In today’s world many people believe you need a college degree to not only get a good career, but to also make a good salary. However, this is not always the case. With 39% of graduates from the classes of 2014 and 2015 earning $25,000 or less per year, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, and over 51% of those college graduates working in jobs that do not require their college degree, it is no wonder these actors and actresses on the list did not complete college. Why should they when they are earning and living a life most would envy? A life of the rich and the famous that most of us wish we could get a bite of, even just a taste. But college is not for everyone and these celebrities show us this better than anyone, earning only a high school degree, or less, any making the big bucks. So here we are to "show you the money!” Get your pens out because class is in session and these actors are taking us to school. Here are the 15 highest paid actors who never got a college degree.
15 Johnny Depp
A versatile actor known for playing numerous eclectic roles, Johnny Depp is the man with many different faces and a soaring star in the world of Hollywood. He is also one of the many actors out there who never earned a college degree. In fact, he never even attended college. Depp dropped out of high school at the age of 15. He was a musician and had a knack for playing the guitar in a garage band called, The Kids. Depp was side-tracked when he married Lori Anne Allison, who introduced him to Nicolas Cage. He advised Depp to pursue an acting career which snowballed into his film debut in the 1984 horror film, A Nightmare on Elm Street.
A few years later in 1987 Johnny shot to stardom with his role as an undercover cop named Tommy Hanson in the TV show 21 Jump Street. Since then he’s been kicking ass and taking names in the film world, all the while keeping step to his own beat.
14 Leonardo DiCaprio
There are not that many actors today who have had a career quite as extraordinary as Leonardo DiCaprio's. Few of us will ever forget his classic and iconic role as Jack Dawson in James Cameron’s 1997 classic film Titanic or his recent Oscar win for the movie The Revenant. Leo’s success came at an early age which also coincided with the end of his education. He dropped out of high school after attending for three years. He did go on to earn his GED but he never attended college. Leo had a modest beginning, starring on television shows such as Growing Pains and Roseanne. It wasn’t until 1991 that he had his movie debut in the low budget horror film Critters 3.
He soon began taking more diverse roles as his career continued to grow and starred in movies such as What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Basketball Diaries and Romeo + Juliet. In more recent years he has starred in major films such as The Departed, Inception, Shutter Island, Django Unchained and The Great Gatsby. Besides being known for his numerous roles DiCaprio is also widely known for being passionate about environmental and humanitarian causes. The man sees a lot of green and did it all without a college degree.
13 Jennifer Lawrence
The Academy Award winning actress is taking Hollywood by storm. Best known for her role as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games and Tiffany Maxwell in Silver Linings Playbook, Lawrence has found her own silver lining and did it all without a college degree. Jennifer never attended college and has even described herself as “vastly uneducated.” Her career officially started when she moved to Manhattan at the age of 14 to pursue acting and many agents convinced her mother to let her stay saying she had a lot of potential.
Jennifer Lawrence's big break came in 2010 when she played a teenager named Ree Dolly in the movie Winter’s Bone. She’s been in many blockbuster hits since, such as American Hustle and Joy, and as of 2016 was the highest paid actor that year grossing in at $46 million. Although she has played many characters from award winning works of literature, she’s not had to crack open a book herself to have a successful career.
12 Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr. commonly referred to as 'the comeback kid' that we all love to root for. His movie role as Iron Man/Tony Stark has become an international sensation and he is considered a hero by legions of fans nationwide. And while he is someone many tend to look up to, this was not always the case. Robert went to Santa Monica High School but dropped out in 1982 to pursue acting. His father exposed him to drugs at a very young age and Robert fell into drug addiction and eventually trouble with the law.
It wasn’t until 2003 that he began to sober up and get his career back on the right track. Finally in 2008 he had huge box office success with the film Iron Man. He continued to play in many successful films afterwards such as Sherlock Holmes, Due Date and The Avengers. From dropping out of school at a very young age and running into problems with drugs and the law, Robert Downey Jr. has reshaped his life into a sober and successful one at that. He has become an actor we both adore and admire.
11 Emma Stone
Emma Stone had big dreams from a very young age. When she was only 15 years old she made a PowerPoint presentation titled “Project Hollywood” that she showed to her parents in an attempt to persuade them to let her drop out of school and move to LA to pursue acting. It must have been one hell of a presentation because they said "yes" and she and her mother moved to California. She had her movie debut as Jules in the 2007 hit comedy Superbad. This canon balled her into more successful performances until she got the main role as Olive in the 2010 movie Easy A, which made her a star.
Since then she has been in a number of hit films such as The Help, Crazy, Stupid, Love, Birdman and The Amazing Spiderman. We have to say Emma you are pretty amazing yourself and way to follow your dreams.
10 Mark Wahlberg
Mark Wahlberg, who used to be known as the sexy shirtless Calvin Klein model and hip-hop singer, Marky Mark, is one of the few actors and entertainers who successfully transformed from a pop icon to a successful and well liked actor. Mark was the youngest of nine children and grew up in a poor family. He dropped out of high school when he was only 14 years old but eventually got his GED. As a young teen he had problems with the law as well as drug abuse and violence. His older brother Donnie tried to help him out and eventually got Mark his own recording contract. He soon became Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, a bad boy rapper with baggy jeans that won the hearts of millions of crying teenage girls.
More legal trouble followed with Wahlberg until his career had a turning point in 1997 when he starred as Dirk Diggler, an adult film star in the movie Boogie Nights. Since then Wahlberg has played a variety of roles that show off his acting abilities and popularity; Planet of the Apes, The Departed, Invincible, The Fighter, Lone Survivor and Ted. He was even the producer of the highly successful HBO comedic show Entourage that was loosely based on Wahlberg’s own life experiences. Although he had a rocky start, Mark Wahlberg is a heavy hitting actor today and did it all without a college degree.
9 Jennifer Aniston
The girl we will always remember as one of our closest ‘friends’ from that hit sitcom to becoming America’s sweetheart and marrying our favorite eligible bachelor Brad Pitt, Jennifer is one we love to watch on the screen as well as read about in the tabloids. Her father was an actor on a hit soap opera Days of Our Lives so it seemed natural for Jennifer that she would want to follow in his footsteps, even if she no longer lived near him with her parents divorcing when she was young. Although Aniston never attended college she did attend the prestigious New York's School of Performing Arts, which the movie Fame was based upon. Moving to Hollywood after high school she worked as a waitress and also auditioned for roles. After many unsuccessful TV shows Aniston had her big break in 1994 when NBC wanted her to audition for the role of a character named Monica Geller, even though they changed their minds and gave her the part of Rachel Green.
The show would continue to go on for ten years and became a hit making Jennifer Aniston an A-list actor. She won numerous awards for playing Rachel Green including an Emmy and a Golden Globe. As of 2016 she was in the top 30 of highest paid actors netting in at $22 million dollars.
8 Ellen DeGeneres
One of the most beloved comedians and television hosts today did it all without earning a college degree. Ellen DeGeneres attended the University of New Orleans where she studied Communication Studies but dropped out after only one semester to do clerical work at a law firm with her cousin. She did a variety of jobs from there, working at J.C. Penney’s, being a bartender, a hostess, to even working as a house painter.
DeGeneres started performing stand-up comedy skits at small night clubs and coffee houses and working her craft. She was often compared to the comedic stylings of Bob Newhart. Eventually she landed bigger and better gigs until she accomplished the golden ring and appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson where she did her famous skit of having a phone call with God. Funny little fact that few people know, she was offered Sandra Bullock's role in Speed. Now that would have been a totally different bus ride.
7 Matt Damon
As of 2016, according to Forbes, Matt Damon was the third highest paid actor grossing in at $55 million. His movie The Martian was a huge success and grossed in a whopping $630 million. It seems Damon had a prestigious year and even attended a prestigious college. He attended Harvard University where he studied English. However, he kept missing and skipping classes to pursue other acting developments until he finally decided to drop out to pursue it altogether. While attending Harvard Damon wrote part of the screenplay to Good Will Hunting as part of an English assignment. Good thing he did because that was the film where he hit it big with his best bud Ben Affleck who also shared in writing the film.
The two would go on to win an Academy Award for best original screenplay for film. Who says you need a college degree to win an Oscar? Obviously not Matt Damon.
6 Amy Adams
Amy Adams did not always want to be an actress. When she was a child she dreamed of being a ballerina and a dancer. She graduated from high school but never ended up going to college. Instead she wanted to hone in on her dancing skills. She worked many jobs such as The Gap and Hooters to support herself as she worked for several different dancing companies in Colorado and Minnesota. She got her first film role in the movie Drop Dead Gorgeous and soon after she was convinced to move to Los Angeles. She appeared in the movie Catch Me If You Can, that some thought would launch her career, but it wasn’t until her role in the low budget film Junebug that received rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival, that she was noticed.
From there she started landing larger roles and appeared in movies, including Enchanted, Doubt and Julie & Julia. Recently she has joined the comic world and portrayed the character Lois Lane in the 2016 film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. As of 2016 she was listed as one of the top 30 highest paid actors bringing in $13.5 million. We’re sure she’s breaking out her happy dance.
5 Patrick Dempsey
It seems to become a doctor you don’t need eight years of schooling. Ok fine, to be a TV doctor you don't. This was the case for Patrick Dempsey who is well known for his role as the handsome and charming Dr. Derek Shepherd on the TV show Grey’s Anatomy.
Dempsey never went to college. At a very young age he was diagnosed with dyslexia which affected his learning. He attended a high school in Maine where he dropped out before graduating. At the time he was very interested in juggling and he traveled to pursue it. He entered numerous competitions and even placed second at the International Juggler’s Association Championship.
Today, Dempsey or better known as 'McDreamy', is an actor, a race car driver and a philanthropist. It seems the man can juggle many things in life and look extremely good while doing it. Patrick is like a fine wine, he just keeps getting better with age.
4 Ben Affleck
Now known for his new role as Batman, Ben Affleck has had super success and did it all without a college degree. From an early age Affleck knew he wanted to be an actor and would discuss it for hours with his lifelong best bud Matt Damon. Ben did attend Occidental College for almost two years but dropped out. Soon after he finished writing the script Good Will Hunting with Matt Damon and in 1997 the film was released, catapulting these two men’s careers into the Hollywood universe. The film would go on to be nominated for nine Academy Awards and the two won the golden idol for Best Original Screenplay.
Affleck began to appear in more Blockbuster hits such as Armageddon and Pearl Harbor. In 2012 he directed and starred in Argo which won the Golden Globe Award for Best Director and won the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Picture. He is set to star in the upcoming Justice League movie which is set to premiere in November of 2017.
3 Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga, whose real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, is one of the most iconic pop stars today. Not only is she a singer and a dancer but she is also an actress, philanthropist and fashion designer. Becoming a musical star was destined for Lady Gaga. At the age of 17 she began attending New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. By the age of 19, however, she decided to drop out and pursue a life of music. Gaga’s career began to form as she performed at the Lollapalooza festival in 2007 when she was signed by Vince Herbert to Streamline Records. Soon after, singer Akon recognized her vocal skills and Gaga was granted a joint deal. Shortly after, in 2008, she released her first album The Fame which rose her to fame with her song ‘Just Dance.’ The rest, as they say, is history.
Her net worth today is $275 million! She is also an actress starring in the hit TV series: American Horror Story, which earned her a Golden Globe Award in 2015. Gaga is golden and we are richer for it.
2 Jim Carrey
The funny man with the famous crazy faces was working on his comedic humor from a very young age. When he was only ten years old he sent his resume to The Carol Burnett Show. His childhood took a turn for the worst though when his family had to relocate. Carrey had to work as a janitor after school just to help them out. He eventually dropped out of high school at the age of 16 to work on his celebrity impressions and moved to Los Angeles. He captivated Rodney Dangerfield and became the opening act and rose to fame on the Fox hit show In Living Color where he was able to showcase his comedic skills.
It wasn’t until 1994 that Jim found film success with the comedy film, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. His humorous facial expressions and talent landed him big movie roles right after in major blockbuster hits; The Mask, Dumb and Dumber, Batman Forever, The Cable Guy and Liar Liar. The two time Golden Globe winner is still thriving today and will forever be one the greatest comedic geniuses of our time.
1 Tom Cruise
Ranking in as the fourth highest paid actor of 2016, Tom Cruise cashed in at $53 million. However, Cruise wasn’t always planning on becoming an actor. When he was younger he had plans on becoming a priest. It wasn’t until high school that he changed his plans and decided not to attend college at all but pursue an acting career. It seems it was his destiny to become one of the most sought after actors whose devilish grin we love to see on our movie screen.
Cruise has played in a number of favorites such as Risky Business, Top Gun, Rain Man, Jerry Maguire, Minority Report and the extremely successful Mission Impossible franchise. It seems nothing is impossible for Tom Cruise who is one of the most successful actors today.
Sources: Forbes, IMDB
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