It’s a common misconception that celebs aren’t particularly educated. It’s the typical glamourous origin story; someone arrives on the bus with a one-way ticket, fresh outta high school, or maybe even a school dropout.
Then, after some struggle, they make it big and become rich and famous. While a high school education may be common among celebrities, it is definitely not the only path in life to become a major star. In fact, some celebrities are highly educated, a fact that’s often evident in how they approach their work.
Several celebrities have graduate degrees from general education majors to studies in their craft. But you don’t often see these stars boasting about their education. In fact, sometimes you have to do some hardcore digging in order to unearth their diploma. Of course, often the celebrity’s alma mater will brag about how successful their program is with mentions of famous alumni.
The following seventeen celebrities have not only undergraduate but Master’s degrees. Perhaps it was the tenacity and dedication that helped them in their studies which afforded these celebs the success they have now. Who knows, perhaps these A-listers will inspire a trend of highly educated fans.
17. Leonard Nimoy
Mr. Leonard Nimoy, the Star Trek star, attended Antioch College in the fifties and earned his Master of Arts in Bilingual Education. After his university days, Nimoy started out in Hollywood playing smaller roles before landing the coveted role of Mr. Spock in “Star Trek.”
Today, he has been awarded two honorary doctorates for his work in Holocaust remembrance, arts activism, and advocating for the environment. He is also often the keynote speaker at numerous universities.
16. Ron Jeremy
You’d be forgiven for a double take here. It’s true, Ron Jeremy was a special education teacher before he became the king of the adult entertainment industry. In order to work in special education and to be good at it, you have to have the credentials and the degree: He earned a Bachelor of Arts in education as well as theatre. But his education didn’t stop there. He went on to earn his Master of Arts in special education from Queens College in New York.
15. Christy Turlington Burns
Christy Turlington Burns is best known as one of the most sought-after models in the industry. Despite having a lucrative and successful career in the modeling industry, Christy wanted more. So, she returned to school in 1994 to the Gallatin School of Individualized Study (part of New York University) and graduated in 1999 cum laude with a Bachelors degree in Eastern Philosophy and Comparative Religion. She then started to attend Columbia University, is currently working part-time towards a Master’s degree in public health.
14. Ashley Judd
We all know Ashley Judd as one of the most talented actresses in the industry, who never has to worry about not getting any work. She’s beautiful as well as smart. She is the daughter of Naomi Judd and the half-sister of Wynonna Judd, and graduated from the University of Kentucky where she majored in French. But she wouldn’t pursue a graduate degree until the mid-2000s. In 2010, Judd earned her Master’s degree in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Her graduation day was especially endearing as her daughter also graduated that day.
13. Kristin Chenoweth
Kristin Chenoweth has the voice of an angel, and it has brought her much success in the entertainment industry from Broadway to Hollywood, along with her feisty acting chops. But Ms. Chenoweth didn’t just wake up one day with her extraordinary talent, she had to work hard for it. Growing up in Oklahoma, the “Glee” star earned her bachelors degree in musical theatre in 1990 from Oklahoma City University, and then decided to keep pursuing her education. She earned her Master’s degree in operatic performance from the same school in 1992.
12. Dolph Lundgren
Dolph Lundgren is a well known Swedish actor, director, and martial artist who has played alongside of our best known action heroes. This action star is quite well-versed in science. He studied chemistry and earned a degree at Washington State University. Lundgren then got a degree in chemical engineering from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. Then he earned his Masters degree from the University of Sydney in Australia in 1980. All during this time, Lundgren was studying martial arts, and started dating Grace Jones, who got him his big break in Hollywood.
11. Greg Graffin
Greg Graffin is best known as the front man for the band, Bad Religion, but he also a hefty academic. Growing up in Los Angeles, Graffin attended the University of California – Los Angeles, double majoring in geology and anthropology. He later stuck around UCLA and went on to earn his Master’s degree in geology.
But Graffin didn’t stop there; he earned his PhD from Cornell University. In 2009, Graffin returned to teach a Life Sciences class at UCLA. Imagine walking into your first class and seeing the front man for Bad Religion in a suit and glasses…
10. Art Garfunkel
When he wasn’t building bridges to help you with your troubled waters with a singer named Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel was trying to find a way to support himself and make a decent living.
He majored in Art History at Columbia College, where he earned his Bachelor’s degree. Then, his academic career took a sharp turn in favor of mathematics, where he earned his Masters degree from Columbia University. During his graduate studies, he didn’t stop singing or making music, and eventually reunited with Simon to create the iconic musical pair we know and love today.
9. David Duchovny
Before he was chasing down the paranormal in “The X-Files” or doing some naughty stuff on “Californication”, David Duchovny was an Ivy League academic. He earned his Bachelor’s degree from Princeton University, and then went on to earn his Master’s degree in English literature from Yale.
He was noted to be very gifted when it came to writing and poetry, and even earned accolades for his works. While in graduate school, he would commute to New York City on the weekends for acting lessons and auditions. Although he earned a spot in Yale’s doctoral program, he soon abandoned it to pursue acting professionally.
8. Dexter Holland
If you’re involved in the punk scene, you probably know who Dexter Holland is. He is best known as the lead singer and guitarist for the band, “The Offspring”, and has played venues for thousands of fans. But what most people might not know is that he’s actually got a brilliant mind that’s not just focused on music.
He attended the University of Southern California, where he earned his Bachelor’s in biology. Then, Holland stuck around for a few more years and earned his Master’s in molecular biology. He was originally in a PhD program, but then dropped out to focus more on The Offspring.
7. Rowan Atkinson
While the world may know him as Mr. Bean – the lovable comedic character who wasn’t quite too bright – Rowan Atkinson is actually quite a brilliant man. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Newcastle University, and then in 1975, enrolled in a Master’s program in electrical engineering at The Queen’s College at Oxford University.
While he was there, he became involved in the Oxford University Dramatic Society, along with several other theatre-related clubs in the city. While in graduate school, Atkinson began developing the iconic character of Mr. Bean.
6. Lupita Nyong’o
Lupita Nyong’o was born in Mexico and moved to the United States to attend college. She studied theatre and film at Hampshire College and was admitted to the prestigious Master of Fine Arts program at the Yale School of Drama studying acting.
After graduating in 2012, Nyong’o had her first supporting role in the film, “12 Years a Slave”, where she earned herself an Academy Award. For a new breakout starlet, this was a huge accomplishment, and made her the first Kenyan actress and the first Mexican actress to win an Oscar. Not only is she an educated and accomplished actress, but a major advocate for women’s rights.
5. Sigourney Weaver
Before she was battling aliens and being possessed by ghosts, Sigourney Weaver was a graduate student earning her MFA in acting from Yale – are you starting to notice a trend here between Yale and celebrities?
Weaver earned her degree in 1974, just one year before another person on this list who also attended the prestigious drama school. She created the role of Ellen Ripley in the well known “Alien” movie franchise, which was her breakout role and set her career into overdrive. Since graduation, she has starred in numerous movies and has earned a Lifetime Achievement Award as well as getting her name on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood.
4. Angela Bassett – MFA Yale
When it comes to education, Angela Bassett is a Yale girl through and through. She first attended the university on a scholarship and earned her Bachelor’s degree in Afro-American Studies, and was then accepted into Yale’s MFA program in drama.
While she was a graduate student, she had the chance to work with world renowned director, Lloyd Richards, who would give Bassett her first gig on Broadway – setting her career into overdrive.
3. James Franco
Even though his latest movie was pulled by Sony after political threats, James Franco has the tenacity to keep creating. The “Interview” actor holds a Master of Fine Arts in writing from Columbia University in 2010.
However, this isn’t Franco’s only academic accomplishment. In fact, he is well know for pursuing academic success with multiple degrees. When he first started college after graduating high school, Franco dropped out during his freshman year to pursue his acting career. He’s since been making up for it ten-fold.
2. Bradley Cooper
Bradley Cooper is perhaps the most surprising entry on this list, as it’s hard to picture the star of “The Hangover” as an academic protege. He received his Bachelor of Arts in English from Georgetown University in 1997, and then moved to New York City to begin his graduate studies. Cooper earned his MFA in acting in 2000 from the Actors Studio Drama School at The New School. Before he earned his MFA, he already booked a guest spot on “Sex and the City” in 1999, so it seemed that his studies were paying off before he graduated.
1. Meryl Streep
There is no question that Meryl Streep has had one of the most successful careers in Hollywood, and there is no doubt that she is a wildly talented actress. While it’s obvious that there’s some major natural talent at play, that didn’t stop Streep from pursuing an education.
The “Into the Woods” star earned her Master of Fine Arts from the Yale School of Drama in 1975, and in 1983 the school gave her an honorary Doctorate. Streep has used her training to maintain a very successful career and will often pass down her knowledge in master classes at her alma mater.