College Majors of Famous People

Fame and success are two things that we all acknowledge in people, rather we want to admit it or not. Celebrities, artists, politicians, influencers--it is perfectly natural to wonder how famous people got to where they are in their profession. But it may surprise you to know what certain famous personalities chose as their major while in college or if certain famous people went to college at all and finished. 

A large majority of famous people went to college where they chose to major in subjects that have nothing to do with what they are famous for. For example, famous rapper 2 Chainz received a bachelor’s degree in psychology and famous fantasy author J.K. Rowling earned a degree in French. 

In this article, we will take a fun approach and go through a list of famous people to find out what they studied in college. Some of the examples are right on point matching what they are famous for, while other examples may surprise you. Read on to find out more. 

What Was Hillary Clinton’s Major in College?

Long before she became the First Lady of Arkansas, the First Lady of the United States, a U.S. Senator, a U.S. Secretary of State, and the first female presidential nominee of a major party ticket, Hillary Rodham began her higher education at Wellesley College where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science in 1969. 

Rodham’s BA would suit her well for her future as a politician, but she decided to apply and was later accepted into Yale Law School where she received a Juris Doctor degree in 1973 upon which she turned her law focus to primarily working with children under the law and civil rights. 

Fun fact: While at Yale Law School, Hillary Rodham first met fellow law student Bill Clinton in 1971 and the two entered into a relationship. They would later marry in 1975 and the rest is history. 

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What Did Thomas Jefferson Major in College?

Thomas Jefferson is known to history as the third U.S. president and one of the nation’s founding fathers, but his youth and formative years were spread over many different interests. 

Thomas Jefferson entered into higher education at a time when colleges were only concerned with awarding degrees to men who chose to enter the Church or become professors. A degree in and of itself was not a requirement for most professions granted that someone who studied correctly could pass examinations and pass character references. 

Therefore, Jefferson began his formal education in 1760 with his first two years completed at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. He studied mathematics, science, and politics. From 1762 to 1767, Jefferson stayed on at William and Mary but under the tutelage of George Wythe, who read and taught law to Jefferson for four years. 

Thomas Jefferson’s primary focus during his collegiate years was law--which would become a recurring trend with U.S. presidents to the present day. 

Fun fact: Thomas Jefferson was one of the early architects of the American school system that we know today. His authored bill titled “A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge” was presented to the House of Representatives two different times in the post-Revolution late 1770s and the early 1780s; it failed both times. Parts of the Bill would later pass in the 1796 “Act to Establish Public Schools.” 

What Did Bill Gates Major in College?

Almost any person in the world today can hear the name Bill Gates and know exactly who is being referenced. The founder of Microsoft is one of the most successful (and wealthiest) people in the world and has been for nearly four decades. 

But the education resume of Bill Gates consistently manages to surprise people. Bill Gates was an exceptional student in high school and managed to score an astonishing 1590 out of 1600 on his SATs. He applied for and was quickly accepted into Harvard College in 1973 where he majored in pre-law. 

But computer science was always Gate’s passion at a time when majoring in computer science was not as common as it is today. During college, Bill Gates and his friend and collaborator Paul Allen formed their own business called Microsoft in 1975. Bill decided to drop out of Harvard after two years to focus full-time on his company. 

Although Bill Gates is a college dropout (technically he took a leave of absence and has never returned), his success story is an example of how passion and commitment can be just as equally important as a college education. It’s all about your skills and dedication. 

Fun Fact: Bill Gates served as a Congressional Page in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1972, and credits this brief tenure with helping him to experience a well-rounded education in how government and business are intertwined. 

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What Did JK Rowling Major in College?

J.K. Rowling is one of the most successful and the wealthiest authors of all time. But her entry into literary superstardom was almost by accident and never her intended career path. 

Rowling studied French and classical literature at the University of Exeter in England where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in both in 1986. After working as a researcher for Amnesty International, and writing a few published essays, she settled as a teacher of English as a second language in Portugal but would suffer from depression and domestic strife brought on by a failed marriage. 

By the mid-1990s, Rowling was living in Scotland and receiving welfare benefits to make ends meet. She was also writing a novel that first came to her as a fully formed idea on a train ride in 1990 about a boy wizard named Harry Potter. She managed to finish the novel by writing at night and whenever she could find time between working odd jobs and raising her child. Eventually, the Harry Potter series took her from rags to riches. 

Fun fact: J.K. Rowling is the first author in history to become a billionaire based on book sales and licensing deals of her books. 

What Was AOC’s Major in College?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is credited with ushering in a new era of progressive, leftist politics in the United States, but her journey to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2019 is one that many people struggling in this country can admire. 

AOC attended Boston University where she majored in both international relations and economics and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in both in 2011. Due to her family’s precarious economic situation and lack of success on job interviews, AOC worked as a bartender to help her family make ends meet. 

Fun fact: AOC is one of the most popular members of Congress in the House of Representatives with over 12 million Twitter followers. 

What Was Barack Obama’s Major in College?

Before becoming a U.S. Senator and the forty-fourth and first African-American U.S. president, Barack Obama worked as an attorney, a teacher, and as a community organizer all of which were made possible by his education. 

Obama majored in Political Science and minored in English literature and international relations at Columbia University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1983. He would later attend Harvard Law School and earn a Juris Doctor degree. 

Fun fact: Former President Obama was a professor of constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School for 12 years.

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What Was Steve Jobs' Major in College?

The educational achievements of Apple founder Steve Jobs are much like the trajectory seen with Bill Gates. Jobs was also a college dropout, having dropped out of Reed College in Portland, Oregon where he was studying physics and philosophy after only one semester. 

Steve Jobs felt that college was too expensive and only wanted to attend classes that interested him, such as a calligraphy course that he audited. 

Fun fact: Steve Jobs credits the courses he audited after dropping out with helping him turn Apple into the success it became. 

What Did Oprah Major in College?

Oprah Winfrey has one of the most influential success stories in the literal rags-to-riches topic of conversation. Long before she became the Queen of All Media, Oprah decided to major in Speech Communications and Performing Arts at Tennessee State University on a full scholarship in the early 1970s. 

Although she dropped out right before graduating to accept a news anchor position, she finished her degree in 1987 at which time she was a household name. 

Fun fact: Oprah Winfrey would later donate 2 million dollars to Tennessee State University in support and gratitude for her alma mater.  

What Did Elon Musk Major in College?

Elon Musk is one of many titans of technology and innovation and unlike many of his contemporaries in the tech world, Musk actually finished college. 

Elon Musk attended Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada where he majored in economics and physics in 1992 before transferring to the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia where he pursued dual bachelor’s degrees in both fields. He received bachelor’s degrees in both fields in 1997. 

Fun fact: Although he has two bachelor’s degrees, Elon Musk is not an active supporter of higher education and says that college should be viewed as a fun experience and that real learning should be attained by a person on their own time. 

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What Did Pete Buttigieg Major in College?

Pete Buttigieg is currently the U.S. Secretary of Transportation and was the Mayor of South Bend, Indiana but his higher education accomplishments are possibly some of the finest of any current U.S. politician. 

Buttigieg attended Harvard University where he majored in literature and history that earned him a Bachelor of Arts degree in 2004. Upon graduation from Harvard, Buttigieg was awarded a coveted Rhodes Scholarship where he studied politics, economics, and philosophy at Pembroke College in England’s prestigious Oxford University. He graduated with honors from Oxford with another BA in 2007. 

Fun fact: In addition to his many educational and political accomplishments, Pete Buttigieg also served with the U.S. Navy in Afghanistan intermittently between 2009 and 2017. 

What Did Kevin Durant Major in College?

Star NBA player Kevin Durant has spoken about the importance of education, and he decided to major in education when he enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin in 2006 before being drafted by the NBA after his freshmen year. 

Fun fact: Kevin Durant regularly supports philanthropic causes that help to better disadvantaged youth. Although he has yet to earn his college degree, he has consistently remained committed to eventually going back to college to do just that. 

What Did Colin Kaepernick Major in College?

Before he joined the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL, Colin Kaepernick was a star football player for the University of Nevada at Reno where he majored in business management. He received a bachelor’s degree in that subject in 2011. 

Fun fact: Colin Kaepernick has spoken highly of a business management major for those who wish to go into sports management. 

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What Did Michael Jordan Major in College?

Legendary basketball player Michael Jordan attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1981-1984 where he majored in cultural geography. Jordan was drafted by the NBA for the Chicago Bulls in 1984 before graduating, but he would later return to UNC to finish his degree and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in geography in 1986. 

Fun fact: Michael Jordan retired from the NBA in 1993, 1998, and 2003. Jordan has also spoken about the need for education to help bring about societal change. 

What Did Nick Saban Major in College?

When it comes to college football, very few coaches can match the success and coaching abilities of Nick Saban. Saban has coached for four successful college teams at Lousiana State University, Michigan State University, the University of Toledo, and currency at the University of Alabama which many commentators highlight as his greatest success. Saban also was the head coach for the Miami Dolphins from 2004 to 2007. 

Nick Saban attended Kent State University where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business in 1973. He also stayed on at Kent State and attended graduate school for sports administration where he earned a master’s degree in that field in 1975. 

Fun fact: The Kent State shootings occurred in 1970 when Nick Saban was a sophomore at the college. He and a friend avoided the site of the shootings at the campuses’ rally area as they were eating lunch before and during the breakout of the shootings. 

What Did Michael Phelps Major in College?

Chances are that if you have paid attention to the Summer Olympics within the last 20 years, you know who Michael Phelps is. The most decorated Olympic athlete in history has an education resume like most young athletes. 

Michael Phelps did study at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in the mid-2000s where he majored in sports marketing and management, but he did not finish his degree due to his frequent commitment to the Summer Olympic Games up until 2016 when he retired. 

Fun fact: Like many collegiate athletes, Michael Phelps chose to major in a degree that relates the most to his main profession.  

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What Was Trump's Major in College?

Former President Donald Trump’s educational history is a lot different than many of his predecessors in that he didn’t study law or politics as an undergraduate. Donald Trump was famous in many career fields before becoming president, but his most well-known fame came from his real estate holdings and the business world. 

Trump attended both Fordham University and the University of Pennsylvania where he received a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1968. 

Fun fact: Trump claimed to have graduated from an Ivy League College which many people didn’t at first believe. But this is correct since the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania is indeed in the Ivy League. 

What Did 2 Chainz Major in College?

2 Chainz is considered one the most popular and influential rappers of the 21st-century, but he also has a bachelor’s degree in psychology that surprises many of his fans.