Celebs With Surprisingly Impressive College Degrees

When most people think of their favorite celebrities, they recall their work in the arts, entertainment, sports, and elsewhere. That's perfectly normal, seeing as most folks meet their favorite celebs while watching a show or attending a game. Still, celebrities are people like the rest of us, and like most folks, they attended school at one point or another. While not everyone completed a college degree, many have, and some may surprise you.

You may not think of someone like Dolph Lundgren as a scientist or Shaq as a doctor, but those words accurately describe them. While many celebs get degrees in the arts or humanities, others focus on everything from electrical engineering and mathematics to law and medicine. Whatever a particular celebrity's interest, they pursued them in the same manner as regular folks, leading to a few impressive degrees.

While your all-time favorite celebrity may not boast a Juris Doctorate or other comparable degree, you may be surprised to learn of some celebs with surprisingly impressive college degrees. Each of these celebrities dominated their chosen areas of expertise, and they also went to school and graduated with some impressive academic credentials.

Gemma Chan has a law degree from Oxford

Gemma Chan began acting in the mid-aughts, and she's built an impressive career on the small and silver screens. Chan has appeared as two characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, she had important roles in "Crazy Rich Asians" and "Don't Worry Darling," and she's a fashion icon, having partnered with Louis Vuitton.

Before any of that happened, Chan sought a career along a different path. Chan graduated from Worcester College, Oxford, with a law degree, and while she was offered a training contract at a law firm, she turned it down to study acting at the Drama Centre London. Chan's career change didn't make her law degree irrelevant though, as she's found ways to utilize her education.

Chan told Modern Luxury magazine how her studies come in handy: "It is quite helpful with the memorization. I had to learn about 2,000 cases by heart, so I am fairly good at learning scripts quickly. On the whole, it is quite a different part of the brain: Law is very analytical, and acting is more instinctive and emotionally driven. But it does come in handy with learning lines and reading my own contract" (via HuffPost).

Ken Jeong was a practicing physician before he became an actor

Ken Jeong began acting in the 1990s but rose to international attention when he jumped naked from a car trunk in "The Hangover." From there, he went on to gain even more positive attention playing Ben Chang in "Community," where his crazy antics increased in intensity with every episode. Jeong is also a talented stand-up comic and has enjoyed an amazing career, though it's not his first.

Initially, Jeong eyed a career in medicine, and to that end, he obtained his M.D. at the UNC School of Medicine. Jeong dabbled in improv while completing his residency in New Orleans, and for nearly a decade, he practiced medicine in Woodland Hills just outside Los Angeles, while honing his comedy skills at various comedy clubs.

Jeong made his feature film debut in 2006 with "Knocked Up" and switched careers to working full-time in the entertainment industry. Dr. Ken Jeong has since played physicians on television, and he saved a woman's life in the midst of performing stand-up on stage. Jeong jumped into the crowd and rendered medical aid to a woman in the audience, saving her and proving he never forgot his roots.

Natalie Portman completed a psychology degree

Natalie Portman's acting career kicked off in childhood via 1994's "Léon: The Professional." She continued acting and appearing in several high-profile films, including the "Star Wars" prequel trilogy and much more. Portman went on to earn an Academy Award for her portrayal of Nina Sayers in " Black Swan" and has dominated her industry as a genuine A-lister.

Despite her ever-growing career in the arts, Portman took her education seriously. She studied between scenes and kept her nose buried in books while filming the "Star Wars" films. Portman attended Harvard University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in psychology. During this time, Portman's acting roles diminished as she worked sporadically while focusing most of her time on her studies.

Portman completed her degree and graduated from Harvard in 2003. Once that was behind her, Portman devoted most of her time to her work, appearing in a variety of films, including "Garden State" opposite Zach Braff. As to her choice of degree, Portman told the Independent, "I use my psychology background all the time," explaining how she essentially diagnoses characters in scripts she reads, helping her to better understand them.

Dolph Lundgren holds multiple degrees in a variety of subjects

Dolph Lundgren's work in films like "Rocky IV," "The Expendables" franchise, and "Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom" made him one of the world's premier action superstars. Lundgren's career in the arts has taken him from stage to screen and back again, but there's more behind the curtain than most fans realize, and Lundgren is incredibly intelligent.

Lundgren holds a master's degree in chemical engineering from the University of Sydney. After graduating at the head of his class, Lundgren was set to attend MIT in Boston, Massachusetts, on a Fulbright Scholarship, but didn't follow through. Lundgren worked as a bouncer during and after attending school, and while working in a nightclub, Grace Jones discovered and hired him as a bodyguard.

Before long, Lundgren and Jones began dating, and he moved to New York City with her, where he landed some modeling work. From there, Lundgren's exposure to the entertainment industry enticed him to pursue it as a career, and that's precisely what he did. Lundgren explained to NPR how his interests shifted after meeting Jones: "I started sort of thinking, 'Wow, this is kind of cool. I don't know if I want to go back to engineering after this."

Miuccia Prada holds a PhD in political science

Even if you don't recognize Miuccia Prada's first name, odds are you're familiar with the brand that bears her last name. Prada is one of the world's premier fashion brands, and Miuccia is the company's lead designer. She's incredibly successful, and according to Bloomberg, she's worth around $6.6 billion. Being so ingrained in the fashion industry, you might assume Prada studied fashion in school, but she didn't.

Instead, Prada attended school at the University of Milan, where she graduated with a degree in political science. After that, Prada remained at the university, where she completed a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in political science. Soon after, she joined the Italian Communist Party, so Prada was on a different path than the one she ended up dominating.

Prada wasn't interested in taking over her family's business in 1978, but she ultimately took the position. In 1985, Prada's line of black handbags became incredibly popular, and in 1989, she launched a line of clothing that earned significant critical acclaim. From there, Prada went on to solidify herself as one of the top designers in the world, though she never used her degrees, having fully embraced her role as a fashion designer.

Brian May is an astrophysicist

Brian May is the lead guitarist and one of the founding members of Queen, and he's arguably one of the greatest guitarists of all time. May's success in the music industry made him a household name, but he's far more than a guitarist, as his interests span multiple areas. May is an animal rights activist, and a record producer, and he's also an astrophysicist with several notable achievements to his name.

May studied mathematics and physics while attending Imperial College London, graduating with a degree in physics. May then received an invitation to work at the Jodrell Bank Observatory as he pursued his doctorate degree. At the time, May performed in Smile, the band that would be rechristened "Queen" after Freddie Mercury joined in 1970.

May declined the offer and put aside his studies for decades. It took over 30 years, but May completed his education at Imperial College. He finished his degree and was awarded a PhD in astrophysics in 2007. In 2016, May co-authored "Bang!: The Complete History of the Universe," and in 2023, May was among the first to be honored with a knighthood from the newly crowned King Charles III.

Jodie Foster's degree is in literature

Jodie Foster began acting as a child, gaining prominence in 1976's "Taxi Driver," for which she earned an Academy Award nomination. Foster continued acting for decades, earning two Academy Awards for her work in "The Accused" and "The Silence of the Lambs." Since then, Foster has worked as a director and producer while continuing to work as an actor on the silver and small screen.

Foster's primary education was at a French preparatory school in Los Angeles, where she graduated as valedictorian. After that, she went to Yale University, where she majored in literature. During this time, Foster continued acting and filmed five movies while working on her undergraduate degree. Foster focused on the writings of African American authors and completed her thesis on novelist Toni Morrison before graduating magna cum laude.

Foster's education mostly ended when she graduated from Yale, but she did return. In 1993, Foster gave a commencement address to the graduating class, and she later received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree. Foster's alma mater didn't stop honoring her there, and in 2018, the school awarded her with the Yale Undergraduate Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her contributions to the arts.

Rowan Atkinson's degree is in electrical engineering

When most people think of Rowan Atkinson, they likely picture his character, Mr. Bean, or his work in "Blackadder." Wherever you know him from, odds are, you've seen or heard Atkinson before, as he's done everything from voice Zazu in "The Lion King" to headline films like "Johnny English." Atkinson's unique brand of comedy made him an international star, but he pursued an entirely different goal in school.

Atkinson did well in school and attended Newcastle University, where he received a BS degree in electrical and electronic engineering. After this, Atkinson attended The Queen's College, University of Oxford, where he received an MS in electrical engineering. With his undergraduate and graduate degrees secured, Atkinson began a PhD program along the same lines but abandoned his plans to pursue acting full-time.

While Atkinson didn't use his degrees professionally, his knowledge and opinions on related subjects arose from time to time. In 2023, Atkinson penned an opinion piece for The Guardian about legislation related to electric vehicles. Atkinson claimed that "electric motoring doesn't seem to be quite the environmental panacea it is claimed to be," citing various aspects of the industry that haven't lived up to his expectations.

Danica McKellar is a legit mathematician

Danica McKellar began acting as a child, gaining prominence playing Winnie Cooper on "The Wonder Years." After that series ended in 1993, McKellar continued acting, primarily in small one-off roles on television series, as she spent most of her time focused on her education. McKellar is a lover of mathematics, having focused much of her adult career on that subject.

McKellar earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics in 1998 from UCLA. Her undergrad work resulted in the publishing of the "Percolation and Gibbs States Multiplicity for Ferromagnetic Ashkin-Teller Models on Two Dimensions, or Z2," or more simply, the Chayes-McKellar-Winn theorem. The theorem deals with two-dimensional mathematical models of magnetic material.

While McKellar returned to acting as an adult, she never abandoned her education or love of mathematics. Her first published book, "Math Doesn't Suck: How to Survive Middle School Math without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail," catered to young girls, as have many of her books, several of which made The New York Times children's bestseller list. As of mid-2024, McKellar has published a dozen books focused on making math easier for children to understand.

Shaquille O'Neal holds a doctorate in human resource development

Shaquille O'Neil is one of the best basketball players of his generation, and throughout his career, he dominated the sport. Shaq spent 19 years playing ball in the NBA, and he's a four-time NBA champion, so it's fair if all you think of when you hear his name is basketball. Shaq is more than just a ball player — he's also a motivated student.

Shaq played ball for Louisiana State University, but he didn't complete his education, as he was drafted into the NBA before he could finish. Despite this, Shaq made a promise to his parents that he'd finish his education, and he fulfilled that promise. Shaq finished his Bachelor of Science in general studies from LSU eight years after leaving to play ball, and he missed a game to attend his graduation ceremony.

Still, Shaq wasn't finished, and began a doctoral studies program at Barry University and received his Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Human Resource Development. At the time of his graduation, Shaq told ABC he planned on attending law school, and he also mentioned how he preferred the address of "Dr. O'Neal" over Shaq.

Mayim Bialik has a PhD in neuroscience

Mayim Bialik first rose to fame playing the titular character on NBC's "Blossom." After that series ended, Bialik's work was primarily voice acting, but she returned to international fame by playing Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler on "The Big Bang Theory." That series ended, and Bialik became a guest host on "Jeopardy!" and "Celebrity Jeopardy!" One of the reasons Bialik took a 12-year break from live-action acting was so she could pursue her education.

Bialik attended UCLA, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in neuroscience. Eventually, she earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in neuroscience from UCLA. Before joining the cast of "Big Bang," an episode referred to "The girl who played TV's "Blossom" as being intelligent, and not long after, Bialik joined the cast during the fourth season.

During an appearance on "Conan," Bialik explained that her education came in handy on the show, which makes sense, seeing as "Big Bang" tried to depict accurate science throughout. The showrunners brought her onto the series, knowing Bialik had a PhD. Because of this, they made Dr. Fowler a neurobiologist because it's something she knew well and could ensure the series got all of the science right.

Peter Weller is a legit history professor

Peter Weller's work in the 1980s brought characters like Buckaroo Banzai and RoboCop to life on the silver screen, and he's continued to act ever since. Weller earned praise for his work in a plethora of projects, and he spends about as much time in films as he does on television. Weller's work in Hollywood is impressive, but it's not his only profession — he's a legit professor of history at Syracuse University.

Weller earned a Bachelor of Arts in theater from the University of North Texas, and he followed this by continuing his studies at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Decades later, Weller finished a Master of Arts degree in Roman and Renaissance art at Syracuse University, where he taught his self-created course, "Hollywood and the Roman Empire," but again, he wasn't finished with his education.

In 2014, Weller received his doctorate in Italian Renaissance Art History from UCLA. His thesis, "Alberti Before Florence: Early Sources Informing Leon Battista Alberti's De Pictura," aligns with his educational interests. In addition to acting and teaching, Weller isn't shy about giving interviews for programs on the History Channel, and he also hosted "Engineering an Empire" and more.

Rebel Wilson has Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws degrees

Rebel Wilson first rose to fame in her native Australia before making the jump to international recognition via "Bridesmaids" and the "Pitch Perfect" trilogy. Wilson's work has seen her grace the stage, silver, and small screens on a variety of programs, and she's lent her voice to numerous characters over the years. Despite her expanding entertainment career, it wasn't her first choice.

Initially, Wilson's interest was in mathematics, and she attended the University of New South Wales, where she earned multiple degrees. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in theater and performance studies, which aligns with her profession, but that's not all. Wilson also earned a Bachelor of Laws degree and intended to become an attorney. That never came to pass, as she moved to the States to pursue acting instead.

Wilson's path to becoming an actor wasn't exactly typical. She contracted malaria in South Africa, and her condition included malaria-induced hallucinations. During these hallucinations, Wilson saw herself as "A really good actress who also won an Oscar," and this convinced her to leave the law behind and follow her literal dream to become an actor (via Variety).

Weird Al Yankovic could have been an architect

Weird Al Yankovic is one of the most innovative musical performers of his generation, having parodied and spoofed numerous successful songs for decades. This has brought Yankovic five Grammy awards and made him an international superstar, and he did it all while playing his trademark accordion. Yankovic also broadened his repertoire into acting and has enjoyed an impressive career that's entirely unrelated to his college degree.

Instead of studying music theory or something related to his eventual profession, Yankovic earned a degree in architecture from California Polytechnic State University. While at school, Yankovic discovered college radio and dabbled in parody music. He launched the "Dr. Demento" show," creating parodies of popular songs, and continued building on that success into a career.

Yankovic gave an interview with Cal Poly, where he declared, "The great irony of my college years is that I worked myself to near exhaustion through four years of architecture school, and the one part of my college experience that even remotely prepared me for my current livelihood was the three hours a week of me screwing around and goofing off at KCPR."