lead guitarist and songwriter for the successful rock band Queen. His musical talents earned him the title of ‘Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire’ in 2005 for his services to the music industry and his charity work. May graduated from Imperial College with a BSc Honours degree with majors in mathematics and physics. He then continued to study at Imperial College for his PhD program from where he graduated in 2008 at the Royal Albert Hall. His thesis which took over 30 years to research and was entitled “A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud”. He continues to write papers and dissertations on new developments in his field. On June 18, 2008 an asteroid was named “52665 Brianmay” after him. Until last year, he held the role of Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University. To this day, he continues to perform. Most recently May and his Queen band mates joined Adam Lambert in performing at the iHeart Radio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. He has been noted as looking the most like scientist Isaac Newton but Brian May is probably the coolest astrophysicist ever!