Billionaire College Dropouts

You will recognize the men below as some of the richest in the world. But did you also know that none of them completed college? Some of them didn’t even graduate from high school, yet they went on to amass enormous fortunes and create humanity-changing companies. So what does this say about the of utility college education? Perhaps nothing – college is a reasonable way for most people to launch their careers. On the other hand, these examples prove that for the truly intelligent, motivated, and brave, there may be better ways to spend several youthful years than sitting in a classroom.

  • Billionaire Sir Richard Branson

    Sir Richard Branson

    Estimated net worth: 8.6 billion USD

    Sir Branson left school when he was only 16. Ironically, his first successful business was publishing a magazine called Student. Today, Branson is known for his brand Virgin, which includes Virgin Records, Virgin Atlantic Airways, and over 300 other companies. Also adding to his grandeur, Sir Branson bought his own 79-acre Caribbean island when he was just 24 and he was knighted in 1999.

  • Billionaire Dean Kamen

    Dean Kamen

    Estimated net worth: Unclear, but thought to be in the billions USD

    Dean Kamen, a prolific and ingenious inventor, dropped out of Worcester Polytechnic Institute before graduating. Although best known for the Segway PT, Kamen holds more than 80 US patents and has created many products such as the AutoSyringe and iBOT robotic wheelchair. When Kamen travels to work, he has to decide which of his two helicopters to take. For longer trips, he pilots his own private jet. He also owns a small island near Connecticut that generates its own electricity from wind.

  • Billionaire Bill Gates

    Bill Gates

    Estimated net worth: 58 billion USD

    Bill Gates has topped the Forbes list of “The World’s Richest People” continually since 1995. Gates took an interest in programming while attending preparatory school in Seattle. To earn time on early shared computers, Gates and his classmates offered to debug corporate software. When he was 14, Gates earned $20,000 from his first programming venture. After scoring a near-perfect 1590 on his SATs, Gates enrolled at Harvard but left, without a degree, to co-found “Micro-Soft”. Today, one of Gates’ homes in Washington has an annual property tax of about $1 million. In 2006, Gates claimed that he wished he wasn’t the world’s richest man, because he disliked the attention it brought.

  • Billionaire Paul Allen

    Paul Allen

    Estimated net worth: 18.0 billion USD

    Paul Allen befriended Bill Gates while they were both attending a private school in Seattle. Allen went on to attend Washington State University, but dropped out after two years. He was also the one who convinced Bill Gates to drop out of Harvard in order to start Microsoft. The two co-founded the company in 1975, but Allen has distanced himself from the company since then. In addition to more than 100 million shares of Microsoft, Allen owns 12 professional sports teams, plenty of real estate, and has stakes in dozens of technology and media companies such as Dreamworks Studios.

  • Billionaire Ralph Lauren

    Ralph Lauren

    Estimated net worth: 3.6 billion USD

    In high school, Ralph Lauren was known to sell neckties to his fellow students. In his yearbook, he stated that he wanted to be a millionaire. He studied business for two years at Baruch College but never graduated. Nonetheless, he has far surpassed his goal of becoming a millionaire. In 2006, Polo Ralph Lauren had a net income of $300 million.

  • Billionaire Steve Jobs

    Steve Jobs

    Estimated net worth: 5.7 billion USD

    In addition to being the CEO of Apple Inc, Steve Jobs became the largest individual shareholder of the Walt Disney Company after selling Pixar Animation Studios in 2006. In 2007, he was chosen as Fortune Magazine’s most powerful businessman. That’s quite an honor for someone who dropped out of college after just one semester. Although his yearly salary is officially just $1, Jobs has received “executive gifts” including a $46 million jet and nearly 30 million shares of restricted stock. Because capital gains are taxed at a lower rate than salary income, this is also a tax minimization strategy.

  • Billionaire Larry Ellison

    Larry Ellison

    Estimated net worth: 18.4 billion USD

    In 1977, Larry Ellison put up $2,000 to start what would become Oracle Corporation, the world’s second-largest software company. Ellison briefly attended the University of Illinois as well as the University of Chicago, but received a degree from neither. Today he is known for his extravagant lifestyle. He owns a 450 ft, $200 million yacht, exotic cars including a McLaren F1, over a dozen multi-million dollar estates in California, and several jets, which he is licensed to pilot himself.

  • Billionaire Michael Dell

    Michael Dell

    Estimated net worth: 17.2 billion USD

    Michael Dell started a computer company called PCs Limited while attending the University of Texas at Austin. It became successful enough that Dell dropped out of school to operate it, and the company eventually became Dell, Inc, with revenues of $57.4 billion in 2007. In 2006, Dell and his wife gave a $50 million grant to the University which he attended but never graduated from.

  • Billionaire Kirk Kerkorian

    Kirk Kerkorian

    Estimated net worth: 18.0 billion USD

    Kirk Kerkorian dropped out of school in the 8th grade. His first venture was an airline that flew from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. In 1962, he bought 80 acres of land along the Las Vegas strip for just under $1 million, and he continued making his fortune from buying and developing properties in Las Vegas. Currently, Kerkorian has a large stake in all of the following hotels: Bellagio, Excaliber, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, New York-New York, Circus Circus, The Mirage, and more.

Related: Why college is the perfect time to start a business


  1. Fasting

    February 22, 2008
    7:49 PM

    I knew about Bill Gates but the other people on the list is amazing. These are some of the best minds with computers. The 2 owners of Google dropped out of graduate school.

  2. MgL

    March 31, 2008
    7:18 PM


    The founders of google DIDN’T drop out school:

    Segey Brin enrolled in the University of Maryland, College Park to study computer science and mathematics, where he received his Bachelor of Science degree in May 1993 with high honors.
    Then, Brin began his graduate study in Computer Science at Stanford University on a graduate fellowship from the National Science Foundation. He earned his master’s degree in August 1995

    Larry Page holds a Bachelor of Science degree in computer engineering from the University of Michigan with honors and a Masters degree in Computer Science from Stanford University

  3. Loweeel

    April 1, 2008
    10:49 PM

    You missed my cousin, Sheldon Adelson — #3 in the US. CCNY dropout.

  4. mattbucher

    April 2, 2008
    8:30 AM

    Also, Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, is a college dropout.

  5. CCR

    April 3, 2008
    12:19 PM

    You also missed Craig McCaw (McCaw Cellular, later AT&T Wireless) and J.R. Simplot, potato guy from Idaho.

  6. jasin

    April 3, 2008
    7:48 PM

    Ted Waitt (Gateway founder and college dropout) used to be a billionaire, not sure if he still is.

  7. yomiracles

    November 13, 2009
    8:04 PM

    The list is not exhausted.

  8. wow!

    February 4, 2010
    3:15 PM

    it gives me chills to read how much money these people have….they’re lucky!

  9. Navin

    March 12, 2010
    4:40 AM

    this list has inspired me a lot I never that sir branson was a dropout

  10. maryanne

    March 17, 2010
    3:39 AM

    this is an inspiration big time. didn’t know if dell was a drop out.

  11. SZA

    April 1, 2010
    12:14 AM

    Inspiration should not come from economic giants in this world. They have so much but never give enough to those who so desperately need and can’t give back. Some do…but most don’t. Children should never starve to death in this world, but they still do. Why?

    Don’t admire the vanity that comes with their wealth. It’s an illusion that’s only temporary and deep down it’s empty and ugly..very ugly. Love your own life for what it is and what you already have. Do well by the end that’s all that counts.

  12. Hemanth

    April 7, 2010
    5:04 AM

    Dear SZA
    What you told is true by all means. But for every person, some factor is required to drive them in their own path. For some, it may be god, for some it may something else and for some, like you, it will be their heart. We should not think from what source we are getting inspired but the thing that counts is whether we inspired or not. We may or may not achieve what these giants achieved but we can achieve what we think we can achieve. Let people find their motivating factor. it helps not only them but also others. Sorry if you feel hurt with my feeling

  13. topmack

    May 18, 2010
    8:54 AM

    SZA & Hemath,
    Get a grip! have you ever read the book about the golden scales? You know, the fish that gave away all of its golden scales until it died? These people that made the money should decide where the money goes. If you don’t like their products or policies, don’t buy them. And on the other hand, don’t look for hand outs. Most of these billionaires had nothing before they became rich and didn’t beg for hand outs; they worked hard and reaped the rewards of their labor.

  14. jeffery anwar

    May 27, 2010
    8:57 AM

    Every man is entiltled to his/her own ipinion and dreams. for me i think these men who made it without a college degree, only shows that college degree is not a means to an end, rather one of the means to an end. some may require it, while some like these men may not. so like Hemath, i beleive finding the right motivation is a key to a mans future, without which no amount of college degrees in the world can help them. thanks for this awfull revelation. Am encouraged…

  15. prince Ajah

    May 29, 2010
    5:58 AM

    Mark my word, I am a Nigerian, and i dropped out of high school , but by the grace of God, I am going to be a world billionaire very soon.

  16. aasha

    August 12, 2010
    4:22 PM

    wow. its interesting to know so many billionaire are college dropouts. america truly is a land of oppurtunities for those who seek.

  17. Gil

    September 16, 2010
    11:14 PM

    I agree with J. Anwar when people read too much into the “college dropout success stories”. After all, these people dropped out of college to pursue an even more successful careers. Which to say they didn’t drop out because they were lazy but to work hard and smart. Besides, had they got their degrees they’d probably be multi-millionaires anyway. I highly doubt Bill Gates or Michael Dell would be 9-to-5 factory workers trying to pay off their students considering both their parents were very successful themselves.

  18. Fred

    September 17, 2010
    5:45 AM

    SZA; you sure are generous with other people’s money. Those on the list provide something far better than welfare, they offer hundreds of thousands the opportunity to be productive member of society, the ability to earn one’s keep.

    Gil; it’s true. You cannot teach motivation.

    I know many people who work in the trades or have their own small business. While not billionaires they earn far more than most college graduates. If you are not studying medicine, hard science, engineering, or maybe studying in a few other professional fields, you are pretty much wasting your time and money at college.

  19. Deuce

    September 17, 2010
    12:22 PM

    SZA you are a leach. Nobody owes you anything, nor do successful people have to feel the guilt of your lack of accomplishment. Apparently your need to tear down successful people solely on the basis that they aren’t helping you be less of a failure is exempt from scrutiny. Meanwhile people who have provided jobs, technology, innovation and charity be despised for having accomplished their dreams. Are you really so f$%^ed in the head that you think that this is a rational position that anyone would agree with? Your opinions on the likes of Bill Gates and Michael Dell are a complete joke especially coming from your position of shameless beggar.

  20. steve

    September 17, 2010
    1:07 PM

    I have a BS, MS and an MBA and poor as hell!

  21. Robert Herrick

    September 17, 2010
    1:27 PM

    Yeah, well my cousin dropped out of high school and he’s a meth head. I don’t think the leaving school is what made these people successful.

  22. Jon

    September 17, 2010
    5:14 PM

    Hungry children? Oh please. It’s the fault of the parents for having children they cannot provide for, very simple. Freedom requires taking responsibility for your actions.

    Give back? These gentlemen have taken nothing that they need to give back. Leave it to Marxists to demand something for doing nothing.

    Successful innovators are rewarded via the approval of people who buy their products. This accumulation of wealth creates employment and further prosperity. I salute their accomplishments.

  23. John Doe

    September 17, 2010
    8:40 PM

    Warren Buffet has a Masters in Economics and is definitly a billionaire. I am also persuing an MBA, the higher education system teaches students the need to be risk averse; These wealthy individuals were willing to take risks. Most importantly theses individuals were able to find sources of funding, many small businesses fail because of the lack of proper funding.

    PS. Helping others is a personal choice, this SZA person seems ready to make decisions for everyone else, in other words SZA is a would-be tyrant in the making.

  24. rgb

    September 17, 2010
    8:47 PM

    These are not ‘self-made men’. Every single one of them started out with a highly-advantaged position, born to wealthy and well-connected families.

  25. aqalmyst

    September 18, 2010
    12:08 AM

    | These are not ‘self-made men’. Every single one of them
    | started out with a highly-advantaged position, born to
    | wealthy and well-connected families.

    Probably true. They probably got their “education” via a far different method, and old method, of learning by observing in the real world, and mentoring by other more senior “achievers”.

    The education bureaucracy’s mission is not to promote the kinds of learning most valuable to those in the Achievement Meme.

    Education = Conformism, political correctness, suppression of freedom and dissent.

    Business success = Maverickism.

    As Ivan Illich explained in “Vernacular Values” (1980s), industrial society, which defines “human needs” as a commodity, promotes a model of social progress that involves “sterile wards for professional service” whose goal is to “clean out the snake pits of human nature”.

    A nanny state, a therapeutic society, results in which “systems colonize lifeworld” (Habermas).

    The rise of the class of “transnational pedagogues, therapists and planners” required a corrupt education bureacuracy, certification mills, protection rackets disguised as guilds, etc.

    The working and middle class people have been lied to by the corrupt education establishment, the rich don’t need to care about it, so do little or nothing.

    Ironically, the Gates Foundation has probably done far more to spur “real” education reform/innovation than all the “research” by the inept Nanny State Education System combined.

  26. Elevic Pernis

    September 19, 2010
    5:53 AM

    I have nothing against education per se. I understand that it is false to believe a college is necessary for success, it is also false to believe that being a college drop-out is a pre-requisite in amassing millions and billions. Warren Buffett finished his studies. What made them uber-rich is something independent of their level of formal education.

  27. RaZRwire

    September 30, 2010
    6:37 AM

    We all measure success by what “Giants” and mountains we have to move in our lives, These men are successful YES and congratulations to them…..BUT wwe all have dreams and as long as we rech them , we all have succeeded in our goals- If Bill Gates Dreams of having 100 Billion Dollars oneday and I dreams of having 100 Thousand Dolloars and we both reach these goals we have both succeeded

  28. Pblo

    October 21, 2010
    7:10 AM

    Many of these people where actually born into poor or low class families and were forced to werk and learn how to make a living at a very early age. The earned their way up thher

  29. JEK

    October 23, 2010
    12:41 PM

    Just like my Nigerian brother opined, the opportunities to make billions abound seriously overhere;he says he will be soon and I believe him.A college degree doesn’t guarantee wealth.o best of my knowledge, trust in God(Joshua 1), vision and passion for achievement/excellence guarantees wealth.From computing, education, agriculture, transport to advertising, Nigeria ala Africa is so blessed that you have to watch out for me as I see virgin opprtunities waiting to be made use of.Watch out – very soon!

  30. lunga sikhova

    November 10, 2010
    1:02 AM

    i suppose it’s what the mind learns, to believe in what it is told, obviously only if intelligence lurks!
    ps:(i just droped out)

  31. domnic ruto

    December 2, 2010
    5:49 AM


  32. Glow

    December 23, 2010
    7:28 AM

    We all may require money to survive .I will always
    strive for success with or without monetary gain.
    all debate will end at the end ,God or emptiness
    being our fate .The eye of the needle may await.

  33. Nothing in Particular

    January 2, 2011
    7:24 PM

    Mark Zuckerberg is a college drop out. why is he not in ther. he should be near in William Gates (Bill Gates).


    January 6, 2011
    1:38 PM

    hey paul allen and bill gates thanks for inventing microsoft and also mark zuckerberg.

  35. Happy Man

    January 6, 2011
    2:11 PM

    The morale #1 of the story is that those, who cannot get along with ‘the system’, who don’t bother always playing by its rules, are often ones, who lead to new break-throughs.
    Morale #2: formal education fits for majority, & is not meant for genius minds.
    Morale #3: the one who knows his place, and lives with, gets happy; the one, who always looks for better future, gets envy… ;-)

  36. lamodi sunkanmi

    February 20, 2011
    12:09 AM

    education atime pay but not all the time,these people ignite the thought of those that sideline the dropout that can still work under them oneday ps:im a dropout

  37. dan

    February 21, 2011
    4:12 AM

    dont look at the matter of having degree or not…look at the mentality of those successful people..they have guts, determination, dare to dream, smart and innovative, and hardworking…these are the qualities of those achievers.. some billionaires obtained degree( carlos slim helu, warren buffet,etc) and some without it( bill gates, carnegie,larry ellison, richard branson)… whatever situation u r in, should u have all those great qualities and mindset, u can be the magnet to success…

  38. Ho

    April 20, 2011
    4:37 PM

    Title should be triple comma…c’mon we are talking about billionaires

  39. Unigeek

    April 20, 2011
    4:40 PM

    I think the problem with the guys who actually get a degree is that they forget that the degree is us the means to an end……gets a superiority complex and that desire to achieve more gets atleast consumed by the achievement of getting a degree….I dont think gates or jobs would have done even half as well if they got the degree

  40. Cayuco

    April 20, 2011
    5:59 PM

    Dave Thomas founder of Wendys got his GED in 1993.

  41. thoughts

    April 25, 2011
    11:39 AM

    as a former dropout and student at a top 3 university I can shed some light from what I have found. A degree is not a substitution for passion and intellectual vigor. The focus of most higher education is on implementing an effective curriculum and running an institution whereas successful entrepreneurs find that channeling their energy into endeavors that pique their interest often provides greater satisfaction and rewards regardless of the amount. The reality is no formal education will give you the tools you will need in practice to implement something profound and that is not its goal. Colleges focus on breadth while graduate schools focus on aiding research. There is no substitution for personal discovery and inculcation; teaching yourself what you need to know to accomplish what you want to do will always leave you richer then doing what others ask you to do. Specifically, many of these individuals amassed their fortunes in industries that were relatively nascent (internet, personal, computing, aviation, etc) and required entrepreneurial solutions unlike the hierarchical infrastructure of finance. Furthermore, these individuals made their money in industries that experienced hypergrowth; hypergrowth is often the result of a paradigm shift in technology from a meta level and can help create great wealth creation. Finally, all of these men were both lucky and have proven to be doggedly disciplined by vie of their ability to maintain and grow their personal fortunes. Therefore, college degree or not, success will ultimately be determined by how you approach your own education and not relying on others to teach you what you may need to take advantage of those opportunities that may present themselves when a shift occurs. No one cares more then you therefore take an active role with your intellectual curiosity and seek the knowledge you need to create solutions for things that interest you.

    Key values: initiative, passion, implementation

    Kirk –> aviation (militay pilot)
    Gates –> os (ibm deal)
    Jobs –> personal / power computing (apple, next, pixar)


  42. Soon to be Bilionaire!

    April 29, 2011
    8:54 PM

    After reading this Monday I official dropped out of college! I cant wait to be a billionaire!

  43. Henry G. Huestis

    May 1, 2011
    9:02 AM

    There is one common thread with all these millionaires and billionaires. Thay are willing to risk it all, and possibly go bankrupt in the process. When one starts a startup business, to get a business loan, you in many cases have to risk the equity in your house, your retirement and other savings and other investments to get that loan. If the business fails you lose everything, and cannot get it back. However, if the business succeeds, count your luck and wealth, for if you have the right idea and concept for a business, and run the business right, you may be worth millions or billions overnight. Look at people like Marc Zuckerberg at Facebook, Bill Gates at Microsoft, and others who hav made it.

  44. tunde

    May 12, 2011
    8:07 PM


    Btw; at every moment in time you are more than equipped to achieve your dreams.

  45. HARLEY

    June 28, 2011
    7:30 PM


  46. richmondhillFlimStar!!

    August 30, 2011
    12:05 PM

    I never went to college n I’m str8 gettin paper! More paper then a bollywood flimstar!!

  47. joseph adesanya

    August 31, 2011
    9:20 AM

    these people were willing to take risks and opportunities laid to them, they saw a way to innovate peoples lives, make a change for themselves, and they did it and by the way this are not the only billionaires out there. There are thousands of them.
    I for sure know i would become a billionaire one day, and what has made them what they are?
    if you can grab this, welcome to the wealthy club!

  48. Extra Input

    September 9, 2011
    3:09 PM

    One commonality with all these famous and successful people is that they all decided to work for themselves. Working for yourself will always triumph working for someone else. No one cares more about you career than you. Most of our teachers or profs often love academic life and they continue with their love affair by teaching. In my opinion, the concept of entrepreneurship is not a life experience for those who decide to teach leaving entrepreneurship as not being top of mind in our school curriculum as an alternative for building a career. Furthermore, there are people I know of who bought the message that if they finished their degree or even degrees they would be acknowledged and fairly rewarded. The reality is that the top job placements in most industries goes to “who” you know and not “what” you know. This is especially true for females more so than males who are left out of the boardroom. I know of a highly intelligent female with two degrees who was overlooked by a male candidate who successfully secured a management position with only a grade 12 education. In closing we as a society need to better promote entrepreneurship in our schools. Apparently this understanding is better grasped by the folks in China who have more $1 millionaires per capita. Just my thoughts.

  49. tebogo

    September 16, 2011
    6:37 AM

    If all the schools and colleges around the world could be be closed, 100 percent of our majority could be billionaires too.

  50. Tony

    October 7, 2011
    10:45 AM

    After readn all this i just cant w8t 2 drop out of

  51. Nelson

    October 8, 2011
    3:46 PM

    I’m african-american, and I admire Steve Jobs for his accomplishments. No, he didn’t do it all by himself like everybody is saying, but he was the leading force. He returned soda bottles for food money and he ate a buddist temple weekly too. He wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his hand. He is a good inspiration in a natural way, but most of the people I admire is for their spiritual inspiration like George Washington Carver, Booker T. Washington, Harriet Tubman, MLK, and Bart Simpson. lol. OK, I’m a comedian.

  52. Mark Major

    November 12, 2011
    9:08 AM

    You guys don’t list Bahamians but the richest Bahamian is G Almando Gibson worth about 2.5 billion .

  53. Ogunleye josiah

    November 29, 2011
    3:22 PM

    How much can i have been inspired. Not even by the world richest drop out but by the comment respond by you all. I can see you guyz becoming great achievers the world have witness. Keep it Up.

  54. Garima

    November 30, 2011
    2:56 AM

    dropping out is not da issue here, wat matters is dat u have realized the reason of ur being and wether u have the courage to reach out for it. when u know wat ur supposed to do every thing else becomes unimportant and dis happens wen u start asking urself questions?

  55. Elachi LordLucky Edoka

    January 18, 2012
    12:10 AM

    All the people mentioned above are in computer line. What about those in other field?

  56. archie

    February 15, 2012
    8:19 PM

    Manny Pacquiao, never been to college or high school has attained a multi-million dollar.

  57. Christine

    February 27, 2012
    6:50 PM

    4 are not in computers… Dean Kamen, Ralph Lauren, Richard Branson and Kirk Kerkorian.

  58. Wayne

    March 10, 2012
    3:17 PM

    Education is a good thing, but drive is more important in my opinion. Never look back, learn from your mistakes, fall but get right back up, and above all believe in yourself.

  59. Low Profile

    April 22, 2012
    12:19 PM

    There is a Bahamian the operates his own IT Staffing agency in the US and net more than 2 million a year. He is not super rich but comfortable. Last name Collins and went to GHS.

  60. Snoglydox

    July 26, 2012
    9:09 PM

    Let us not forget these people developed their wealth on top of people with a college education.

  61. Jemoh

    September 26, 2012
    1:36 PM

    I will be a dollar billionaire all my life.

  62. skeptic

    May 3, 2013
    12:22 AM

    These guys all “knew” the right people(i.e. they had connections). I wonder how they got their funding. Hmmm. You’re not going anywhere in this world without connections. FACT. And I’ll bet none of them were born into poor families.

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