Not all millionaires or billionaires have college degrees, which can be a surprising realization when you think about some of these people on our list. Many famous people dropped out of college and became extremely successful through hard work. If nothing else, this list will show you that many successful people dropped out of college and did well on their own.
1. Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs was one of the founders of Apple, Inc in 1976 and managed to turn Apple, Inc into the empire that we all know today. Apple started as a personal computer hardware and software company that evolved and grew over time, and Steve Jobs can be accredited for much of Apple’s success.
Steve Jobs attended Reed College in Oregon for only one semester before dropping out because he felt that a college degree cost too much of his parents’ money that he didn’t want to spend. Jobs went to work at Atari in 1974, and by 1976, he had joined forces with Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple, Inc. Together, the pair built and sold the first Apple I computer and developed the Apple, Inc empire.
Steve Jobs passed away on October 5, 2011. At the time of his death, he was worth approximately $10.2 billion. Since his death, Apple has partnered with corporations like Disney and Pixar, bringing what would be his net worth today to around $45 billion.
2. Bill Gates
Like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates was another techy who went to college only to drop out after two years. Bill Gates was enrolled in Harvard and attended for two years. He dropped out in 1975 to pursue a business career; specifically, to start Microsoft with co-founder Paul Allen.
Microsoft got its name from being a microprocessor and software company. Microsoft developed Microsoft Windows, the leading personal computer processing operating system, and software programs like Microsoft Office, but their growth didn’t stop there. Microsoft has begun to develop devices like cell phones and tablets; specifically, the Windows Phone and Microsoft Surface tablet. The Windows Phone was discontinued in 2020 because of poor performance, but the Microsoft Surface has soared to the top of the list for tablets.
Today, Bill Gates is worth approximately $137.4 billion.
3. Michael Dell
Keeping in line with the computer gurus of the world brings us to Michael Dell. Michael Dell is the founder, CEO, and chairman of Dell Technologies, Inc.
Before he founded Dell Technologies, Inc, Michael Dell attended the University of Texas for just two years before dropping out in 1984 at the age of 19. Dell dropped out of college because he had started his computer business and wanted to run it full-time. His original computer business was called PCs Limited and was eventually changed to Dell Technologies, Inc.
What’s remarkable about Michael Dell is that he began his studies at the University of Texas in the pre-med program and began working on computers on the side. He quickly learned to build computers and then began to sell them to the university. When they would place bids to purchase new computers, Dell would always win the bids since he had built the computers himself and didn’t have a computer store to act as the middleman. Essentially, he would win these bids by offering reasonable prices to sell his computers directly to the school.
Today, Michael Dell is worth approximately $58.6 billion.
4. Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg invented the billion-dollar social media platform Facebook, Inc, which was rebranded in 2021 as Meta Platforms, Inc. Before he invented the billion-dollar company, Mark Zuckerberg was a student at Harvard University, where he attended from 2002 until 2004. In 2004, Zuckerberg developed and launched Facebook, which was originally called thefacebook.com. Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard and focused solely on thefacebook.com, changing its name to Facebook in 2005.
Facebook originally began as a networking and social media platform exclusive to college students. In fact, you had to have a college email address ending in .edu to successfully register as a user on Facebook.
In 2006, Facebook opened to the public and allowed corporate email addresses to join the platform. Later that year, Facebook opened up to anyone in the public who was over 13 years old.
Today, Mark Zuckerberg is worth $119.2 billion.
5. Ralph Lauren
Ralph Lauren is an American fashion designer and businessman who founded his self-made and self-titled brand, Ralph Lauren. (Did you know that Ralph Lauren wasn’t born Ralph Lauren, but instead was born Ralph Lifshitz, but he changed his last name after being made fun of as a child?)
Ralph Lauren attended Baruch College in Manhattan and studied business for two years before dropping out and eventually taking a job at Brooks Brothers clothing store.
The Ralph Lauren Corporation was founded in 1967, making Ralph Lauren worth $7.1 billion.
6. Jack Dorsey
Jack Dorsey is the CEO and founder of Twitter, another social media platform similar to Facebook. Jack Dorsey attended the Missouri University of Science and Technology for two years and then transferred to New York University in 1997, where he ultimately dropped out two years later, just one semester short of graduating.
Dorsey studied various aspects of computers, including programming and dispatching logistics. After dropping out of NYU, he moved to California, where he started his own dispatching company that would dispatch taxis, couriers, and emergency services through web applications. From here, he became interested in communication and messaging services, like LiveJournal and AOL Instant Messenger, which became popular in 2000.
By 2008, Dorsey had joined forces with co-founders of the Obvious Corporation, which is what would ultimately become Twitter, where he became the platform’s CEO.
Today, Jack Dorsey is worth approximately $11.8 billion.
7. Ellen DeGeneres
Ellen DeGeneres is one of the most iconic faces and voices in Hollywood. She has made a name for herself in comedy through her self-titled daytime talk show, hosting her primetime game show, and voicing one of the most iconic Royal Blue Tang fish in animation.
With a resume like hers, it’s hard to believe she dropped out of college.
Ellen enrolled at the University of New Orleans in 1977 for only one semester. Ellen reported that majored in Communications but did not enjoy school, so she chose to drop out of college and pursue a career in stand-up comedy.
Ellen made a name for herself in the entertainment industry, but she has also joined the fashion world by creating her name brand ED by Ellen.
Ellen’s success has led to her overall net worth at around $370 million.
8. Tom Hanks
Another successful star in Hollywood who is also a college dropout is Tom Hanks.
Tom Hanks has been in over 100 movies and made numerous cameo appearances in TV shows. He also voiced Sheriff Woody in the Toy Story franchise.
Tom always knew he wanted to go into acting, so he majored in theater at Chabot College in California for two years before transferring to California State University. While at California State University, Hanks met an Irish actor and director who encouraged Hanks to become an intern at his Great Lakes Theater Festival in Cleveland, Ohio. Ultimately, Hanks agreed, leading to him working in theater for three years before finally dropping out of college.
Today, Tom Hanks is worth approximately $400 million.
9. Ty Warner
Remember the Beanie Babies craze from the 90s? Ty Warner invented those, and he was a college dropout.
Ty Warner enrolled in Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan, but dropped out after just one year when he decided to try his luck with acting but was unsuccessful. Acting didn’t work out, so Warner moved to Chicago, taking a job with the plush toy maker Dakin. Warner worked at Dakin for 20 years until he decided to start his own plush toy company called Ty, Inc in 1986.
In 1993, Ty launched the Beanie Babies collection, which is still popular today. In addition to Beanie Babies, Ty made additional plush toys, but his iconic Beanie Babies are ultimately what led to his success.
Today, Ty Warner is worth approximately $77 billion.
10. Rachael Ray
To have her own cooking show and a line of kitchen products, it would seem like it should be a requirement to have a college degree, yet Rachael Ray dropped out of college after only two years.
Rachael Ray attended Pace University in New York before dropping out after two years and getting a job at a local gourmet grocery store. Rachael loved food and making people happy, so she put those two skills together and began hosting cooking classes in her city. Her cooking classes became so popular that she was featured on the Albany news in New York, accelerating her popularity even more.
Food Network eventually noticed her and they offered her a book deal and a spot on their network.
Today, Rachael Ray is worth approximately $100 million.
11. Ted Turner
Is being expelled from college the same thing as dropping out? Because that’s what happened to Ted Turner.
Ted Turner attended Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and was doing very well in school before getting expelled for having a female student in his dormitory.
Turner left Brown University, returned to Georgia, and became president and CEO of his father’s business, Turner Advertising Company after his father committed suicide in 1963. Turner created an empire of advertising and broadcast networks during this time.
Ted Turner revisited Brown University and gave a keynote address where he was awarded an honorary bachelor’s degree in arts but did not technically graduate from college.
Today, there are over 180 channels owned and broadcasted by Turner Entertainment, making Ted Turner worth approximately $2.3 billion.
12. Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga, also known by her real name Stefani Germanotta, dropped out of college when she was 19 years old.
Lady Gaga earned early admission to a music school at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where was given an NYU dormitory to stay in while she attended school.
In 2005, after just two years of college, she decided to drop out of college and focus solely on her music career. By 2008, she released her first single, “Just Dance,” which was a huge hit.
Today, Lady Gaga has released 7 studio albums and 37 singles. She also starred alongside Bradley Cooper in the motion picture A Star is Born, released in 2018.
Lady Gaga has a current net worth of approximately $150 million.
13. Jan Koum
Jan Koum co-founded WhatsApp with Brian Acton, a computer programmer whom he met while working at the professional service network Earnst & Young. While working at Ernst & Young, Koum was enrolled at San Jose State University, where he dropped out at the age of 20.
While working with Brian Acton at Ernst & Young, Koum also took a job at Yahoo! in 1997 as an infrastructure engineer. Acton and Koum both worked at Yahoo! until they left in 2007.
In 2009, Koum and Acton designed a messaging platform called WhatsApp that started slowly. After working out some of the kinks, they designed a messaging application they were proud of, and the results were proof.
In 2014, Mark Zuckerberg invited Koum and Acton to his home to discuss Facebook acquiring WhatsApp for what has now been reported as a $19 billion price tag.
Today, Jan Koum is worth approximately $10.6 billion.
Not all successful people have college degrees, and this is apparent across the board. From entertainers to businessmen and businesswomen to computer programmers and engineers, these 13 mega-successful people dropped out of college and became millionaires and even billionaires!