The Most Popular College Majors For America’s Billionaires

The Most Popular College Majors For America’s Billionaires
From left: Steve Cohen, Mark Cuban, Jeff BezosSIMON DAWSON/BLOOMBERG, LEON BENNETT/GETTY IMAGES, MICHAEL M. SANTIAGO/GETTY IMAGES

Have you ever wondered what college majors are most common among America’s billionaires? Knowing which degrees have paved the way for today’s most successful individuals can provide valuable insights as you chart your academic and career path.

Certain fields of study offer significant advantages, from engineering and computer science to business and finance. The educational backgrounds of America’s wealthiest individuals uncover the most popular college majors contributing to their success.

Whether you’re a student deciding on a major or simply curious about the trajectories of billionaires, this exploration offers a fascinating glimpse into the academic choices that can lead to extraordinary financial success.

The Most Popular College Majors For America’s Billionaires

Economics and engineering are close contenders for the most popular undergraduate degrees among America’s richest individuals. Fifty-eight Forbes 400 members majored in economics, including Steve Cohen, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, and Charles Schwab, who graduated from Stanford despite his dyslexia.

Fifty-five members chose engineering, including Michael Bloomberg and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Jeff Bezos, who topped this year’s list, studied engineering and computer science.

Most Common Undergraduate Majors Of The Forbes 400

 

6. Computer Science

What Job can I get With a Computer Science Degree?
Image Credit- Columbia University

Computer Science stands out among the college majors who paved the way to wealth. In 2024, it ranked sixth in popularity among America’s billionaires. Seventeen billionaires attribute part of their fortune to skills gained through a Computer Science degree.

This major equips students with essential knowledge in programming, systems analysis, and technology innovation, which are critical in today’s digital economy. The technical expertise gained has proven instrumental in developing cutting-edge technologies and businesses that dominate the markets, showing the substantial impact of this field on achieving significant wealth.

 

5. Math

Mathematics
PHOTO: MICHAEL YARISH/CBS

Mathematics is the fifth most popular major among America’s billionaires in 2024, with 18 billionaires holding degrees in this field. A math degree equips students with critical thinking and problem-solving skills, essential for navigating the complexities of business and finance.

These skills undoubtedly contribute to their success in various industries, from technology to investment. The precision and analytical prowess gained through rigorous mathematical training provide a strong foundation for strategic decision-making and financial analysis, key components in achieving and sustaining wealth.

 

4. Politics and Government

political strategist USA
Ting Shen/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Among America’s billionaires, a degree in Politics and Government ranks fourth in popularity. This major has shaped the minds of 22 billionaires, equipping them with an understanding of political processes and governmental structures.

Such knowledge is crucial for navigating the complex interactions between business and policy, proving advantageous for those who pursue significant entrepreneurial ventures or leadership roles in various sectors. This educational background provides insights into power mechanics and enhances strategic decision-making skills, which are vital in business and civic spheres.

 

3. Engineering

Best Universities for Aerospace Engineering in the UK
Image Credit – WorkBC

Engineering was the third most popular college major among America’s billionaires in 2024. With 55 billionaires boasting degrees in engineering, this field lays a robust foundation for innovative thinking and problem-solving skills.

This major encompasses a range of specialties, from mechanical to electrical engineering, each providing the critical technical and analytical abilities essential in building, creating, and leading successful enterprises. Engineering training’s precision and rigour prepare graduates to engineer machines and construct empires.

 

2. Economics

Economics
Image Credit- Nasdaq

Economics is the second most popular major among America’s billionaires, with 58 individuals having such degrees in 2024. This field equips students with an understanding of market dynamics, financial principles, and strategic decision-making, which are crucial skills for navigating the complex world of business and finance.

As a major, economics provides a strong foundation for future entrepreneurs and business leaders, explaining its popularity among those who have amassed significant wealth. This connection between economic knowledge and financial success highlights the practical value of this academic discipline.

 

1. Business

Why a Business Degree Might Be Right for You
Image Credit-Nerdwallet

Business degrees were the most popular major among America’s billionaires in 2024, with 65 billionaires boasting this credential. This trend underscores the critical role that business acumen plays in amassing and managing wealth.

This highlights the importance of strategic thinking, leadership, and financial management, central to business education. This choice reflects a clear preference for practical skills that can be directly applied in entrepreneurship and corporate management, where many billionaires have made their mark.

 

The Most Popular College Majors For America’s Billionaires

RankMajors# of Billionaires with Degree
1Business65
2Economics58
3Engineering55
4Politics and Government 22
5Math18
6Computer Science17

Nearly Half of Forbes 400 Graduates Share These Three Majors
Almost half of The Forbes 400 members earned their bachelor’s degrees in just three fields of study. While data on everyone’s major isn’t complete, we’ve verified the educational backgrounds of 357 members.

 

Personal Reasons Behind Major Choices

Square cofounder Jim McKelvey chose economics due to his father’s advice. His father, the dean of the engineering school at Washington University in St. Louis, suggested that engineering might be too solitary. This decision paid off for McKelvey, who also authored “The Innovation Stack: Building an Unbeatable Business One Crazy Idea at a Time.”

“There are a few basic concepts in economics that help in business,” McKelvey says. His knowledge in economics and his second degree in computer science (Wash U’s engineering department) have been crucial to his success.

Steven Sarowitz, founder of Paylocity, chose economics because he was struggling with electrical engineering. His mathematical and theoretical mindset found a better fit in economics.

Engineering and Computer Science: Top Majors Among Billionaires

Academics aren’t surprised to see engineering and computer science ranking high. Saikat Chaudhuri from UC Berkeley notes the significant economic growth driven by information technology over the last 20 years.

 

No Guaranteed Path to Wealth

While business, economics, and engineering are the most popular majors among the wealthiest, many Forbes 400 members majored in diverse subjects. Politics, government, and mathematics also feature prominently.

Interestingly, a bachelor’s degree isn’t mandatory for wealth. Nineteen Forbes 400 members never attended college, and thirty-seven dropped out, including top billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates.

 

The Real Common Thread

The common thread among these billionaires isn’t their specific majors but their ability to learn and adapt. Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, emphasizes that challenging himself in college gave him the confidence to start his businesses and tackle new challenges.