• Thu, Aug 14 - 4:13 pm ET

9 Celebrities With Surprising College Degrees

Legally Blonde What like it's hard

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It’s back to school time, and plenty of people are headed back to college classes. If you’ve ever been a college student, you’re used to people asking you “What’s your major?” Sometimes it’s people you meet on campus, sometimes it’s family friends trying to make small talk, and other times it’s you asking yourself, because you’re still undecided. Inevitably, once you answer, the next question out of the person’s mouth will be, “What do you want to do with that?” Society’s still under the impression that not only does everyone studying a certain subject have a clear career path related to it, but that people have to end up doing something in their related field at all.

To prove how wrong those assumptions are, you needn’t look further than your favorite celebrities, many of whom received degrees in subjects completely unrelated to the career paths they ultimately chose. You might be surprised enough by the simple fact that these celebs have degrees in the first place, since we hear so many stories about celebs dropping out of school or just forgoing college altogether to pursue a career in show business. So it’s pretty impressive that these ladies and gents have knowledge in a totally unrelated field. And some of these degrees are pretty high! We’re not talking only bachelor’s degrees. Let’s take a look at some of the smarty-pants I’m referring to, shall we? And no, we’re not talking about James Franco.

1. Gerard Butler

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Gerard Butler studied law at the University of Glasgow. He then worked as a trainee lawyer, but his partying ways led him to be fired shortly before he could qualify as a lawyer. He then decided to move to London to become a famous actor, and here we are today.

2. Maggie Gyllenhaal

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Maggie has a bachelor’s degree in English and Eastern religions from Columbia University. Ooh, a double major and neither of them acting. She eventually got her training in acting, though, studing at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

3. Will Ferrell

Will Ferrell you don't even know

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Will Ferrell studied Sports Broadcasting at the University of Southern California, where he was also part of a fraternity. After graduation, Will decided he didn’t want to be a broadcaster and ended up moving to LA to pursue comedy, ending up at the Groundlings. But he still got to flex those broadcaster muscles in Anchorman.

4. Weird Al Yankovic

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If you can believe it, the guy who sings parody songs for a living has a degree in Architecture from California Polytechnic University. Before that he’d already been a great student, having started kindergarten early and then skipping second grade. Good for you, Al!

5. Lisa Kudrow

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Phoebe Buffay is a science nerd, guys! She earned a degree in Biology from Vassar College. She then worked with her father, a headache specialist, for eight years before pursuing acting. She became a member of the Groundlings, and the rest is history.

6. Rashida Jones

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Rashida is a Harvard grad! She studied Religion and Philosophy, but during her time at the school she was involved in various performing arts activities, including plays and an a cappella group. And you thought she couldn’t get any cooler!

7. Rowan Atkinson

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If you can believe it, Mr. Bean graduated from Newcastle University with a degree in Electrical Engineering, then went on to earn a Master of Science in the same field at The Queen’s College, Oxford. During his schooling, like so many of these celebs, he participated in the performing arts.

8. Ricky Gervais

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Ricky attended University College London, where he initially studied Biology before changing to Philosophy, which is what his degree is in. That’s also where he met Jane Fallon, and he’s been with her ever since. Aww.

9. Christy Turlington

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Don’t go assuming that models don’t have brains. Christy graduated summa cum laude from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study of New York University with a degree in Comparative Religion and Eastern Philosophy. She later decided, after experiencing complications with childbirth, to pursue a Master’s degree in Public Health at Columbia University. She also serves on the Harvard Medical School Global Health Council. Not too shabby.

You can reach this post's author, Jill O’Rourke, on twitter.
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  • Jenni

    I always forget that in addition to being very talented and very pretty, Rashida’s also very smart. How can I be her?

    • Imadullmodel

      By being born into a family worth millions upon millions of dollars. Nepotism, if I spelled that word right.

  • SG

    where is Mayim Balik with her PhD in Neuroscience?? .. that easily beats out all of the above degrees by miles !!!

    • Jill O’Rourke

      I left her off because I felt that she was one of the more well-known examples, and I wanted to keep it to ones people were less likely to know about.

    • joanne

      Thank you! It always makes me crazy when it is a headline such as “10 x you didn’t know did y” and then takes 7 of the most common examples that everyone knows about.

    • gary2199

      How about Arnold Swartzenegger? I think his is a Business dregree.

    • RecalcitrantOne

      Is it widely known that Ron Jeremy has his master’s degree in Special Education?

  • Dani

    #3 – Univ. of Southern California is Los Angeles.