If you’re stressing over college applications, you might find yourself frustrated and wondering, “is this really necessary – and are there millionaires without college degrees?”
While the odds are certainly against you if you don’t have some education to back you up, the reality is that you don’t necessarily have to get a college degree in order to be successful.
So, who are these millionaires without degrees? In this guide, we’ve gathered up some famous faces that prove a formal education doesn’t necessarily equate to a hefty bank account.
Millionaires without College Degrees
There are countless millionaires out there who do not have college degrees. Many of them, in fact, are actually billionaires. Below are a few examples so you can learn from their experiences.
1. Bill Gates
Of all the millionaires out there, Bill Gates is perhaps one of the most famous – but he’s actually a billionaire. He made his name as the co-founder of Microsoft and has been one of the wealthiest people in the world for many years.
However, he’s a Harvard University drop-out. He left Harvard’s pre-law program in his junior year to pursue a business venture with his friend, Paul Allen. Though initially a risky move, it led to the founding of Microsoft – arguably the most successful software company in the world.
Now, this Harvard dropout has a net worth of more than $122 billion.
His words of wisdom: “To win big, you sometimes have to take big risks.”
2. Ralph Lauren
After studying business briefly at Baruch College, Lauren dropped out of school to join the army. He eventually began his own business selling and designing ties, selling half a million dollars’ worth of ties in the first year alone. This fashion tycoon is now worth over $8 billion!
His words of wisdom: “A lot of hard work is hidden behind nice things.”
3. Mark Zuckerberg
The founder and CEO of Facebook, the largest social platform in the world, Zuckerberg is another Harvard dropout. He left after launching Facebook and seeing its nearly instantaneous success. He is now worth more than $102 billion.
His words of wisdom: “Find that thing you are super passionate about.”
4. Steve Madden
Another fashion icon, Madden is known for his footwear designs and sales. He started his own company in 1990 after dropping out of the University of Miami – and with only $1,100 to his name.
He’s now worth over $120 million.
His words of wisdom: “Work-life balance doesn’t mean anything to me. Everything is one. Life and work are one to me. Any entrepreneur would tell you that.”
5. Michael Dell
Michael Dell dropped out of the University of Texas in Austin at the age of 19. He was focused on running his business – a little venture named Dell Inc. (first known as PCs Limited).
Dell was interested in computers and technology from a young age and his passions paid off despite the fact that he never graduated from college. He’s now worth around $41 billion.
His words of wisdom: “Try never to be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, I suggest you invite smarter people or find a different room.”
6. Rush Limbaugh
A controversial radio and talk show host, media tycoon and author, Rush Limbaugh always knew he wanted to be involved in radio. He briefly attended Southeast Missouri State University but dropped out and was fired from numerous radio stations because he was considered too controversial. Now, he’s worth $400 million.
His words of wisdom: “We are born to action, and whatever is capable of suggesting and guiding action has power over us from the first.”
7. Zhou Qunfei
The founder and CEO of Lens Technology, a company in China that supplies smartphone screens, Qunfei is another billionaire who never attended college.
Despite having a difficult upbringing – she lost her mother when she was young and witnessed her father going blind – Qunfei has quickly become one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world. She did it all in just a few nighttime accounting classes after dropping out of school at the young age of 16.
Her words of wisdom: ““Never give up. Many people would experience a serious blow to confidence when they encountered setbacks. But the key to success is to persevere, especially during the most difficult times.”
8. Coco Chanel
A fashion icon, Coco Chanel didn’t have it easy from the start. She was raised in an orphanage, which was where she learned to sew. She later opened her own hat store and later expanded her fashion empire to include cosmetics, clothing, and most notably, perfume. When she died in 1971, she was worth $8 million.
Her words of wisdom: “Success is often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.”
9. Steve Jobs
There are few people in the world who haven’t heard of Steve Jobs, the former CEO and co-founder of Pixar. He died in 2011 of pancreatic cancer but left a major mark on the world as well as on the film and animation industry.
He attended Reed College in Portland, OR before dropping out six months later. He rekindled a relationship with an old friend, Steve Wozniak, several years later to start Apple Computers in his garage.
It sounds like an unassuming start, but Jobs went on to develop an estimated net worth of $7 billion by the time he died.
His words of wisdom: “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”
10. James Cameron
An Academy Award-winning director and movie producer, Cameron is another college dropout that’s made millions. He has titles like “Titanic,” “The Terminator,” and “Aliens” to his name and is worth $700 million.
His words of wisdom: “If you set your goals ridiculously high and it’s a failure, you will fail above everyone else’s success. There are many talented people who haven’t fulfilled their dreams because they over-thought it, or they were too cautious, and were unwilling to make the leap of faith.”
11. Richard Branson
Richard Branson is a British entrepreneur who dropped out of school at the age of 16. He later went on to form Virgin Records, which developed into the Virgin Group empire with multiple companies in multiple sectors. He’s now worth $5.2 billion.
His words of wisdom: “My interest in life comes from setting myself huge, apparently unachievable challenges and trying to rise above them.”
12. Steve Wozniak
The co-founder of Apple, Wozniak is the inventor of the Apple I and Apple II computers. He briefly attended the University of California at Berkeley, which is where he met billionaire co-founder Steve Jobs.
Now, Wozniak is worth an estimated $100 million.
His words of wisdom: “Your first projects aren’t the greatest things in the world, and they may have no money value, they may go nowhere, but that is how you learn – you put so much effort into making something right if it is for yourself.”
13. Evan Williams
Evan Williams is another self-made billionaire who is also a college dropout. He is a computer programmer and entrepreneur. The co-founder of Twitter with Jack Dorsey and Christopher Isaac Stone, he attended the University of Nebraska but left before graduating.
Now, he is worth more than $2.4 billion.
His words of wisdom: “Failure of your company is not failure in life. Failure in your relationships is.”
14. Larry Ellison
After he dropped out of two colleges, Ellison moved to Berkeley, where he picked up a variety of computer skills and later went on to found Software development Lab and the famous database management system named Oracle. Now, he’s worth $51.8 billion.
His words of wisdom: “Great achievers are driven, not so much by the pursuit of success, but by the fear of failure.”
15. Ted Turner
A broadcasting entrepreneur, Turner is known for creating numerous television channels, including Cartoon Network, CNN, and Turner Network Television. Despite signing up for the US Naval Academy, Turner ended up attending Brown University and was later expelled for having a female in his dorm room.
After leaving, he went on to work at his father’s advertising business before taking it over to make it hugely profitable. Now, he’s worth $2 billion.
His words of wisdom: “Over a three year period, I gave away half of what I had. To be honest, my hands shook as I signed it away. I knew I was taking myself out of the race to be the richest man in the world.”
16. Wolfgang Puck
A celebrity chef, Puck never attended college. He worked at some of the best restaurants in France before journeying to the United States, where he became a celebrity favorite and millionaire worth $75 million.
His words of wisdom: “I like to be firm. But it’s easier to be nice than to be nasty.”
17. David Murdock
David Murdock is the CEO of Dole Food Company, Inc. along with the real estate company named Castle & Cooke. He dropped out of high school in his freshman year before going on to serve in the US Army in World War II.
After serving in the military, he was involved in multiple business ventures, such as those involving food products and real estate. He is worth $2 billion.
His words of wisdom: “Success isn’t something you achieve by accident, but rather by design.”
Jay-Z is widely regarded as the world’s first rap artist billionaire, achieving his billionaire status in 2019. He came from humble beginnings though, raised in Brooklyn New York.
Despite never attending college (or graduating from high school), Jay-Z went on to start his own record label, clothing line, and entertainment company.
His words of wisdom: “You learn more in failure than you ever do in success.”
19. Simon Cowell
You’ve likely heard of Simon Cowell from his turbulent appearances on television shows like The X Factor, America’s Got Talent, and of course, American Idol, but his career began only after he achieved success in the music industry.
After dropping out of high school at the age of sixteen, Cowell went on to work in the mailroom of a music publishing company. He eventually became a talent consultant in the music industry, where he helped develop new formats for competitions. He’s responsible for discovering talented artists like Olly Murs, Leona Lewis, and One Direction.
He’s now worth $600 million.
His words of wisdom: “You don’t go into anything contemplating failure, because if you did, you wouldn’t make it.”
20. Russell Simmons
Russell Simmons is the co-founder of Def Jam Recordings and is an accomplished music producer. He’s best known for the role he played in launching careers of famous artists like The Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, and Run-DMC.
Simmons did graduate from high school and began a college education, starting at City College of New York and majoring in sociology. He left before earning a degree, deciding instead to focus on his music career and helping other artists get record deals.
Now, he is worth around $340 million.
His words of wisdom: “No matter where you’re from or what you’ve done, you’re never stuck in a particular circumstance, relationship, or cycle unless you say you are.”
21. John Mackey
John Mackey is the CEO and co-founder of Whole Foods Market, which was bought by Amazon for $13.7 billion. He was a college dropout who borrowed money from friends and family to open SaferWay Natural Foods in Austin in 1978.
His road to success was not a smooth one, instead a bumpy journey in which he ended up living at his store. Eventually, he rose to success and now has more than 500 stores across the UK and United States. He’s worth somewhere between $75 and $85 million.
His words of wisdom: “As a company grows, its purpose grows with it. It has the potential to evolve your purpose.”
22. Rachael Ray
Rachael Ray is unique among the other millionaires on this list because she’s one of the few that’s not in the tech industry. However, like the rest, she also does not have a college degree.
Ray attended Pace University briefly but left after two years to begin a career in food. It led her to a variety of career opportunities, including the idea of 30 Minute Meals being picked up by a local television station. This then caught the attention of Food Network, and Ray’s career took off. She now has an estimated net worth of around $80 million.
Her words of wisdom: “If you’re humble and hardworking, opportunities will arise for you.”
23. Anna Wintour
A British fashion icon, Wintour is perhaps best known for her successful business venture working as an editor for American Vogue magazine. She wasn’t born to humble beginnings, but she did a lot of work to build her own career without a university education nevertheless.
After dropping out of North London Collegiate School, she focused on her love of fashion and eventually became an editor. She’s now worth around $35 to $50 million.
Her words of wisdom: “I recommend that you all get fired; it’s a great learning experience.”
What Jobs Can Make You A Millionaire If You Don’t Have A Degree?
Achieving millionaire status depends on many factors beyond just having a high-income job. These factors include how one manages their money, investments, entrepreneurship, and sometimes, pure luck. Here are a few potential pathways to wealth without needing a formal degree:
- Entrepreneurship: Many of the world’s wealthiest individuals are self-made entrepreneurs. This includes starting a business in a profitable industry, such as tech start-ups, online businesses, food industry, real estate, etc. Success depends on the entrepreneur’s ability to identify a market need, deliver a product or service to meet that need, and manage a business effectively.
- Real Estate Investing: Buying, selling, and renting out properties can be a highly lucrative career. It requires knowledge about the market, negotiation skills, and a good sense for potential opportunities. Real estate investing can be risky, but successful investors can become very wealthy.
- Professional Athlete or Entertainer: Exceptionally talented individuals in sports, music, acting, etc., can amass significant wealth. However, these careers often require a level of skill and dedication that is achieved only after many years of hard work and often a bit of luck.
- Sales: High-end sales, such as real estate, luxury goods, or complex B2B sales, can lead to high incomes based on commission. Success in sales requires strong communication, persuasion, and relationship-building skills.
- Investing: Investing in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or other securities can be a path to wealth. While you don’t need a degree to start investing, understanding how different investment vehicles work can take time and effort to learn. Some people have also made significant money through investing in or trading cryptocurrencies, but this is very risky and volatile.
- Social Media Influencer/Content Creator: Some individuals have been able to leverage their personality or creativity to build a large online following on platforms like YouTube, Instagram, or TikTok. This can lead to substantial income through advertising, sponsorships, and other revenue streams.
- Skilled Trade: Professions like plumbing, electric work, carpentry, or other trades can be quite lucrative, especially if you start your own business in these fields.
Remember, while these paths can potentially lead to wealth, they also require hard work, persistence, risk-taking, and a fair amount of luck. Furthermore, in many of these careers, wealth is not guaranteed and can take many years to build. In many cases, some form of education or training – whether formal or informal – will be necessary to succeed.
Tips for Becoming A Millionaire Without a Degree
While the path to becoming a millionaire varies from person to person, there are a number of habits and strategies that can help increase your chances of reaching that goal. Here are some tips:
- Develop a strong work ethic: Regardless of the field, having a strong work ethic is essential. This can involve long hours, persistence, and the ability to push through when things get tough.
- Learn continuously: Even if you don’t have a formal degree, continuous learning is key. This could be through reading books, taking online courses, or finding a mentor in your industry.
- Start your own business: Starting a business can be a profitable venture if you have a unique idea or skill, and the drive to see it through.
- Invest wisely: Learn about investing and start as soon as possible. This could be in stocks, bonds, real estate, or even starting your own business. The goal is to have your money work for you over time.
- Live below your means: This means saving more than you spend. It might involve cutting back on non-essential purchases and living a more frugal lifestyle to save and invest more money.
- Increase your income streams: Don’t rely on a single source of income. This could mean starting a side business, investing in income-generating assets, or taking on freelance work.
- Network: Building a strong professional network can open up opportunities for jobs, partnerships, and investments. It’s not just about who you know, but also about who knows you.
- Take calculated risks: Whether it’s starting a business or making an investment, it’s important to take risks. However, these should be calculated risks, where you’ve done your research and understand the potential downside.
- Keep track of your finances: Understand where your money comes from and where it goes. Keeping detailed records and making a budget can help you identify areas where you can cut back and save more.
- Don’t be afraid to fail: Many successful entrepreneurs and investors have faced failures along their journey. It’s important to see these not as the end, but as learning opportunities.
Remember, becoming a millionaire is rarely a quick or easy process. It often involves years of hard work, smart decisions, and a bit of luck. But by adopting these habits and strategies, you can improve your chances of reaching your financial goals.
Fastest Way To Become A Millionaire
While there’s no guaranteed “fast track” to becoming a millionaire, there are a few strategies that might potentially accelerate the process. Keep in mind, however, that each of these strategies involves substantial risk and requires hard work, smart decision-making, and often, a good amount of luck.
- Start a Successful Business: The potential profits from owning a business can far outstrip the earnings from being an employee. Tech startups, in particular, can become highly valuable in a relatively short period of time if they successfully innovate in a high-growth market.
- Invest in Stocks/Cryptocurrency: High-risk, high-reward investing in stocks or cryptocurrencies has created rapid wealth for some individuals. However, this requires a deep understanding of the markets and a high tolerance for risk, as you can also lose your investment just as quickly.
- Inherit Wealth: While it’s not something you can control or plan for, receiving a substantial inheritance is a quick way that some people become millionaires.
- Invent Something: If you can create a product that fulfills a need or want for many people, and you’re able to bring it to market successfully, you can amass wealth relatively quickly. This is risky and requires innovation, business savvy, and a bit of luck.
Regardless of the path you choose, it’s crucial to manage your money wisely. This means living within or below your means, investing wisely, and avoiding unnecessary debt. It’s also important to note that quick paths to wealth are often the riskiest and are not guaranteed to succeed. You should always do your own research and consider seeking advice from financial advisors or other professionals.
Final Thoughts: Can You Be a Millionaire Without a Degree?
You don’t need to be a college graduate in order to become a millionaire, yet you do need a few key attributes on your side.
You need to be hardworking and tenacious. The one thing that all the millionaires described above have in common is that they never gave up, even when faced with serious adversity.
Consider the words of wisdom from the millionaires (and billionaires) described above – and consider launching your own first successful business venture! No college degree necessary.