Hitting The Books: 20 Celebrities You Didn't Know Have Impressive Degrees

Most people wouldn't think of stars of any kind to be the most educated of people because, let's face it, we only know them as the person who gives us entertainment - whatever the form it may be. But, whether it was before their rise to stardom, during their fame or even something that they were eventually able to pursue long after the excitement in their lives was at its peak, education is extremely important, no matter who you are, and the aforementioned celebrities are prime examples of this mentality.

It doesn't matter what you get your degree in, as everyone has their own strengths of course, but in order to keep up with the ever-changing world, a degree is definitely a great tool to have in your tool belt.

This is not to say that absolutely everyone should strive for this higher form of education because there are plenty of wonderful careers out there that don't require it. But it does open up a lot of doors irregardless. The skills that you obtain through learning are irreplaceable and the following celebrities know this as a pure fact. Even though they may not have ultimately ended up in the field that they got their degrees in, they can still proudly say that they earned that piece of paper that proves that they reached toward something greater than themselves and finished what they started. So, are you curious about who some of the celebrities that fall under this category are? Scroll down and let your mind be blown.

20. Mayim Bialik

Mayim Bialik may be known for her breakout role in Blossom and embodiment of Amy Farrah Fowler in the hit television sitcom The Big Bang Theory, but she's way more than just that. Being a dedicated wife and mother as well as successful actress isn't all that she's capable of, as she is also a genius. Between her acting gigs, she decided to obtain multiple degrees so that she could have a fall-back plan if everything went awry. So, she applied to UCLA and successfully completed her triple Major in Hebrew, Jewish Studies and Neuroscience, which must have been a load and a half but totally worthwhile because she then went back so that she could then obtain her PhD in Neuroscience. Despite the apparent stigma revolving around her former life in the entertainment industry that most of her fellow scholars had about her attending UCLA, the other science students didn't seem to make a big deal about it. Besides, even if they did, the overwhelming value placed on her intelligence was the perfect counterargument to anything that they might spew.

19. James Franco

In a world where people are constantly getting overwhelmed by all of life's responsibilities, James Franco is a prime example of how you can achieve everything that you set your heart out to do. While he was earning his degree in writing from Columbia University, he was also attending New York University, where he completed their filmmaking program and, to top it all off, he even graduated from Brooklyn College and has a degree in fictional writing to show for it. Currently, Franco is at Yale University earning his PhD in English as well as completed, or on his way to completing, other degrees... and he's done it with hardly ever missing a lecture and passing with flying colors! When you remember that he has somehow managed to accomplish all of this while still finding the time to continue his career as an actor, writer and part-time professor, he is literally the epitome of a Renaissance man.

18. Ivanka Trump

Ivanka Trump may not be the most traditionally popular individual on this list, but the former model turned business woman with a famous father can't help but be in the spotlight every once in a blue moon. Due to her family's constant focus on the business realm, it was pretty much a given that she would eventually end up following in her father's footsteps, especially considering how close the two of them are. While she may now be one of the heads of a few of Donald Trump's many corporations, this 34-year-old mother of three definitely worked hard to be where she is now. Despite a high school life that didn't always go exactly as she hoped that it would, she was forced to take fencing and she was not a fan, her dedication to grandeur has brought her up to where she is now. While she may have started out at Georgetown University in her years as an undergraduate, she earned her Bachelor's Degree in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School in 2004 and has graced the business world ever since.

17. Emma Watson

Emma Watson is one of those people in Hollywood that you can't seem to hear enough of because, let's face it, she's always doing something. From continuing her blossoming career as an actress to being an ambassador for the U.N. and even continuing to expand her horizons through the value of education, she does it all. Just a few years ago, she even earned her Bachelor's Degree in English Literature from Brown University! She opted to go to an American school rather than one in the United Kingdom because it gave her the chance to really learn what she wanted to learn. The opportunity to study as many subjects as she wished at once was something that greatly appealed to Watson and turned into something that she really took advantage of. If anything, a break from her "normal" life of fortune and fame was a way of taking control over who she is and what she does and, while the experience may have been really awkward at first, everything eventually fell into place - and she now has the piece of paper to show for it.

16. Lisa Kudrow

Most of the world may know Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay from the internationally acclaimed sitcom Friends or from any of her other her big successes in the entertainment industry. But how many know her as a scientist? Before entering onto the Hollywood scene, Lisa Kudrow was seriously considering following in her father's footsteps and living out her life as a scientist. She applied to Vassar College and obtained her Bachelor's Degree in Biology. Her entire plan was that she would work alongside her father, Dr. Lee Kudrow who is a well known headache specialist, as a researcher. In one way or another, it's hard to believe that someone with such comedic talent would think of becoming anything but a comedienne but, even if that path was the one that she had chosen (at least she thinks that she would have been just as happy). However, ever since she stepped onto the acting scene, she hasn't really used her degree but, on the educational standpoint, at least she is trying to promote the arts more so than it was meant to be.

15. Shaquille O'Neil

Shaquille O'Neil is one of those men who will always be known as the 7'1" NBA champion who played a total of 19 seasons, but ever since he retired from the game, he has gone an entirely different route. After making a promise to his parents that he would fulfill his love for education, he got a Bachelor's Degree from LSU, a Master's from the University of Phoenix and last but definitely not least, his Doctrine in Education from Barry University. As a means of obtaining his degree, he completed his slightly nontraditional dissertation on the value of leadership and laughter which is a great choice for this naturally born leader with a love for laughing. So, what's next for Dr. O'Neil, as he has since insisted to be called? A degree in law. While he may not have gone into more detail than that, you can rest assured that you will see this huge man wearing another 3xXL gown someday soon, getting that beloved piece of paper saying that he's successfully completed his next major goal. And, if it doesn't work out, his dreams of becoming a motivational speaker is never something to shy away from either.

14. Tommy Lee Jones

Tommy Lee Jones has been lucky in a lot of regards including how he was the only one of his parent's children to survive, and the possibilities that opened up for him once he was able to attend schools on scholarships. But one of the most important things for us, at least, was his ability to make it as a successful actor. However, even if that didn't work out, chances are that he would have been just fine considering that he was able to attend one of the most prestigious school in the country, Harvard, on a full scholarship and then graduate with honors. His time at the school was an interesting one and chances are as he looks back two things rise above the rest; his roommate was eventually going to become the Vice-President of the United States, (Al Gore), and he would be playing in one of the most talked about football games in Harvard's history, the Harvard vs. Yale game in 1968, which has since been dubbed "The Tie." Even at that, his ability to graduate from there with cum laude status as he walked across the stage to obtain his English Literature degree is something that he can always be proud of and, if anything, it looks great hanging on the wall.

13. Carrie Underwood

Carrie Underwood may now be a pop-country icon but she was once an average female just trying to make it in the world. She had average jobs, relatively normal dreams and a loving family who would support her no matter what. In the same sense, Carrie decided to attend Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, in hopes of one day working in the field, because it's a lot easier to make a living from that than the hopes and dreams of one day becoming an international success by singing country music. While there, she was an active member of the "Sigma Sigma Sigma Sorority," which means that she will now be one until death do them part. So, while she may not talk about that side of her life very often, it's good to know that she definitely has a back-up plan if things go south for her. However, if and when that time comes, chances are that she'll still be able to look back on the times and remember that it was all possible thanks to some "silly" reality television show which then changed her life forevermore.

12. Wanda Sykes

For the longest time, Wanda Sykes was like a lot of everyday people in the world. With her father being a colonel in the army and her mother being a banker, she grew up in a working class family and had chosen to continue such a life even slightly after University. While in her hometown, she attended Hampton University in the state of Virginia where she earned her Master's Degree in Marketing and then she moved off to what she thought would be bigger and better things. So, off to Washington, D.C. she went where she eventually found a government job. The National Security Agency hired her as a procurement officer and she continued doing that until her brain simply couldn't take it anymore. However, before moving off to obtain super-stardom she participated in the Coors Light Super Talent Showcase. While she may not have won first place, the audience loved her comedy enough to push her toward the life that she currently leads and, at 52, she couldn't be happier with where she is.

11. Rowan Atkinson

It's hard to picture Rowan Atkinson as anyone other than the comedic figure of Mr. Bean, but did you know that he's actually qualified to do more than just act? Right after high school, he attended Newcastle University where he obtained the highest marks in his class and then moved onto the world-famous school that we all know as Oxford University. While there, he worked his way up to obtaining his Master's Degree in Electrical Engineering. However, that's not all he did while there. Rowan Atkinson came into contact with Richard Curtis, the man responsible for Four Weddings and a Funeral and, while he may have continued working toward educational success, he started to also get serious about acting. After his performance in a Fringe Festival which is basically a theatre festival for the indie scene, he met up with a big-name producer who was convinced that he would be even bigger than Charlie Chaplin and the rest, as they say, is history.

10. Gerard Butler

Gerard Butler is a chameleon on the screen as he can perform any role from the love interest to action star and everything in between, but what was he doing prior? After moving back to Scotland with his mother after his parents divorced, he attended high school and then moved on up Glasgow University where he chose to study law and, let's face it, even though it didn't work out the tricks of the trade can definitely come in handy. While there, he was the President of the Student Law Society and even graduated with honors which was quite the achievement for someone who really isn't that academic. He was also quite lucky in the sense that while he was training to become the lawyer that he thought that he wanted to be they also supported him singing in a Scottish rock band. Because the work environment was also a little more rocker than most, they completely understood if he didn't show up for work the day after playing a gig. But, once he got fired he packed up and left for America and, while it may have not always been easy, his hard work definitely paid off in the end.

9. Rashida Jones

While Rashida Jones may be the daughter of Quincy Jones and Peggy Lipton, she wasn't exactly what you would call "fully immersed in the entertainment scene." As she was growing up, Rashida didn't have dreams of acting, or anything of the sort for that matter - she wanted to take a step back from fame and fortune, and live a relatively normal life. With the hopes of one day becoming a judge or the President of the United States, she took her education very seriously and applied to one of the most prestigious university's out there - Harvard. After she was accepted into her program of choice, a double major in art and philosophy, her voyage began and she eventually graduated in 1997 just to return in 2016 so that she could fulfill her duty as the Class Day speaker. All in all, it's safe to say that while she may not have made an impact in the same way as she had initially hoped for, this actress-writer-producer is making a splash in more ways than one and, considering the influence that the entertainment industry has on the rest of the world, maybe she can still make a difference after all.


1 Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger may just be one of the most accomplished celebrities mentioned in this list as he was not only a Mr. Universe winner and a successful bodybuilder who obtained the Mr. Olympia title on multiple occasions, but an actor, writer and even the Governor of California! But, just because he has made such a killing now doesn't mean that it was always easy for him. With a father who favored his older brother, not an insane amount of money and parents who were not afraid of disciplining their children to the utmost degree, Arnold's childhood was not exactly what you would call an ideal one. However, he was eventually able to escape those conditions and immigrate to America, where he would attend the University of Wisconsin-Superior. While he may not have earned anything higher than a Bachelor's Degree, considering that it was in the international marketing of fitness and business administration, it's definitely worth a nod of approval.

7. Ashley Judd

Ashley Judd has used her fame for more than getting some big bucks from the various movies that she's appeared in, as she also utilizes it as a means of getting the word out there regarding some very important humanitarian issues. As an active human rights activist, she brings a recognizable voice to causes like HIV/AIDS prevention and teachings and all of the issues that are inescapable realities to those living in third world countries. So, with this in mind, it only made sense that she would get a degree in a corresponding sector so that she could speak the same language as the big dogs. After a lot of thought and consideration, she was finally convinced to apply to the John F. Kennedy School of Government for a Mid-Career Master's Degree in Public Administration, which she completed in 2010. She was convinced that she would never be a Harvard graduate, but she can now proudly say that she's not only done that but went back to school after a 17-year hiatus to finish what she started. In her younger years, she was a student at the University of Kentucky where she had started earning her degree in French and had an additional four minors to add to the workload. However, according to Judd, she never completed it because she forgot to complete the paperwork so that she could replace a science class that she was enrolled in. Long story short, she was finally able to get that load off of her mind after she went back and finally graduated in 2007. Smart cookie, huh?

6. Brian May

Brian May has been and always will be remembered for his numerous contributions to the music industry, especially those that were completed while he was the lead guitarist for the world-renown rock band Queen. But his love for scientific discoveries stayed with him through his journey toward fame and fortune and he is finally able to live them out. Alongside his previous commitments, in 2007 he was able to complete his PhD in Astrophysics from Imperial College in London, England, and has now worked with the likes of NASA on what they call the "New Horizons" project where he was there to witness the first crystal clear pictures of Pluto being sent back to Earth. While it may have taken him over thirty years to finally get there, he was first enrolled in Imperial College from 1970-1974 for the same degree, he was able to revise and submit his doctoral thesis Motions of Interplanetary Dust in one year instead of two and has since shot for the stars to see what else life has in store for him.

5. Art Garfunkel

Art Garfunkel may have stepped out of the limelight since his major rise to fame with the international success of Simon & Garfunkel, the folk-rock group that he and Paul Simon formed together, but his love for music has always stuck with him. However, he had another passion, one that isn't as popular with the ladies - statistics. That's right, this rock star is also a math wiz. When Simon & Garfunkel went on a hiatus, Art decided to go back to school and, in turn, got a number of degrees under his belt. First, he went to Columbia College so that he could obtain a Bachelor of Arts Degree as he majored in Art History. Then, the scientific side couldn't help but take over so he embraced the world of mathematics and even got his Master's Degree in it from Columbia University. Sure, it hasn't served him much since then, but sometimes just learning more about your passion makes the entire experience worthwhile.

4. Conan O'Brien

Conan O'Brien may be one of the comedic geniuses of today's day and age, but he was once like everyone else and decided that it was time to strive for a higher degree of education from one of the best schools that America has to offer. Through his studies at Harvard, he was able to focus a fair amount of his time on literature, while ultimately working toward obtaining a Bachelor's Degree in History. In his time there, he was also President of a magazine where he was able to work toward perfecting his comedic chops, which ultimately made him into the figure that he is today. Due to his dissertation based upon the conditions of the South and the effects that it had on the children in the works of Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor, he was either a genius or complete idiot but because the professors couldn't decide he eventually graduated in 1985 with a magna cum laude status to his name.

3. Ron Jeremy

Ron Jeremy is one of the best known and most highly paid male actors in the adult industry to date and, while he may have stopped working in that particular field, at least he has something to fall back on— and you wouldn't believe what it is. That's right, the man who has been nicknamed "The Hedgehog" also has a passion for teaching. While he may not seem like the type who would go for something like that, before he entered into the adult industry he was actually teaching children's special education classes and would have probably stuck with it if his girlfriend at the time didn't send pictures of him to a magazine. His initial career choice was possible all thanks to the wonderful professors at Queen College, the school where he obtained his Bachelor and Masters Degrees. While there, he initially signed up for a double major of education and theatre, and successfully obtained his Bachelor's Degree as a result. But, he didn't stop there. After that, he decided to take up a specialization which then led him to earning his Master's degree in Special Education. Who would have thought?

2. Jerry Springer

Jerry Springer represents the best as well as the worst in America, and has held a wide array of careers that push what it means to be ethical to a whole new level. But, he wouldn't be where he was today if it weren't to be for the value of education that he has obtained over the years. You see, Jerry Springer wasn't always the face of lowbrow television, but the face of a lawyer, mayor and even part of President Kennedy's team, before he got assassinated of course. How is this possible you may ask? By applying himself in school, he was able to earn a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from Tulane University and a law degree from Northwestern University. Even at that, it wasn't your typical degree that one would obtain to someday become a lawyer but a Juris Doctor, a field of study that then allows you to become a judge. So, while Jerry Springer may not seem like much today, his resume says differently and he proved this when, despite a lot of disapproving eyes, he went up on stage to give the Commencement address at Northwestern University.

1. Dolph Lundgren

Dolph Lundgren may be best known for his participation in big, blockbuster films filled with action but he's also a scientist. But, in order to wrap your head around all of that let's start from the beginning. Dolph Lundgren only started to seriously consider pursuing a career as an actor later on in his life as he came into contact with a casting notice for the Sylvester Stallone's smash hit Rocky IV. Before that, he was absolutely certain that he would follow in his father's footsteps and become an engineer. This was completely plausible, too, because he was a very academic child. As a direct result of this skill, his advanced education was largely in thanks to various scholarships that he has obtained. From attending Washington State University, where he earned his Bachelor's Degree in Chemistry to attending the Royal Institute of Technology, where he received a degree in chemical engineering and even going as far as a Master's Degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Sydney, he was on the road to success. But, this didn't last for long because after he came into contact with Sylvester Stallone and Grace Jones, his life changed forevermore.


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