Emma Watson
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Celebs With Prestigious Degrees You Didn't Know About

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High School Diploma
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Bright Stars

Sure, some movie stars might study film or theater in college to develop their talents, and musicians might pursue higher education to perfect their craft, but celebrities typically don’t need a college degree to land gigs. But just because you don’t fill out job applications and provide college transcripts to land a Hollywood role doesn’t mean you can’t dive into academia. From a bachelor’s in an unrelated field to a doctorate, the educational achievements of some celebrities might surprise you. Let us know if we left any out in the comments.


Related: Celebs with Hobbies You'd Never Expect

Danica Mckellar
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Danica McKellar

"The Wonder Years" star better known as Winnie Cooper, the love interest of Fred Savage's character, Kevin Arnold, left acting for a while to pursue another love: math. She graduated summa cum laude from UCLA with a degree in mathematics and while there, co-authored a paper that outlined the Chayes–McKellar–Winn theorem, which showed there can be multiple states of thermal equilibrium. She later received her doctorate from the University of Chicago. Academic excellence runs in the family. Her sister, Crystal, who also starred in "The Wonder Years," as Becky Slater, graduated from Yale and received a law degree from Harvard. McKellar, who has written six children's books about (what else?) math, has returned to acting, appearing in several Hallmark TV movies and "Dancing With the Stars." 


Related: Celebs Whose First Job Was Worse Than Yours

Freddie Highmore
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Freddie Highmore

Whether you remember him as the charming boy acting alongside Johnny Depp in both “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'' and “Finding Neverland” or you know him as the lead in “The Good Doctor,” you might be surprised to learn about Freddie Highmore’s educational pedigree. During filming for the show “Bates Motel,” in which Highmore plays the deranged lead, the actor also earned a dual degree at the University of Cambridge in both Spanish and Arabic.


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Brian May
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Brian May

Behind the guitar and head full of bushy hair, Queen guitarist Brian May is actually one of the most educated celebrities with degrees. In 1968, May earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from Imperial College in London. A few years later, in 1971, as he was working on his dissertation to earn his doctorate, he made the choice to leave his education on the back burner to become a mega-rockstar with Queen. After cementing himself as a rock legend, May revisited his dissertation nearly 30 years later and finally earned his doctorate in astrophysics. 

Jodie Foster
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Jodie Foster

From humble beginnings as the Coppertone baby in the ’60s, all the way to a prestigious Hollywood repertoire, Jodie Foster has had a prolific career. But when Foster decided she wanted to take a little break from acting to go to college, she enrolled in Yale, as one does, naturally. During her time at Yale, the actress admitted that she struggled with imposter syndrome. She felt like she wasn’t smart enough or preppy enough to fit in at the prestigious school. But instead of bailing on her Ivy league education amidst feeling inferior, she allowed her self-doubt to fuel her academic journey and she went on to earn her degree in writing and literature. But learning about writing and literature wasn’t enough for Foster — she studied German and Italian and she became fluent in French, too. After college, Foster returned to Hollywood and got her hands on an Academy Award and a Golden Globe to boot. More than 10 years after she graduated, the university recognized her accomplishments by granting her an honorary doctorate of fine arts.

rashida jones and natalie portman
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Natalie Portman

Some child stars never shed the roles that introduced them to Hollywood — Macaulay Culkin will forever be remembered for “Home Alone” and “My Girl” — while others are able to rise to fame and cement themselves in Tinseltown for good. Natalie Portman was able to grasp onto that coveted type of success, despite her father trying to lure her away from her film career. When Portman announced her decision to pursue a psychology degree at Harvard, she told the press, “I’d rather be smart than a movie star.” The actress explained to Variety that she came from a family who took academia very seriously, telling the publication, “My dad pulled me aside when I was 25 and was like, ‘I think it’s time for you to go to law school or grad school.’ Not that he was saying that acting was bad, but more that he was like, ‘I think you’ll be more fulfilled if you have something more — like a life of the mind.’” Ultimately, Portman weaved what she learned from obtaining her psychology degree into her acting, continuing her career as an actress — an educated actress, that is. 

James Franco
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James Franco

James Franco collects college degrees like Tom Brady collects Super Bowl rings. After the actor graduated high school, he enrolled in the University of California, although he ultimately dropped out to pursue acting. Nearly a decade later, the actor enrolled at UCLA where he earned his bachelor’s degree in English. Apparently, on the path to earning that bachelor’s degree, Franco, who has starred in "Pineapple Express" and other films, was granted special permission to complete 62 credits in a semester — quite the hike from the standard 19. His time at UCLA was essentially a gateway to becoming hooked on academia. Franco went on to complete programs at Columbia University, Brooklyn College, New York University's School of the Arts, and Warren Wilson College in North Carolina, focusing on fiction writing, film, and poetry. But Franco didn’t stop there. He went on to pursue his Ph.D. at Yale and also gained acceptance to the Rhode Island School of Design's literature and creative writing program.

Eva Longoria
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Eva Longoria

Before heading to Hollywood, Eva Longoria earned her bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from Texas A&M University. Longoria could have pursued a career as a physical or occupational therapist had she continued her education in the same field and earned her master’s degree. Alas, she became an actress, taking some time away from academia and leaving her original career path behind. Her time away from college wasn’t permanent, though. Just after filming wrapped for “Desperate Housewives,” Longoria graduated from California State University, Northridge with a master's degree in Chicano studies — quite the accomplishment since the actress attended classes in-person while simultaneously filming the hit TV show.

Kris Kristofferson
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Kris Kristofferson

Known for his gravelly vocals and a string of country music hits, including “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Help Me Make it Through the Night,” Kris Kristofferson is actually one of the more accomplished celebrities with degrees. Not only did he earn a master’s degree in English Literature from Oxford University, Kristofferson was also a Rhodes Scholar. But Oxford wasn’t the only school Kristofferson attended. After he earned his master’s, he went on to serve in the U.S. Army, and graduated from the U.S. Army Ranger School. During his time in the Army, he became a captain and a helicopter pilot. As if his higher education, military service, and successful music career weren’t enough, Kristofferson is an activist too, leaving us wondering if there’s anything he can’t do.

Emma Watson
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Emma Watson

Brown University is no Hogwarts, that’s for certain, but that didn’t stop Emma Watson from enrolling in the Ivy league school. The actress began taking classes at Brown in 2009 and by 2014, she earned her bachelor’s degree in English — the star even filmed the final two Harry Potter movies during her college years. Although there were some rumors that Watson was bullied during her time at Brown, she denied any bullying, though she did admit that it was weird to have people become stunned when they noticed who she was.


Adam Sandler
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Adam Sandler

At this point, Adam Sandler is nothing short of a comedic legend. He’s an actor, comedian, screenwriter, producer, and director, and he’s been one of the biggest names in comedy for decades. He’s so good at what he does that you might be surprised to learn that while he was in college, one of his acting professors told him he should choose a different career path after taking him out for a beer. Still, Sandler earned his bachelor’s degree in acting from New York University, and it’s safe to say he proved his professor wrong.


Angela Bassett
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Angela Bassett

If you get into Yale, you might as well make the most of it, and that’s exactly what Angela Bassett did. The Oscar-nominated actress earned her first Yale degree in 1980 — a bachelor’s degree in African-American studies. She went on to complete her master of fine arts degree at the Yale School of Drama. And for the sake of really rounding things out, the “Black Panther” star received an honorary doctorate of fine arts from the university as one of Yale’s 10 honorary degree recipients for 2018.

Sigourney Weaver
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Sigourney Weaver

Why attend one of the most prestigious universities in the nation when you can earn a degree from two? Apparently that was Sigourney Weaver’s mindset because the actress holds degrees from both Yale and Stanford. Weaver first earned her bachelor’s degree from Stanford before she enrolled at Yale alongside Meryl Streep. At the Ivy league school, Weaver performed with Yale’s Repertory Theatre and although Streep landed bigger roles, she pressed on and ultimately earned her master of fine arts degree.

David Duchovny
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David Duchovny

Before he found stardom as an actor, David Duchovny planned to become a writer, pursuing an English degree at Princeton. The actor landed at Princeton thanks to a basketball scholarship, although after one season of dribbling the ball, he switched to the school’s baseball team instead. While at Princeton, Duchovny didn’t get involved in acting or theatrical activities, but instead focused on sports and his studies. He explored poetry during his college years and ended up receiving an honorable mention from the Academy of American Poets the same year he graduated Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude with his bachelor’s degree. 


Weird Al Yankovic
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Weird Al Yankovic

Some celebrities with degrees make sense, and others might leave you feeling a little mind blown. Enter: Weird Al Yankovic. The musician, famous for his hilarious parodies, actually has a pretty impressive educational background. At just 16 years old, Mr. “White and Nerdy” himself became the valedictorian at his high school. After he graduated, Yankovic went on to attend California Polytechnic State University, where he earned a degree in architecture — a surprising area of focus for a comedic musician.

Ken Jeong
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Ken Jeong

Does your doctor make awkward jokes that you feel obligated to laugh at? Imagine being the patient of Ken Jeong — you’d have to do everything in your power to prevent yourself from embarrassingly snorting from laughing so hard at every hint of sarcasm. As it turns out, the famous "Crazy Rich Asians" actor and comedian was a practicing physician, having earned his medical degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Comedy was just something he did on the side as a hobby, leaving us to wonder if he’s now conducting checkups just for fun.


Rashida Jones
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Rashida Jones

Best known for her roles in “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation,” Rashida Jones actually discovered her love of acting during her time at Harvard. Jones originally intended to pursue a law degree, but after watching how the O.J. Simpson trial unfolded, she became disheartened and decided to follow a different path instead, opting for a degree in religion and philosophy. During her time in college, Jones joined the drama club, and she found that performing on stage helped her mental health immensely, explaining, "It was so full on, and I had to talk to the audience and kind of pour my heart out and be present and all that stuff,” she said. “It was so electrifying, it just helped me to push through." After she graduated, it was clear to Jones that acting was her true calling.


Mayim Bialik
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Mayim Bialik

“The Big Bang Theory” actress Mayim Bialik doesn’t just have an onscreen Ph.D. — turns out, in real life she has a doctorate in neuroscience from UCLA. As Bialik was raising her children (as if that’s not a big enough job), she pursued her undergraduate degree in neurosciences with a minor in Hebrew and Jewish studies before transitioning directly into the Ph.D. program. She told USA Today that her minor helped her keep her confidence up since science was difficult for her. 

Gerard Butler
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Gerard Butler

Scottish actor Gerard Butler is another actor who has a law degree. Butler earned his degree from the University of Glasgow School of Law where he was so successful he became head of the Law Society. After he graduated, Butler began working at a major law firm in Edinburgh as a trainee, but began to feel depressed and unfulfilled. Ultimately, he was let go from the firm and pursued his passion for acting instead.


Rebel Wilson
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Rebel Wilson

Is she an actress, a lawyer, a psychic, or perhaps all three? Before Rebel Wilson rose to fame as an actress, the Australian native earned a law degree. Before she graduated, Wilson visited Africa and wound up with a bad case of malaria. While she was sick, she hallucinated that she became an actress and was really great at it. Naturally, Wilson couldn’t shake her vision even after her fever subsided. So, she took acting classes after finishing law school and has been landing roles and gaining traction in Hollywood ever since. The skills she learned during college haven’t completely fallen to the wayside, though — she finds her knowledge of law and business useful during her endeavors as a producer, plus she was able to win her own defamation lawsuit thanks in part to her educational background.

Cole and Dylan Sprouse
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Cole Sprouse

Cole Spouse, alongside his twin brother, Dylan were all over TV screens during their childhood, from the movie “Big Daddy,” to the Disney series, “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.” But the twins took a break from acting in pursuit of some normalcy, enrolling in the prestigious New York University. But it wasn’t acting that they studied. Instead, the brothers opted for the university’s independent study option that allows students to basically build their own degree program. But Cole Sprouse’s degree was particularly surprising given his background — the actor earned his bachelor’s degree in archaeology, although instead of digging in the dirt after graduation, he returned to acting with a starring role in the series “Riverdale.” 


Hugh Laurie
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Hugh Laurie

Onscreen, Hugh Laurie demonstrated expert medical skills on “House,” but in real life, the educated actor has an unexpected degree from a prestigious university. The actor first attended Eton College before enrolling at Cambridge, like his father did before him. At Cambridge, Laurie discovered his love for acting when he joined the school’s drama club, and ultimately earned a degree in anthropology and archaeology.