For many captains of industry, a college education is the first rung in the climb to the top.
A look at the education of each CEO in the top 100 of the Fortune 500 companies this year shows a variety of different backgrounds. From their days as students to their ascent to the top of corporate leadership and management, these executives have traveled various paths to reach the same heights.
Public and private colleges alike are well represented among the alma maters of the top 100. Ivy League and international schools also show up. That diversity is well reflected in the CEOs of the top 10 companies, with eight of the 10 having attended public universities, one a product of an Ivy League school and another graduating from a school outside the U.S.
C. Douglas McMillon, president and CEO of Walmart Inc., leads the top-ranked company on the Fortune 500 list. McMillon is a graduate of the University of Arkansas, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in business administration.
Among the best-known people on the annual list are Berkshire Hathaway Inc. CEO Warren Buffett, who attended the University of Nebraska--Lincoln, and Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com Inc., a Princeton University graduate. Both Berkshire Hathaway and Amazon cracked the top 10 of Fortune 500 companies.
Several top CEOs also attended small private schools. For example, Michael C. Kaufmann of Cardinal Health Inc. graduated from Ohio Northern University, and H. Lawrence Culp Jr. of General Electric Co. is an alum of Maryland's Washington College.
While none of the CEOs among the top 10 of the Fortune 500 list attended the same college, some in the top 100 share alma maters. For example, the heads of Exxon Mobil Corp., Phillips 66 Co., Humana Inc. and Cigna are all Texas A&M University--College Station graduates. Of schools represented below, Texas A&M has the most graduates at the helm of the top fifth of the Fortune 500 list.
Common majors for the top CEOs include business administration, accounting and economics, but science, technology, engineering and math fields are also well represented. Many of the CEOs with STEM majors graduated with degrees in various fields of engineering.
A breakdown of the educational backgrounds of top CEOs compiled by U.S. News following the release of Fortune 500's list of companies with the highest revenue shows that more CEOs earned bachelor's degrees from international universities than Ivy League schools. Of the top 100 CEOs on the list, 11 graduated from international institutions and nine graduated from Ivy League universities. However, some CEOs did go on to earn master's degrees at Ivy League schools after completing an undergraduate degree.
But not all CEOs took the same path to the top. Randall T. Jones Sr. of Publix Super Markets Inc., for example, skipped college, while other business leaders, such as Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, dropped out of school.
The table below shows common alma maters of CEOs representing the top 100 companies as designated by Fortune based on revenue. This data does not include CEOs, such as Zuckerberg, who attended a school but did not graduate.
|SCHOOL (STATE)||NUMBER OF CEO GRADUATES||U.S. NEWS NATIONAL UNIVERSITIES RANK|
|Texas A&M University--College Station||4||66 (tie)|
|University of Michigan--Ann Arbor||3||27 (tie)|
|Pennsylvania State University--University Park||3||59 (tie)|
|Dartmouth College (NH)||2||12 (tie)|
|Duke University (NC)||2||8 (tie)|
|Harvard University (MA)||2||2|
|Illinois State University||2||171 (tie)|
|Michigan State University||2||85 (tie)|
|Princeton University (NJ)||2||1|
|Purdue University--West Lafayette (IN)||2||56 (tie)|
|Stanford University (CA)||2||7|
|University of Kentucky||2||147 (tie)|
|University of Pennsylvania||2||8 (tie)|
Sources: College and university websites, company websites, Bloomberg, Boston Business Journal, Forbes, Fortune magazine, Horatio Alger Association, LinkedIn.
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