5 tech leaders without a degree

From Steve Jobs to Michael Dell, here are five tech leaders that prove higher education isn’t always necessary

Curtis Moldrich
22 Oct 2018
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While university is important for a lot of people, having a degree isn't everything. In every industry there are great leaders without higher-education, and the technology industry offers some of the best examples.

Degrees can certainly offer a helping hand in the tech world – Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai has three – but many of the world’s technology pioneers have no degrees to their name. From the founders of Microsoft to the CEO of the biggest social network in the world, these five figures didn’t need an MA or a BSc to become tech pioneers.

  1. Paul Allen

    Paul Allen was most famously known for co-founding Microsoft along with Bill Gates. As well as owning the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trail Blazers, Allen also set up Vulcan, a forward-thinking company created to solve the world’s most challenging problems. Although he did study at Washington State University for two years, Allen convinced Bill Gates to drop out of Harvard before both of them founded Microsoft. Net worth at time of death: $20.3 billion

  2. Michael Dell

    Responsible for creating one of the most dominant forces in the computer industry, Michael Dell enrolled on a pre-medical course at the University of Texas, but failed to finish. While still at university, Dell began selling upgrade kits, and soon realised the huge potential of a direct-to-customer PC company. After winning contracts to supply PCs in Texas, it wasn’t long before Dell dropped out and focused all his efforts on his growing business. The result? By 1992, aged 27, Dell became the youngest CEO ever in Fortune’s list of the top 500 corporations. Net worth: $28.6 billion

  3. Bill Gates

    One of the most famous dropouts in history, Bill Gates stopped studying law and mathematics at Harvard to found Microsoft with Paul Allen. What followed changed the course of technology as we know it, and produced one of the most popular operating systems of all time. Currently worth a cool $79 billion, Gates now funds a number of philanthropic projects through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This year alone, the foundation has spent $22.9 million on HIV research, $12 million on Polio treatment and $868,090 on vaccine delivery. Net worth: $96 billion

  4. Mark Zuckerberg

    The creator of Facebook studied psychology and computer science at Harvard, but dropped out in his second year to build his then embryonic Facebook project. Originally called “thefacebook”, the fledgling social network was only open to students from selected colleges, but soon became the global phenomenon it is today. Facebook now owns key tech companies such as Oculus, Instagram and WhatsApp. Net worth: $57.7 billion

  5. Steve Jobs

    One of the most important figures in the technology world, Steve Jobs was responsible for the success of Apple, and its instrumental role in the development of the iPhone. After briefly studying physics, literature, and poetry at Reed College in 1972, Steve Jobs went on to found Apple Computer Inc four years later, and launched the Apple Lisa in 1983. Forced out of his own company in 1985, Jobs spent the next few years establishing the high-end NeXT computer company, as well as founding the Pixar movie studio. In 1997 he returned to Apple, and guided the company to its most successful period yet. Net worth at time of death: $11 billion