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Where Top CEOs Went to Business School

Delece Smith-Barrow

An MBA can be critical for getting a well-paying job in corporate America, but it may not guarantee a business school grad will become a top executive.

Take Jeff Bezos, for example, who's the CEO for Amazon.com, the popular online store for every product imaginable. With just a bachelor's degree, Bezos led his company up the Fortune 500 list, where it landed at No. 35 this year after coming in at 49 in 2013.

And then there's Greg L. Armstrong, CEO of Plains GP Holdings, which owns and operates natural gas storage facilities and manages other businesses. Like Bezos, Armstrong does not have an MBA, yet his company landed one of the coveted spots on the Fortune 500 list: No. 70.

[Compare the benefits of regional MBAs with big-name b-schools.]

Of the 100 companies leading the newest Fortune 500 list, released on June 2, less than half of their CEOs had an MBA. U.S. News looked at the educational background of the CEOs. School data for one CEO could not be confirmed.

"To actually get in the C-suite, it's a little bit like winning the lottery. Especially for a Fortune 100 company," says David G. Rohlander, author of "The CEO Code: Create a Great Company and Inspire People to Greatness with Practical Advice from an Experienced Executive." A pattern of successfully accomplishing your goals and an optimistic mindset are two of the most important traits for becoming a CEO, he says.

While business school may not be necessary for landing these kind of leadership roles, it can help. "It's going to give you a better capability of thinking," says Rohlander, who received his MBA in finance from the business school at California State University--Fullerton, now known as Mihaylo College of Business and Economics. And going to a prestigious school may help with advancing career goals, he believes, because of the networking opportunities.

[Photos: 10 MBA programs that accept most applicants.]

On the Fortune 500 list, which ranks U.S.-based companies with the highest revenue, many of the CEOs who received an MBA attended business schools ranked within the top 20. Eight attended Harvard Business School and four attended The Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania. Two attended the Booth School of Business at University of Chicago. Fewer than a dozen graduated from law school.

This year's Fortune 100 list included nine women, four of whom received an MBA.

[Find out which business schools have the most full-time female students.]

A table highlighting U.S. schools that awarded an MBA to the Fortune 100 CEOs is below. The rank of their graduate business school is also included. The table is sorted by total number of degrees awarded per institution.

School (name) (state) Fortune 100 CEO MBA recipients U.S. News business school rank
Harvard University (MA) 8 1
University of Pennsylvania (Wharton) 4 1
Northwestern University (Kellogg) (IL) 2 6
University of Chicago (Booth) 2 4
University of Minnesota--Twin Cities (Carlson) 2 33
Brigham Young University (Marriott) (UT) 1 27
Columbia University (NY) 1 8
Cornell University (Johnson) (NY) 1 17
Duke University (Fuqua) (NC) 1 14
Indiana University--Bloomington (Kelley) 1 21
New York University (Stern) 1 10
Our Lady of the Lake (TX) 1 N/A
Southern Methodist University (Cox) (TX) 1 55
Stanford University (CA) 1 1
University of Dayton (OH) 1 Unranked*
University of Hartford (Barney) (CT) 1 Unranked
University of San Diego 1 Unranked
University of Tulsa (Collins) (OK) 1 96
University of Virginia (Darden) 1 11
University of Houston (Bauer) 1 92
University of Utah (Ecceles) 1 63
Washington University in St. Louis (Olin) 1 22
Xavier University (Williams) (OH) 1 Unranked

*Unranked schools are those that do not meet certain criteria required by U.S. News to be numerically ranked.

Sources: Company websites, Fortune Magazine, Bloomberg Businessweek, Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Fox Business, CNN Money, Motley Fool, New York Times, Market Watch, Washington Business Journal, Chicago Tribune, ABC News, Pitt Chronicle, LinkedIn, San Jose Mercury News, Reuters, Insurance Journal, The White House, college and university websites.

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