Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard. Michael Dell dropped out of the University of Texas. Larry Ellison dropped out of the University of Illinois. Steve Jobs dropped out of Reed College. The lesson: you don’t need a college degree to become a tech titan.
But wait. As dramatic as those biographies are, they are very much the exceptions to the rule. In reality, most tech leaders are college graduates, and many have graduate degrees. Network World has done some digging to reveal just how educated the 50 highest paid and most powerful CEOs in the U.S. tech industry are. The biggest finding is that only three—Dell, Ellison, and Zuckerberg—are dropouts. Note also that all three started their own companies. Would they even appear on the radar screens of executive search firms if they sought a CEO job without a degree in hand?
“I’ve met as many successful tech CEOs who have dropped out college as I’ve met folks who have won the lottery,” Professor Jerry Luftman, managing director of the Global Institute for IT Management, tells Network World.
Of the 50 CEOs examined, 27 completed not only an undergraduate degree in computer science, engineering or business, but also hold a master’s degree in one of those fields. Seven completed two post-graduate degrees. Three hold Ph.D.s, and one is a lawyer.
A more detailed breakdown:
Seventeen have undergraduate degrees in computer science, computer engineering or electrical engineering. Another six have undergraduate degrees in other types of engineering, while three have mathematics degrees and three have degrees in physics. More than 10 percent continued on as graduate students in computer-related fields, with six holding master’s degrees in either computer science or electrical engineering. Fifteen of the 50 hold undergraduate degrees in economics, finance, accounting or business administration. Additionally, more than a third—19 out of 50—have master’s degrees in business administration or management.
In other words, staying in school is probably the wise move.
Why Mark Zuckerberg is a bad role model for aspiring tech execs (Network World)