Have you ever wondered if there was a correlation between advanced degrees and entrepreneurial success? According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many workers who held jobs in a business-related field who also held a master’s degree saw a significant wage premium over those who just held bachelor’s degrees. Marketing and sales managers saw a 38% wage premium, while financial managers saw a 41% wage premium. General managers and executives also saw a wage premium.
To see how this plays out in the real world, we looked to the CEOs of the world’s corporate giants to see if and where they obtained their advanced degrees. We researched CEOs at 20 of the world’s largest companies by annual revenue and found that 11 out of 20 had MBAs, four held no advanced degree, and all held undergraduate degrees.
Doug McMillon completed his MBA from the University of Tulsa after receiving his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas.
McMillon joined WalMart’s buyer training program upon graduating from the University of Tulsa. He progressed through the program, assumed various positions before he became president and CEO of Sam’s Club. He was later put in charge of Walmart’s international division and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores in 2014.
State Grid Corporation of China is the largest utility company in the world with a monopoly over all of China. President and chairman Shu Yinbiao’s advanced degree is a Doctor of engineering from Wuhan University, one of the top 10 universities in China.
China National Petroleum
CNPC is China’s largest oil and gas company in China. Wang Yilin holds the position of Chairman of CNPC, and holds a Doctorate degree in mineral prospecting and exploration from China University of Petroleum. Zhang Jianhua serves as President and Executive Director of CNPC. He holds a Master’s degree in chemical engineering from the East China University of Science and Technology.
Sinopec Group is one of the major state-owned petroleum and chemical energy companies in China. Sinopec Group CEO Fu Chengyu received two advanced degrees, first completing a Master’s degree in petroleum engineering from the University of Southern California, and later studying at the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business.
ExxonMobil is a multinational oil and gas corporation.
Their new CEO is Darren Woods, who received his MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. Before his MBA he attended Texas A&M. He joined Exxon in 1992 as a planning analyst and progressed through a number of positions before his promotion to CEO earlier this year.
Volkswagen is a German car company that owns 13% of the global market share for passenger cars. Matthias Muller has been Volkswagen CEO since 2015, after the former Volkswagen CEO stepped down in the wake of the Volkswagen rigged engines scandal. He studied computer science at the Munich University of Applied Sciences.
Toyota is a Japanese auto company. Akio Toyoda is the president of the company and has been since 2009. He graduated from Keio University in Japan with a degree in law and went on to receive his MBA from Babson College in Massachusetts.
Apple CEO Tim Cook graduated from Duke with an MBA after earning an industrial engineering degree from Auburn University.
BP is the British multinational oil and gas company. Bob Dudley was named CEO in 2010 after 31 years with Amoco and BP after BP acquired Amoco. He obtained his MBA from Southern Methodist University after getting a Master’s degree of international management (MIM) from Arizona State University.
Berkshire Hathaway is a holding company that owns GEICO, Fruit of the Loom, and more. Berkshire Hathaway CEO is Warren Buffett, who earned his MS in economics from Columbia University’s Business School at the age of 21. This was after he finished his undergraduate degree from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln at the age of 19. Afterwards, he attended the New York Institute of Finance for a short stint.
McKesson is a health care services and information technology company. They are responsible for distributing ⅓ of all pharmaceuticals used each day in North America.
John Hammergren, the longest standing CEO on this list, has been chairman, president, and CEO of McKesson Corporation beginning in 1999. He received his MBA from Xavier University after getting his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Minnesota.
Dr. Oh-Hyun Kwon is Vice Chairman & CEO of Samsung Electronics company. He has two advanced degrees, a Master’s of science from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and a PhD in electrical engineering from Stanford University.
Glencore is the world’s third largest family business, a multinational commodity trading and mining company. Their CEO is Ivan Glasenberg, who received a mid-career MBA from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business in their Accelerated International MBA (IBEAR) program which lasts for one year.
Industrial and Commercial Bank of China
The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) is the largest bank in the world by total assets and the third largest bank in the world by market cap. Yi Huiman is the Chairman and Executive Director of ICBC, he graduated with his MBA from the Guanghua School of Management Beijing University.
Daimler is a German automobile company whose subsidiaries include Mercedes-Benz, Smart, Mitsubishi Fuso, Thomas Built Buses, and more. Daimler Chairman is Dieter Zetsche, who received a Doctorate in engineering from the University of Paderborn.
UnitedHealth Group CEO is Stephen Hemsley, who has been in charge of the company since 2006 and earned a Bachelor of Arts from Fordham University and does not hold an advanced degree.
Larry Merlo assumed the role of President and CEO of CVS Health. He received a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy but does not hold an MBA.
John Elkann is CEO and Chairman of investment company Exor. He has an engineering degree from the Polytechnic University of Turin but does not hold an MBA.
The only female on this list, and first female CEO of a major worldwide automaker, is Mary Barra. A Michigan native, she attended Kettering University (formerly General Motors Institute) for her Bachelor’s degree and then received her MBA from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.
Ford recently underwent leadership changes that landed them with a new CEO, Jim Hackett. He received a Bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Michigan and holds no advanced degree.
Hackett was preceded just days ago by Mark Fields, who was CEO of Ford from 2014 to 2017. Fields has an MBA from Harvard Business School.
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