32 Successful People Who Didn’t Go to or Finish College

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College is often touted as the ultimate achievement to having a good job, career, and overall life. While I did go to college, I did not go to college for writing, which is something I am clearly doing full time now! I also did not go to college to become a full-time teacher, but I spent a couple of life-altering years in Asia as an ESL teacher in two countries and later online. Sure, I had to obtain a certificate, but it did not take long and did not require additional college work.

While college can help, and is necessary for certain careers, such as being a doctor or lawyer… everyone does not need college. Some people have gone to college but decided not to finish and still go on to have successful careers. Some lucrative fields only need a certificate or on-the-job training.

What are Some Jobs You Don't Need a College Education for?

You might be surprised at the number of jobs that you can have without a college degree. The following are just a few examples:

1. Entrepreneur

Someone who starts and runs their own business. This can be in any industry, from a tech start-up to a restaurant owner.

2. Sales

A successful salesperson can make a lot of money without a college degree.

3. Skilled Trades

There are many skilled trades that require training but not a college degree such as electricians, plumbers, carpenters, etc.

3. Real Estate Agent

With the right training, you can get your real estate license and start selling homes!

4. Recruiter

A recruiter is someone who finds and hires employees for a company. This is a great career if you are good at networking.

5. Personal Trainer

If you are passionate about health and fitness, you can become a personal trainer without a college degree.

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You can become a personal trainer without a college degree as long as you are passionate and serious about health and fitness.

6. Social Media Manager

With a little training, you can become a social media manager and help businesses grow their online presence. Familiarize yourself with the various platforms, marketing trends, and user behavior.

7. Event Planner

If you have a creative flair and love organizing events, then event planning might be the perfect career for you!

8. Technical Writer

If you have strong writing skills and are familiar with a particular subject or industry, you can become a technical writer. You will most likely need some certification for certain positions.

9. Website Developer

Many web developers are self-taught and do not have a college degree. There are tons of resources to learn how to code and build websites from scratch.

10. Public Relations Specialist

A public relations specialist is responsible for creating and maintaining a positive image of their client. This can be done through various forms of communication such as social media, press releases, and events.

11. Graphic Designer

A graphic designer creates visual concepts, using computer software or by hand, to communicate ideas. You need to become an expert at various graphic programs. Many in this field are also self-taught, but some go to art or design schools.

12. Copywriter

A copywriter is responsible for writing advertorials, brochures, website content, and more. This is a great career for those with strong writing skills.

13. Photographer

do you have an eye for capturing a moment? If so, then photography might be the perfect career for you! You can get started by taking classes or workshops. Many photographers are self-taught.

14. Videographer

Videography is a similar field to photography, but with video. If you have a passion for film and video, then this might be the perfect career. You can work for a company or be a freelancer.

13. DJ

Perfect career if you have a flair for creating good mixes and making people get out of their seats to get down on the dance floor.

14. Nutritionist

A nutritionist helps people make healthy choices when it comes to their diet. This can be done through consultations, cooking classes, and more. You will need some schooling and certifications to become a nutritionist. A college degree is required for certain positions but not all.

15. Hair Stylist

If you love doing hair and get enough customers, you can become highly sought after. People often train under other stylists and start as an assistant.

16. Personal Shopper

A personal shopper is someone who helps their clients find the perfect wardrobe.

17. Makeup Artist

A makeup artist is someone who applies makeup to their clients. This can be done for special occasions, photo shoots, and more. Many makeup artists are self-taught.

20. Fashion Designer

You don't need a formal degree if you have amazing talent, but some school can help make the leap to professional standing.

33 Successful People Who Didn't Go to or Finish College

There are plenty of successful people who didn't go to college. College is not for everyone, and there are many successful people who prove that. Here is a list of 33 successful people who never went to or finished college:

1. Bill Gates

As the co-founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world. He dropped out of Harvard after two years to start Microsoft with his friend Paul Allen.

2. Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg is the founder and CEO of Facebook. He started programming when he was just a child and developed Facebook while he was studying at Harvard. Facebook has gone on to start a social media revolution and new career field.

3. Steve Jobs

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Steve Jobs with the Apple Macintosh, January 1984 via Wikipedia

Steve Jobs is the co-founder of Apple and one of the most successful entrepreneurs of our time. He dropped out of Reed College after one semester.

4. Richard Branson

Richard Branson is the founder of the Virgin Group, which consists of more than 400 companies. He dropped out of school at the age of 16.

5. Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey is a media mogul, philanthropist, and one of the most successful women in the world. She dropped out of college after one semester to pursue a career in broadcasting. She later went back to finish her degree long after becoming a media mogul.

6. Michael Dell

Michael Dell is the founder and CEO of Dell Technologies. He started the company while he was studying at the University of Texas at Austin. He dropped out of school to focus on his business full-time.

7. Larry Ellison

Larry Ellison is the co-founder and CEO of Oracle. He dropped out of the University of California, Berkeley after one semester.

8. Sergey Brin

Sergey Brin is the co-founder of Google. He started the company while he was studying at Stanford University. He dropped out of school to focus on Google full-time.

9. Bill Hewlett

Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard are the co-founders of Hewlett-Packard. They both dropped out of college to start the company.

10. Jack Dorsey

Jack Dorsey is the co-founder and CEO of Twitter and Square. He dropped out of New York University after two years.

11. Evan Williams

Evan Williams is the co-founder of Twitter and Medium. He dropped out of the University of Nebraska after two years.

12. Paul Allen

Paul Allen is the co-founder of Microsoft. He dropped out of Washington State University after two years to start Microsoft with his friend Bill Gates.

13. Jawed Karim

Jawed Karim is the co-founder of YouTube. He started the company while he was studying at Stanford University. He dropped out of school to focus on YouTube full-time.

14. Reid Hoffman

Reid Hoffman is the co-founder of LinkedIn. He started the company while he was studying at Stanford University. He dropped out of school to focus on LinkedIn full-time.

15. Chris Hughes

Chris Hughes is the co-founder of Facebook. He started the company while he was studying at Harvard University. He dropped out of school to focus on Facebook full-time.

16. Drew Houston

Drew Houston is the founder and CEO of Dropbox. He started the company while he was studying at MIT. He dropped out of school to focus on Dropbox full-time.

17. Tina Brown

Tina Brown is the founder and CEO of Tina Brown Live Media. She dropped out of Oxford University after one year to start her career in journalism.

18. David Karp

David Karp is the founder and CEO of Tumblr. He dropped out of high school at the age of 15 and later took courses at New York City’s Computer School.

19. Michael Bloomberg

Michael Bloomberg is the founder, CEO, and owner of Bloomberg LP. He started the company while he was studying at Johns Hopkins University. He dropped out of school to focus on his company full-time.

20. Scott Cook

Scott Cook is the co-founder and CEO of Intuit. He started the company while he was studying at Stanford University. He dropped out of school to focus on Intuit full-time.

21. Pierre Omidyar

Pierre Omidyar is the founder and chairman of eBay. He started the company while he was studying at Tufts University. He dropped out of school to focus on eBay full-time.

22. Kobe Bryant

The late basketball star Kobe Bryant didn’t go to college. He was drafted straight out of high school by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996.

23. Madonna

She studied dance at the University of Michigan for a short time before dropping out to pursue her music career.

24. Bruce Willis

He studied at Montclair State University for a short time before dropped out to pursue his acting career.

25. Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise didn’t go to college. He dropped out of high school at the age of 18 to pursue his acting career. He never took any acting classes and landed his first role within six months of moving to New York City. He now produces his own movies.

26. Jon Hamm

The Mad Men actor didn’t even complete college. He dropped out of the University of Texas at Austin after two years.

27. Richard Wright

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Richard Wright in a 1939 photograph by Carl Van Vechten.

The renowned author of novels such as “Black Boy” and “Native Son” actually never finished college. He went to college in 1918 but his mother's health forced him to leave and get a job to help support the family.

28. Zooey Deschanel

The New Girl actress didn’t go to college, but she did take a few singing and acting classes at the University of Southern California.

29. Tina Turner

A lack of a college education did not stop Tina Turner from becoming one of the biggest names in music. Her talent and hard work as a singer and performer earned her the title “Queen of Rock n Roll”.

30. Jay-Z

The rapper didn’t go to college, but he did attend George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School. He is now a billionaire

31. Maya Angelou

The author, poet, and civil rights activist didn’t go to college, but she did attend San Francisco’s Labor School where she briefly left to become the first black female streetcar conductor in the city. Her writing continues to inspire people around the world.

32. Rachel Ray

The popular food personality didn’t go to college and has no formal culinary training, but people love her approachable style and down-to-earth personality.

Final Thoughts on Successful People Who Didn't Go To or Finish College

Whether you have just graduated from high school and are feeling uncertain about your next steps, or you’ve done the college thing and want something different from life, remember that there are many options and paths available to you. College is not the only route to a successful and fulfilling career or life.

You can also achieve great things through self-education, hard work, and dedication. If you are looking for some encouragement as an entrepreneur, check out our article on the 21 Best Business Podcasts for Entrepreneurs.

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32 Successful People Who Didn\'t Go to or Finish College