How CEOs Without College Degrees Got to the Top

February 26, 2018 | Publication

 In a dataset of 2,600 CEOs, analysts were surprised to discover that 8% had no college degree. In a world where a third of jobs that once required only a high-school diploma now demand a four-year college degree, and one in four jobs that used to require a bachelor’s degree now require a master’s degree, how are these degreeless leaders getting to the top anyway? The analysis found three main factors. First, degreeless CEOs were more likely to be industry or company insiders, with deep expertise in their niche. Second, these CEOs overindexed on results, and tended to come from sectors like sales where outsized performance is tangible and measurable. Third, they were more likely to hire great people and rely on their insights.