Here's What America's Top-Earning CEOs Studied At College (infographic)

So you want to get rich in business? It takes hard work and luck and there’s no proven path – but it can be helpful to think about the general trends and characteristics of CEOs who have achieved it in the past.

In particular, young entrepreneurs will have a very difficult decision to make when it comes to choosing a degree to study, or even whether to study at all. We know, for example, that the likes of Bill Gates (Microsoft founder) and Mark Zuckerberg (CEO of Facebook) were lured into business before they could finish their education, and it doesn’t seem to have done them any harm, business-wise at least.

But as it happens, the top-earning CEO in every state has at least an undergraduate degree to their name, and two-thirds of them have a graduate degree, too. Only six of them completed their degrees at Ivy League schools, and less than half went to private schools. Around two in five of them majored in business, allowing plenty of scope for those who are interested in studying engineering, social sciences, or the arts and humanities, which can be a great idea if you’re passionate about developing good business ethics in addition to cold hard cash!

The College Degree of the Top‑earning CEO in Every State

This new infographic from Resume team demonstrates which degree the top-earning CEO of each state studied, and there’s also an interactive version (featured below) that you can hover over to get more precise details. But let’s take a look at some of those bookish millionaires and see what they learned that made them so successful.

Doug McMillon (Walmart, Arkansas)

McMillon is a Walmart veteran and learned the business from the inside, starting as an hourly summer associate in a Walmart distribution center in 1984. Twenty-five years later, he became president and CEO of Walmart International, overseeing over 6,000 stores and 800,000 associates in 26 countries beyond US borders.

But it was while studying his master’s degree in business administration at the MBA University of Tulsa that he began to rise, becoming assistant manager in a Tulsa Walmart store. He went on to take merchandising and buyer trainee roles before moving into management, and it’s this thorough understanding of the business and of the merchant trade in general that has equipped McMillon to master his current role, overseeing a business that serves 270 million customers in 11,700 stores across 28 countries, not to mention Walmart’s ecommerce concerns.

Despite his hands-on experience, McMillon clearly values his formal study since he now serves on the Dean’s Advisory Board for Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science, the advisory board at Beijing’s Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management and the Dean’s Advisory Board at Walton College of Business, at his alma mater, the University of Arkansas.

Doug’s 2017 earnings? $22.8m

Alex Gorsky (Johnson & Johnson, New Jersey)

Gorsky is another millionaire who was prepared to get his hands dirty in order to learn the business. Only in Gorsky’s case, it was through studying engineering at US Military Academy West Point. His scientific and military background gave Gorsky the resources to cement the pharmaceutical company as #1 on Barron’s Magazine’s 2016 list of the “World’s Most Admired Companies,” and the top pharmaceutical company on Fortune Magazine’s list of the “World’s Most Respected Companies.”

But Gorsky did take the time to study business, too. He got his MBA at Wharton School of Business and worked his way up gradually through the ranks of Johnson & Johnson, taking on roles of increasing responsibility in sales, marketing, and management in the U.S., Europe, and Africa. He was finally named Chief Executive Officer on April 26, 2012 and became Chairman of the Board on December 28. Two degrees seem to have done the trick for Gorsky, since he now earns around $30m each year!

Constance H. Lau (Hawaiian Electric Industries, Inc., Hawaii)

Lau obviously believes in the power of study since the 66-year-old has done the triple: a graduate degree from the University of California, Hastings; an undergrad degree from Yale; and an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business. $5.9m per year to live and work in Hawaii sounds like a good reward!

Born and bred in Honolulu, Lau is an HEI veteran of over three decades. She has continued to promote good practice and good study through participation on the Hawaii Business Roundtable, at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, and with Punahou School. Lau has also been involved in banking, and was celebrated as one of U.S. Banker’s 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking in 2004, 2005, and 2006.

And she is committed to ethical business, working to get Hawaii on 100% renewable energy by 2045, and serving on the Consuelo Foundation, which helps women, children, and families in Hawaii and the Philippines.

Steve Wynn (Wynn Resorts, Nevada)

With an appropriate name for a Las Vegas casino magnate, Wynn is a self-made man. He has an undergraduate degree in English literature, but found his way into casinos and hotels after taking over his father’s ailing bingo parlor business and turning its fortunes around.

Said to be worth $3bn dollars, Wynn was making $34.5m per year when he resigned as CEO of Wynn Resorts early this year following allegations of sexual misconduct. At seventy-six years of age, and with the case still open, it remains to be seen whether Wynn’s downfall will prove to be a grim ending to a famous career, or simply a late and rather luxurious retirement.

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