Actors and actresses who want to make it big often skip college and head straight to Hollywood. Or they start a degree before dropping out after a breakout role. But these celebrities not only finished college, they did it while flexing their brainiest muscles, often adding advanced degrees to their resume.
1. Masi Oka
Before he was on “Heroes” and Hawaii Five-O,” Masi Oka earned a computer science degree from Brown University. He did research and development for Industrial Light and Magic before going into acting full time. Plus he speaks English, Japanese and Spanish.
2. Danica McKellar
Even when she was Winnie Cooper on “The Wonder Years,” Danica McKellar knew she loved math. On a break from acting, she earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics (summa cum laude) from UCLA, had a math theorem named after her, and published several books on why math is fun.
3. James Franco
In addition to continually building on his prolific acting career, James Franco is also a professional student. He has a bachelor’s in English from UCLA and received his MFA in writing from Columbia University. But while at Columbia, he also studied filmmaking at NYU, fiction writing at Brooklyn College and poetry at Warren Wilson College.
4. Ken Jeong
When Ken Jeong played Katherine Heigl’s doctor in “Knocked Up,” he had a lot of practice for his role. Jeong has a medical degree from UNC-Chapel Hill and went to Duke University as an undergrad. “The Hangover” star was a general practitioner before breaking out in “The Hangover.”
5. Natalie Portman
Natalie Portman enrolled at Harvard University. But she did so under her birth name, Natalie Hershlag, part of her attempt to fly under the radar while she earned her psychology degree. She was a smart cookie too, according to the Harvard Crimson.
6. Conan O’Brien
7. Ben Stein
It’s not a surprise that Ben Stein is a brainiac considering he had his own game show where people tried to beat him at tough trivia. He’s got an economics degree from Columbia University and a law degree from Yale University.
Then there were his stints as a speechwriter for two presidents. But, of course, he gets his real academic credentials from that scene in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
8. Lupita Nyong’o
Lupita Nyong’o took on her Academy Award-winning roll in “12 Years a Slave” shortly after earning a master’s degree in acting from the Yale School of Drama.
9. Gerard Butler
Gerard Butler attended law school at the University of Glasgow, was president of the law society, and worked as a “trainee lawyer.” But he was fired right before qualifying as a lawyer. Seems he’s had better luck with acting.
10. Christy Turlington
The supermodel went back to school after a successful modeling career and earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from NYU. She started a master’s in public health from Columbia University before focusing more on her global maternal health organization.
11. David Duchovny
David Duchovny earned an English degree from Princeton University with a thesis on “The Schizophrenic Critique of Pure Reason in Beckett’s Early Novels.” And while he never finished it, he did start a PhD in literature at Yale University.
He ended up deciding acting was his passion. “My mother is still upset, but I never finished my PhD, no,” he said in a NPR interview.
12. Sigourney Weaver
The actress has a bachelor’s degree from Stanford. She went on to get her master’s degree from the Yale School of Drama.
13. Rowan Atkinson
“Mr. Bean” earned an electrical engineering degree from Newcastle University in England before getting a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Oxford.
14. Ashley Judd
Smarty pants Ashley Judd has a bachelor’s degree in French from the University of Kentucky—she also earned four minors. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University. And now she’s now pursuing a PhD in public policy from UC Berkeley.
15. Jodie Foster
Jodie Foster was the valedictorian of her French immersion high school. She graduated with honors from Yale where she got a literature degree, and she speaks French fluently and knows some Spanish, Italian and German.
16. Eva Longoria
“Desperate Housewives” actress Eva Longoria earned a master’s degree in Chicano Studies from Cal State University Northridge. Her thesis was on “Success STEMS From Diversity: The Value of Latinas in STEM Careers.”
17. Kate Beckinsale
18. Nolan Gould
The “Modern Family” actor graduated high school at 13, is a member of MENSA and has an IQ score of 150. He’s been accepted to the University of Southern California where he plans to study Cinematic Arts, but not until after a few more seasons of “Modern Family.”
19. Rashida Jones
20. Geena Davis
21. Edward Norton
22. Lisa Kudrow
23. John Krasinski
“The Office” actor and “A Quiet Place” director/actor John Krasinski studied English at Brown University, graduating with honors. Favorite college classes included an intro biology course and “Management of Industrial and Nonprofit Organizations.”
24. Mindy Kaling
“The Mindy Project” creator Mindy Kaling went to Dartmouth College where she switched from being a Latin major to a playwriting major. She earned a playwriting award while a student.
25. John Legend
John Legend went to the University of Pennsylvania and earned an English degree with a concentration in African American literature. After college, he worked for a Boston consulting firm before focusing on music.
26. Cindy Crawford
27. Emma Watson
28. Peter Weller
“RoboCop” Peter Weller seems to love learning. He got his bachelor’s at North Texas State University, then went to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. Years later, he went back to school for a very practical master’s degree in Roman and Renaissance Art and also received a PhD in Italian Renaissance Art History from UCLA.
29. Angela Bassett
Angela Bassett went to Yale for a degree in African American studies. Then she topped that off with a master’s degree from Yale’s drama school. As a bonus, she met her husband, Courtney B. Vance, while in grad school, which means he’s clearly a smart one as well.
30. Mayim Bialik
“Blossom” and “The Big Bang Theory” star Mayim Bialik currently plays a neurobiologist on TV. But she also holds a PhD in neuroscience from UCLA. She earned her bachelor’s degree in the same subject plus one in Hebrew and Jewish studies, both at UCLA.