Gates and Zuckerberg Dropped Out, But You Shouldn’t

Steve Jobs and Mark ZuckerbergBill 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.

Related Links

Why Mark Zuckerberg is a bad role model for aspiring tech execs (Network World)

No Responses to “Gates and Zuckerberg Dropped Out, But You Shouldn’t”

  1. Dont get confused between employment and business ownership.If you want employment with title as CEO then you definitely need college degree. You don’t need college degree to be an entrepreneur.. what you need is a dream, you need passion, you need perseverance to pursue your dream because you think you can impact the world in a positive way.. you need a strong belief system that will get you going irrespective of all challenges and failures you will have to face on your journey…

  2. these are exactly like lottery winners!!! smart enough to not do mistakes after winning.
    for the rest of us, the rule is simple: no school, no money. more degrees you have, more likely it is to be an excellent player in high tech. this is not restaurant business… take my word on this

    • They are not like lottery winners.. they chose to be lucky… they did not have billion dollar business when they dropped out of the college.. they had the guts to drop out of the college and pursue their dreams…they knew the risk they weer taking.. they were willing to fail and not be a failure!! It takes entrepreneurship mindset to understand…

  3. Lee Crites

    I see a couple of points in the article that I feel should be addressed:

    1) Just because these CEOs have advanced degrees doesn’t mean they needed them. It only means they have them. People of that caliber might have percolated to the top without the degree.

    2) The sample size is limited to the top 50. While there is a lot of validity in the sample, and I am sure the analysis is completely valid for this group, I wonder what it would have looked like if it was expanded to a larger collection.

    3) I wonder what an article with a title like: “The Top 50 Tech Companies with Non-College Degree CEO’s” would look like.

    I agree that college does most people a lot of good. But I also know that in the tech field, a fair number of college graduates leave with a degree in technologies that are already out of date.

    I would say an argument could be made for either side of this coin…