Wanna be a CEO? Go to these universities

The online learning provider Preply has conducted extensive research to identify the best schools in the world for becoming a leading CEO.

What does it take to score the top spot in Australia’s coolest STEM companies? According to a new study, CEOs are graduating from the same degrees

If there’s one thing we know about STEM careers, it’s that there’s no one, singular path to success. Twists and turns, degree swaps and alternative pathways are welcomed – and encouraged – and the diverse CVs of local STEM experts proves it. 

But is there a particular degree that’s more likely to land you a CEO gig? And what type of tertiary education are they choosing? 

Online learning provider Preply has just published an epic research paper identifying just this – the best pathways in the world for becoming a leading CEO. Their insights come from extensive background research on the chief executives of the Forbes List of largest companies. Such a cool resource if you’re dreaming of becoming a big wig! 

UNSW grad Evan Wong has co-founded a seriously cool tech company called Checkbox. But did his choice of uni impact his pathway?

“The Forbes list of CEOs are arguably some of the most influential leaders in the world,” stresses Amy Pritchett, Student Success Manager of Preply. We wanted to better understand what this elite group of people has in common and what it takes to climb to the top.” 

We’ve rounded up some of the most interesting insights here, although the entire study is well worth a read. 

Most CEOs have a degree in economics, business, and engineering

Yep, according to Preply the majority of CEOs are just as into STEM us us – having studied economics (11.6%), business (7.6%), engineering (5.3%), law (4.1%), and finance (3.3%), while others majored in history, geology, and psychology.

35% of top CEOs have a master’s or doctorate degree

It not exactly a surprise that becoming a CEO might require a little extra uni time, with 35% on the Forbes list having completed a masters degree or PhD.

But get this – there are at least 192 executives on the same list who didn’t go to uni at all. These include current and former big-company CEOs such as Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, and Richard Branson of Virgin.

There is no one type of uni to become a CEO

Overall, the Forbes CEOs attended 598 different universities globally for their undergraduate and graduate degrees, with no one type of uni dominating the list. Preply’s conclusion? 

That a variety of universities – some household names and others hidden gems – can put you on a path to success to becoming a CEO! In other words, study hard but don’t stress if you don’t get in to your first uni preference. 

UNSW is producing the most CEOs in Australia

Even though the studied suggests that there is no one definitive path to scoring a CEO gig, it’s still fun to find out which Aussie unis are producing the most of them. Here’s the shortlist extracted from the Forbes data: 

1. University of New South Wales (UNSW)
2. Australian National University (ANU)
3. Macquarie University
4. University of South Australia
5. Monash University
6. University of Adelaide (UOA)
7. University of Western Australia (UWA)
8. University of Wollongong (UOW)
9. Curtin University
10. Australian Graduate School of Management

Soak up the rest of the study here. 


Cassie Steel

Author: Cassie Steel

As Refraction’s digital editor, Cassie Steel spends her days researching robots and stalking famous scientists on Twitter.


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