We know our celebrities for their humor, good looks, or performances in film and television. Most famous faces aren’t considered particularly intellectual – unless we include personalities like Neil deGrasse Tyson or Bill Nye.
Still, most celebrities actually know a lot more than we think they do. Even though their career took a turn into the limelight, you’ll be surprised how many of our favorite stars have college degrees. Check out which ones are way smarter than you think! You might be surprised…
Bradley Cooper And His Bachelor’s In English
The comedy and drama actor is also a seasoned writer and English academic! He attended Georgetown University and wrote his thesis on Vladimir Nabokov’s Loita.
He is proven to be incredibly passionate about literature, speaking with GQ about Paradise Lost and admitting to crying when reading Romeo and Juliet for the first time! We can see that passion in his work today – recently making his directing debut with A Star is Born alongside Lady Gaga.
Chris Martin And His Degree In Latin And Greek
Coldplay frontman Chris Martin met his bandmates when he was at University College London. The singer and songwriter actually balanced music with his studies and earned first-class honors!
It appears he doesn’t use his degree much – he’s busy touring the world! Classic hits from the British band include Clocks, Viva La Vida, and A Sky Full Of Stars. It must have been his grasp of language that helped him write some of the most impactful songs of the last 20 years.
Ken Jeong And His Doctor Of Medicine
The famous gangster from The Hangover trilogy is an actual doctor! Before getting his breakout role in 2007’s Knocked Up, Jeong was a practicing physician. He retired from medicine after focussing on acting full-time, and we think he made the right decision!
He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine with his M.D. in 1995. Today, the 49-year-old can be seen on television and film screen in many different projects.
Lisa Kudrow And Her Bachelor’s In Biology
She may play the fool at times, but Friends’ Lisa Kudrow is one smart cookie! Her father was a renowned physician and researcher who worked specifically in the area of headaches.
Before acting, Kudrow had every intention in following in his footsteps. She was working in his research team before jumping into acting, appearing as Phoebe for 10 seasons from 1994-2004. Today, she takes a back seat in acting but still appears in other shows occasionally.
Lionel Ritchie And His Bachelor’s In Economics
It was while earning his bachelor’s in economics at the Tuskegee Institute where Lionel Richie met fellow members of the Commodores. They bonded over a love of music and founded the band to practice in their spare time.
Funnily enough, they were so successful that they put their studies on hold while they toured! Years later, Richie returned to school and completed his degree in 1974. We don’t think he used the Economics degree much!
Gene Simmons And His Bachelor’s In Education
This KISS frontman almost became a high school teacher! His own education is pretty impressive: he has an Associate Degree from Sullivan County Community College and a Bachelor of Arts in Education from Richmond College.
Before becoming ‘The Demon” he even taught sixth grade. When he formed KISS in 1970, it was after he finished school and he never had to assign homework again! Can you imagine Gene Simmons teaching your children Music?
Weird Al Yankovic And His Bachelor’s In Architecture
For someone who builds such fantastic spoof songs, it’s no surprise he has a degree in building! Weird Al Yankovic graduated from California Polytechnic State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture.
Soon after his graduation, he knew architecture wasn’t for him and he decided to pursue a career in music. Today, he is known for spoofing some of the most famous songs in history. In fact, many songwriters even ask he spoof their song.
Wanda Sykes And Her Bachelor’s In Marketing
Way back in 1986, Wanda Sykes earned a degree in Marketing. She attended Hampton University and she used her degree to get her first job at the NSA! The following year, she tried her luck at standup comedy and was quickly discovered.
She left the marketing world and has been on our screens for 30 years. Sykes most recently appeared in BoJack Horseman and is an outspoken activist for animal and LGBT issues.
David Spade And His Bachelor’s In Business
You might think that David Spade is just Adam Sandler’s less-successful friend, but the actor is also quite the academic! In 1986, he actually graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor’s in Business.
During his college years, he was busy making people laugh with his standup routines and consequently decided to make it his career. 30 years later, the comedian has appeared in countless film and television roles after a stint at SNL.
Sacha Baron Cohen And His Degree In History
Sacha Baron Cohen rose to fame in the 1990s as Ali G – everyone’s favorite gangsta from Staines. It might surprise you to know that the actor behind the dim-witted characters attended Cambridge – one of the most prestigious universities in the world.
While attending Cambridge, Baron Cohen took part in the school’s dramatic society. Most recently, he shocked audiences with his new characters in HBO’s Who Is America. Did you see his new performance?
Natalie Portman And Her Bachelor’s In Psychology
Natalie Portman rose to international fame at only 18 when she portrayed Padme Amidala in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. The same year the film was released, 1999, Portman attended Harvard University to study Psychology.
20 years later, Natalie Portman has pursued and succeeded in a wide-ranging career that shows off her many acting talents. She recently earned her third Oscar Nomination for her performance as Jackie Kennedy in the 2016 biopic Jackie.
Ron Jeremy And His Master’s In Special Education
The adult ‘performer’ has a surprising academic background behind him. Jeremy earned a Master’s of Education in Special Education from Queens College and realized he wasn’t going to make money.
In perhaps one of the biggest 180-turns in career history, Ron Jeremy entered the adult entertainment world and became one of its biggest ‘stars’ with more than 2000 ‘acting’ credits under his belt – no pun intended. What is your favorite Ron Jeremy performance?
Rowan Atkinson And His Master’s In Electrical Engineering
You might best know Rowan Atkinson as the silent dimwit Mr. Bean, but it takes a genius to act so stupidly! The British actor attended Oxford University in Britain and always loved performing – even going to extra classes and groups during his studies.
Today, Mr. Bean is widely-considered to be one of the most successful acts of all time – it transcends all language, culture, and generation. This electrical engineer is a comedic legend.
Will Ferrell And His Bachelor’s In Sports Information
Will Ferrell might not be a natural academic, but it didn’t stop him from trying! In 1990, he graduated from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Arts in Sports Information. The degree no longer exists today, and Ferell has commented:
“Those of us with sports information degrees are an elite group. We’re like the Navy Seals of USC graduates. There are very few of us, and there was a high dropout rate.”
Ashton Kutcher And His Bachelor’s In Biochemical Engineering
We may think Ashton Kutcher is just a pretty face, but there’s a brain between those ears! The star attended the University of Iowa where he graduated in 1996 and earned a degree in Biochemical Engineering – wow!
He decided to pursue it as a degree in the hope to find a cure for his twin brother’s heart disease. Even though he didn’t become a scientist, Kutcher is still a philanthropist and donates a lot of time and money toward medical research.
Hugh Laurie And His Bachelor’s In Anthropology And Archaeology
Hugh Laurie comes from a long line academics, being somewhat of a tradition for his family members to attend Cambridge. After earning a major in Archaeology and Anthropology, with a concentration in social anthropology, Laurie committed to comedy and performance.
Today, Hugh Laurie has enjoyed a long career and appeared as Dr. House in Fox’s House – earning the Guinness World Record for the most-watched leading man on television. Many fans don’t know about his British heritage and are shocked to hear him speak in interviews!
James Franco And His Ph.D
That’s Dr. Franco, to you! Even though roles in Pineapple Express and This Is The End have solidified a reputation for being a stoner, James Franco is anything but. He’s actually a complete academic, graduating from Columbia with a Master’s in Fine Arts.
Franco went on and earned a Ph.D. from Yale! He says: “I go to school because I love being around people who are interested in what I’m interested in.”
John Legend And His Bachelor’s In English
This A-list singer received an education at the University of Pennsylvania, picking up a degree in English. His main concentration was African American literally and he started as young as 16! Legend graduated in 1999 and went on to become one of the biggest singers in Hollywood.
The EGOT winner started early: performing in an acapella group called Counterparts. It seems as though he was destined to fulfill his namesake and become a Legend!
Arnold Schwarzenegger And His Bachelor’s In International Business And Economics
This one shouldn’t be too surprising. The bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-governor has had three successful careers in different fields – he had to learn how to govern somewhere! Schwarzenegger served as governor of California for two terms between 2003-2011.
Before that, he was, of course, an actor in The Terminator, one of the most iconic roles of the 1980s and 1990s. It’s a good thing he got some education before serving – we wouldn’t want someone unqualified holding public office.
JK Rowling And Her Degree in French
It makes sense that the mind behind Hogwarts would have some classics background. JK Rowling earned her degree at the University of Exeter, focused in French with additional Greek and Roman classes. The touch of classics to her degree helped her name some of the magical spells we know and love today.
As the creator of the Harry Potter empire, she has inspired millions of children around the world. Quite a difference from the vocational degree her parents begged her to get!
Mayim Bialik And Her Ph.D.
It turns out this Big Bang Theory star doesn’t need to practice her lines! Bialik may have made a name for herself starring in Blossom, but she actually has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience! Today, she plays Amy in the inexplicably popular sitcom and even continues to be an active member of the medical community.
To date, she has published books on Parenting and Puberty. She may be leaving our screens later this year, but we’re sure Dr. Bialik will be around for years!
Allison Williams And Her Yale Diploma
She might have made some bad decisions when she played Marnie in Girls, but Allison Williams is far from stupid in real life. Apparently, Williams wasn’t allowed to try her luck in acting until she graduated with a degree: English and Archaeology.
According to sources, she never even performed in the school’s drama and music societies! She joined the Improv Group and discovered her comedic ability, and the rest is history.
Conan O’Brien And His Literature Degree
Before he graced our screens as the wise-cracking late-night host, Conan O’Brien worked hard at school – Harvard, no less! He majored in History and Literature and then discovered his knack for comedy.
O’Brien was even president of the famous Harvard Lampoon humor magazine, before landing a job at The Simpsons. His comedic ability helped him frame some of the best years of the Simpsons’ history.
Carrie Underwood And Her Degree In Mass Communications
Of course, you best know Carrie Underwood for her starring role in American Idol, but you might not know about her education. When she auditioned, she was only three credits short of completing her degree.
After winning the show, Underwood returned to Oklahoma and attended Northeastern State University where she earned her Bachelor’s in Mass Communications and Journalism. Amazingly, the singer also graduated cum laude – she’s talented in more ways than one! We’re impressed.
Ben McKenzie And His Bachelor’s In Economics And Foreign Affairs
Before his breakout role in The O.C., Ben McKenzie attended the University of Virginia and graduated in Economics and Foreign Affairs in 2001. He has often commented on the importance of education and how fortunate he was to do both at once.
McKenzie says: “The ability to study econ and foreign affairs during the day and perform onstage at night was a true blessing. I’m not sure I would have had the opportunity to receive such a well-rounded education anywhere else.”
Aziz Ansari And His Bachelor’s In Marketing
Before Aziz Ansari rose to fame in shows like Scrubs and Parks and Recreation, he was earning a degree in Marketing from NYU. Perhaps that’s why his characters are so tech-savvy?
Today, you can see Ansari writing, producing, and starring in his own show, Masters of None, on Netflix. He captures what it’s like to be a struggling guy in New York – perhaps something he learned on the NYU campus? We bet it is!
Brian May And His Ph.D. In Astrophysics
Before he joined one of the biggest bands on the planet, Brian May got his Bachelor of Science in Physics, with honors, in the 1970s. His academic career took a bit of a break for 30 years while he toured the world and performed some of the biggest hits ever!
Don’t worry, though: in 2007, he returned to school to complete his Ph.D. in Astrophysics at Imperial College London. Now
Kourtney Kardashian And Her Bachelor’s In Theatre Arts
Perhaps one of the most surprising entries on our list is a Kardashian with a diploma. Before this famous family invaded our homes with compelling reality TV, the eldest Kardashian attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas, for two years.
She actually finished the rest of her undergrad the University of Arizona, graduating in 2002. She was awarded a degree in Theater Arts, which makes sense when you consider her theatrics. Once her sister’s tape leaked, she never had to work again.
Rooney Mara And Her Bachelor’s In Psychology, International Social Policy, And Nonprofits
Rooney Mara went to school and learned about Psychology, international social policy, and the formation of nonprofit organizations. Her degree, which she obtained in 2010 from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University gives her more knowledge than most of us!
Turns out it could come in handy – her family owns The New York Giants and The Pittsburgh Steelers. Today, she can be seen in films like Pan and The Discovery.
Rebel Wilson And Her Law Degree
We all know Rebel Wilson as the funny girl in films like Pitch Perfect and Bridesmaids – but we don’t know her as the lawyer she is! While appearing on Seth Myers, she confirmed that she obtained a Law degree from the University of New South Wales in Australia.
“A lot of people look at me and think I’m stupid,” Wilson has explained. “But no, I graduated from a school that’s kind of like the Harvard of Australia.”
John Cleese And His Bachelor’s In Law
If it weren’t for Monty Python, John Cleese would have become a lawyer. He graduated from Downing College, Cambridge, where he got his Bachelor’s in Law, way back in 1960. While at Cambridge, he joined the famous Footlights where he met Graham Chapman and found his love of making people laugh.
Cleese quickly abandoned a life of law and committed himself to a world of comedy. 50 years later, he is still performing stand-up comedy around the world.
Freddie Highmore And His Bachelor’s In Spanish And Arabic
He may have been a child star, but it didn’t stop this British actor from getting a full education. Highmore rose to fame in 2005 with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Finding Neverland. Today, he is best known for his work on Bates Motel and The Good Doctor.
In 2014, he went to school and earned a Bachelor’s in Spanish and Arabic from Emmanuel College, Cambridge – one of the best schools in the country! He was even awarded a double first – the equivalent of first-class honors.
Vinny Guadagnino And His Bachelor’s In Political Science
You might not expect the stars of Jersey Shore to have much of an education, but castmates can rely on Vinny Guadagnino to bring up their average. Surprisingly, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the College of Staten Island – even scoring a 3.9-grade point average.
Today, Guadagnino is best known for his participation in reality TV shows surrounding Jersey Shore. He awarded himself a ‘Master’s in
David Duchovny And His Master’s From Yale
It appears that his role as Hank Moody in Californication was made for him! The actor graduated with a BA in English Literature from Princeton University before getting his Master’s from Yale.
His original plan was to become a screenwriter in Hollywood and only considered acting to research his work. Fate had different plans for him, however, and he rose to fame with his work in The X-Files. We think he made the right choice!
Gabrielle Union And Her Bachelor’s In Sociology
Gabrielle’s initial plan was to enter law after earning her Bachelor of Science in Sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles. It was her final year of college when she started working in a modeling agency, and she was encouraged to model herself.
Soon after, she attended auditions and quickly started a career in acting. She still graduated with her degree, but this model-turned-actress won’t be going to law school any time soon!
Eva Longoria And Her Master’s In Chicano Studies
She may be known for being a model in Desperate Housewives, but she’s actually quite the academic! Longoria graduated with a Master of Arts in Chicano Studies from California State University, Northridge in 2013.
As well as a Master’s the actress also holds a Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology from Texas A&M University. According to the 43-year-old, “you’re never too old or too busy to continue your education!” We tend to agree, Eva!
Harry Hill And His Neuroscience Degree
Harry Hill is best known in the UK for his big glasses, over-sized collars, and wisecracking commentary on British culture. Before his famous persona made us laugh in the 1990s and 2000s, Hill actually studied Neurology at UCL!
His big break came at the age of 28 and he continues to entertain us today. Funnily enough, he is still on England’s list of medical practitioners and can help you out if you ever get sick. Laughter is the best medicine!