What does it take for ambitious young professionals to create wealth? Emotional intelligence? Talent? Luck? Perseverance?

Being born into wealth and/or privilege notwithstanding, many of the wealthiest entrepreneurs chose higher education to establish their foundation for success.

Researchers at resume.io decided to have a closer look at just what those rich contemporaries studied on their way to creating their wealth, with a focus on discovering their undergraduate degrees. You can see the full results in a bright set of infographics over on resume.io.

The college degrees of Jeff Bezos and other wealthy CEOs

What did we learn? For starters, the highest-paid chief executives in every state have college degrees while 67% of them nabbed a graduate degree, too.

It comes as no surprise that America's richest exec is Jeff Bezos. At Princeton, Bezos earned a Bachelor of Science in Engineering -- majoring in electrical engineering and computer science, developing the technical and critical skills he did not yet realize would set him right to found his online 'everything shop.' In fact, the internet didn't even exist when Bezos graduated.

Across the United States, other wealthy CEOs have similarly chosen to study the nuts and bolts of their industry rather than to start out with a business degree.

The top-earning CEO in Illinois is Dirk Van de Put. His $42 million income (2017 figures) is founded -- somewhat tangentially -- on a degree in veterinary medicine from the University of Ghent, Belgium.

Perhaps the feeding habits of the world's livestock helped him prepare for life in charge of the $25 billion snacking giant, Mondelez. However, his post-graduate degree in marketing and management is probably more useful in his daily work life.

Douglas Ingram, president and CEO of Sarepta Therapeutics, has his undergraduate degree in psychology -- certainly 'ballpark' for running a therapeutics company, even if Sarepta is focused on genetic solutions rather than the therapist's couch.

Ingram also has a Juris Doctor law degree that no doubt helps him navigate the thorny path to big pharma success. His reward? "Salary payments of $337,500, plus $11.6 million in stock awards, $44.84 million in option awards and $420,875 in non-equity incentive plan compensation," reports FiercePharma​.

But a business school qualification by no means holds you back from making big bucks in business: Melissa D. Smith of WEX nets $10.8 million annually following her business administration degree from University of Maine; Doug Lebda, CEO of LendingTree, rakes in $59.6 million and was set on his path with a similar degree from Bucknell.

Ultimately, if getting mega-rich from business is your goal, there is no prescribed path. So much has to do with the people you meet, the breaks that you get, and the unique way you interpret the lessons that you're taught. Heck, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates didn't even complete their degrees!

It is also worth pointing out that money doesn't always make you happy. Not obscene amounts, anyway. "People who make more than $5 million a year are not appreciably happier than those who make $100,000 a year," writes John Medina, developmental molecular biologist and brain expert, citing a study from the Journal of Happiness Studies.

"Money increases happiness only when it lifts people out of poverty to about $50,000 a year in income. Past that, wealth and happiness part ways," notes Medina.

Pursue education for its own value and for the networks you'll make along the way, and you're likely to end up with happier than some of America's dour millionaires.

Published on: Feb 1, 2020
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