30 Of Hollywood’s Most Educated Actors And Actresses

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.

masi oka photo
Getty Images | Frazer Harrison

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.

danica mckellar photo
Getty Images | Jason Merritt

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.

He’s dabbled in coursework at the Rhode Island School of Design and is currently working on a PhD in English from Yale. He’s also taught college courses. What a slacker.

james franco photo
Getty Images | Frazer Harrison


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.”

ken jeong photo
Getty Images | Larry Busacca

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.

natalie portman photo
Getty Images | Pascal Le Segretain

6. Conan O’Brien

Before he went into comedy, Conan O’Brien earned a bachelor’s degree in American history from Harvard University (magna cum laude). He was also his high school class valedictorian.

conan photo
Getty Images | Tim Mosenfelder

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.”

ben stein photo
Getty Images | Brendan Smialowski

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.

lupita nyongo photo
Getty Images | Kevork Djansezian

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.

gerard butler photo
Getty Images | Emma McIntyre

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.

christy turlington photo
Getty Images | Stuart C. Wilson

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.

david duchovny photo
Getty Images | Kevin Winter

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.

sigourney weaver photo
Getty Images | Clemens Bilan

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.

rowan atkinson photo
Getty Images | Stuart C. Wilson

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.

ashley judd photo
Getty Images | Jemal Countess

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.

jodie foster photo
Getty Images | Joe Maher

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.”

eva longoria photo
Getty Images | Alberto E. Rodriguez

17. Kate Beckinsale

British actress Kate Beckinsale went to Oxford to study French and Russian literature. So, naturally, she speaks French and Russian.

kate beckinsale photo
Getty Images | Theo Wargo

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.”

nolan gould photo
Getty Images | Emma McIntyre

19. Rashida Jones

Rashida Jones earned a bachelor’s in religion and philosophy from Harvard University. Originally, she thought she might pursue law, but her heart was in acting.

rashida jones photo
Getty Images | Pascal Le Segretain

20. Geena Davis

Geena Davis went to Boston University for a fine arts degree. She speaks Swedish and is a skilled archery enthusiast aside from founding her own media institute.

geena davis photo
Getty Images | Christopher Polk

21. Edward Norton

Edward Norton has a bachelor’s degree in history from Yale University. He speaks Japanese and worked briefly for his grandfather’s company in Japan after college.

edward norton photo
Getty Images | Mike Coppola

22. Lisa Kudrow

Lisa Kudrow got a biology degree from Vassar College and worked with her headache-specialist father before deciding acting was more her thing. She’s now on the Vassar board of trustees.

lisa kudrow photo
Getty Images | Alberto E. Rodriguez

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.”

John Krasinski photo
Getty Images | Matt Winkelmeyer

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.

mindy kaling photo
Getty Images | Joe Scarnici

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.

john legend photo
Getty Images | John Sciulli

26. Cindy Crawford

Cindy Crawford was valedictorian of her high school class. While she eventually dropped out to pursue modeling, she started as a chemical engineering major at Northwestern University.

cindy crawford photo
Getty Images | Pascal Le Segretain

27. Emma Watson

Emma Watson graduated from Brown University with an English literature degree (and spent her junior year at Oxford). She’s also been a visiting fellow at Oxford. Hermione would be proud.

emma watson photo
Getty Images | Mike Coppola

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.

peter weller photo
Getty Images | Jason Kempin

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.

angela bassett photo
Getty Images | Kevin Winter

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.

Mayim Bialek photo
Getty Images | Jonathan Leibson

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About the Author
Anna Weaver
Anna Weaver is a writer and multimedia journalist from Hawaii. Her two young kids keep her on her toes and hooked on online shopping. Anna’s also a fan of movies, reading, photography, and sharing far too many IG stories about cute dogs and capybaras.

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