KEY POINTS

  • Gemma Chan uses her law degree to read through her contract and memorize scripts
  • America Ferrera graduated after ten years because of her instant fame because of "Ugly Betty"
  • Cole Sprouse has a degree in archeology, with a major in geographical information systems and satellite imaging

Successful celebrities are often remembered for the iconic roles that immortalized their names in the spotlight. Some are remembered for their inspiring celebrity rags-to-riches stories that made them more passionate about their success. And then some stand out for their impressive college degrees.

Behind the cameras, these 30 celebrities prove that while pursuing fields they are passionate about, they can also multitask and get their degrees. In some cases, those two even cross paths.

Let's take a look at these celebrities with impressive college degrees that may surprise you:

1. The Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle graduated from Northwestern University with a double major in theater and international studies.

Meghan Markle
THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS - APRIL 17: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Meghan, Duchess of Sussex watches the sitting volley ball competition on day 2 of the Invictus Games 2020 at Zuiderpark on April 17, 2022 in The Hague, Netherlands. Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

She graduated in 2003. She also interned at the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires during her junior year. At that time, she even considered a career in politics!

2. Mayim Bialik earned her doctorate in neuroscience from UCLA.

Mayim Bialik
Pictured: Actress Mayim Bialik arrives at the Saban Community Clinic's 43rd Annual Dinner Gala at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on November 18, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

She graduated in 2007 and curiously had the same degree as her role on "The Big Bang Theory" as Amy Farrah Fowler. Now you know that she understood every brainy statement she said on the show.

3. Meryl Streep has a bachelor's in drama and costume design.

Meryl Streep
Meryl Streep attends the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 9, 2019 in Toronto. Jemal Countess/WireImage

She graduated from Vassar College in 1971 and even earned her MFA in drama from Yale. Though she now has multiple awards to her name, and she has been honored with a Distinguished Collaborator Award at the Costume Designers Guide Awards in 2017, she was a costume designer first. She also won a scholarship to the Yale School of Drama.

4. Freddie Highmore holds a degree in Spanish and Arabic from Cambridge University's Emmanuel College.

The Good Doctor
How will Dr. Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore) cope with the stress at work and in life in "The Good Doctor" Season 2, episode 2? The Good Doctor/Facebook/ABC

His double major earned him a double first, which means he attained First Class Honors in both. He juggled his studies while acting on the show "Bates Motel."

5. Natalie Portman holds a psychology degree.

Hollywood star Natalie Portman, a founding member of a new women's pro soccer team, has been active in several causes including the "Time's Up" movement
Hollywood star Natalie Portman, a founding member of a new women's pro soccer team, has been active in several causes including the "Time's Up" movement GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Amy Sussman

She may have been astrophysicist Jane Foster in the "Thor" movies, but in real life, she has a psychology degree. From Harvard, no less. She graduated in 2003 and has seen some of her work published in scientific journals twice.

6. Cole Sprouse earned a degree in archeology, particularly geographical information systems and satellite imaging.

Cole Sprouse
Actor Cole Sprouse at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, California, on Feb. 24, 2019. Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

If you've never heard of the course before, it's because NYU's Gallatin School of Individualized Study allows students to design their majors. He graduated in 2015.

7. Lupita Nyong'o earned her bachelor's in film and African studies.

Lupita Nyong’o
Lupita Nyong’o is pictured attending the 25th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on Jan. 27, 2019 in Los Angeles. Jean-Baptiste Lacroix/AFP/Getty Images

Graduating from Hampshire College in 2007 was just the beginning for Lupita. She continued to study and graduated from the Yale School of Drama with a master's in acting in 2012. Her senior thesis film, "In My Genes," was also featured at the New York African Film Festival in 2010.

8. John Legend earned his bachelor's degree in English with an emphasis on African American literature.

US singer-songwriter John Legend performed at the Tonys with the cast of "Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations"
US singer-songwriter John Legend performed at the Tonys with the cast of "Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations" AFP / Angela Weiss

Fun fact: He started as a freshman at 16. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1999. He was also part of a nationally recognized a cappella group while studying.

9. Eva Longoria has a degree in kinesiology – and a master's degree in Chicano studies.

Eva Longoria
Pictured: Eva Longoria, who is mourning the death of her pet dog, attending the Global Gift Foundation USA Women’s Empowerment luncheon and speaker panel in support of her foundation at Yardbird Southern Table & Bar in Los Angeles on May 10, 2018. Getty Images/JC Olivera

She got her degree in kinesiology from Texas A&M University and her master's from Cal State Northridge. Her thesis, titled "Success STEMS From Diversity: The Value of Latinas in STEM Careers," discussed the "issues, barriers and successes experienced by Latina scientists and engineers."

10. Emma Watson holds a degree in English literature.

GettyImages-1192613927
23. Emma Watson - Born in Paris and raised in Oxfordshire, Watson attended the Dragon School and trained as an actress before gaining fame as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series. Since then, Watson has moved into other film projects, all while juggling being a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. She’s also famous for her work in women empowerment. Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

The smartest witch of her Hogwarts class advocates for the importance of education in real life. She graduated from Brown University in 2014 after previously studying at Oxford University. She is also an activist and feminist.

11. Yara Shahidi graduated at 22 with a degree in interdisciplinary sociology and African American studies.

yara shahidi aerie
Yara Shahidi, who attended the Chanel Haute Couture Spring Summer 2018 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on Jan. 23, 2018 in Paris, is a new AerieREAL role model. Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images for Chanel

Not only did she graduate from Harvard, but she also had a letter of recommendation from the former first lady Michelle Obama in her application.

12. Ken Jeong has a medical degree from the University of North Carolina.

Cast member Ken Jeong arrives for the premiere of Transformers: Dark of The Moon in Times Square in New York June 28, 2011.
Cast member Ken Jeong arrives for the premiere of Transformers: Dark of The Moon in Times Square in New York June 28, 2011. Reuters

He studied pre-med at Duke University and then completed his medical degree at Chapel Hill in 1995. He started pursuing comedy while completing his residency in internal medicine in New Orleans. He even won the Big Easy Laff-Off during this time.

13. 2 Chainz earned a bachelor's in psychology on a basketball scholarship.

2 Chainz
2 Chainz at New Era's Super Bowl party Planet New Era, Feb. 3, 2017, in Houston. Peter Barreras/AP Images for New Era Cap

He played for the Alabama State University basketball team from 1995 to 1997. The American rapper considers music therapeutic and puts his experiences into his songs.

14. Bridgit Mendler is a Ph.D. student from the MIT Media Lab.

Bridgit Mendler
Singer Bridgit Mendler presents her new album "Hello My Name Is..." at the Hotel ME on February 25, 2013 in Madrid, Spain. Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images

This, on top of an anthropology degree and after studying at Harvard Law. Her focus at MIT is on "technologies that support inclusive and collaborative governance and citizen engagement."

15. Shaquille O'Neal earned a doctorate in education.

Shaq
Shaquille O'Neal has been named as the newest member to the Papa John's board of directors. O'Neal is pictured on March 6, 2018 in Atlanta. Getty Images/Marcus Ingram

He graduated from Barry University in 2012. It was a course he was passionate about and one that he promised his parents he would pursue.

16. Chris Martin has a degree in ancient world studies.

Chris Martin
Chris Martin is reportedly in a relationship with an actress. The singer is pictured visit the “Elvis Duran Z100 Morning Show” on Aug. 7, 2014 in New York City. Cindy Ord/Getty Images

The lead vocalist of Coldplay graduated from University College in London. He met his Coldplay co-founder Jonathan "Jonny" Buckland in the halls of the university, where they composed many of their earliest songs. Chris' studies focused on Greek and Latin, by the way.

17. Riz Ahmed earned a degree in politics, philosophy and economics.

RTS10GGX
U.K. actor Riz Ahmed appears at the 89th Academy Awards in Hollywood, Calif., Feb. 26, 2017. Reuters

He's an alumnus of Oxford University's Christ Church, one of the largest colleges in the university. He hated and wanted to leave his major, but now his study in politics comes in handy in his political rap music.

18. Megan Thee Stallion graduated with a degree in health administration.

Megan Thee Stallion, shown here in November 2019, came up on social media but she is every bit a child of old-school hip-hop
Megan Thee Stallion, shown here in November 2019, came up on social media but she is every bit a child of old-school hip-hop GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Rich Fury

She's a graduate of Texas Southern University. She talked about pursuing her degree part-time online in 2020. She wanted to complete her education to honor her late mother, who passed away in 2019. According to Megan, her mother made her a deal. She could pursue music on two conditions – first, that she wait until she turned 21, and second, that she continued her education.

19. Mr. Bean himself, Rowan Atkinson, holds a degree in electrical engineering.

Actor Rowan Atkinson arrives for the UK premiere of Johnny English Reborn, at the Empire Leicester Square in central London
Actor Rowan Atkinson arrives for the UK premiere of Johnny English Reborn, at the Empire Leicester Square in central London October 2, 2011. Reuters

He must have really loved electrical engineering. He earned his undergraduate degree from Newcastle University before pursuing a master's degree at The Queen's College in Oxford in 1975. It was at this time that he started conceptualizing the character that would become Mr. Bean.

20. Rashida Jones studied religion and philosophy.

Rashida Jones
Rashida Jones attended the Docuseries Showcase on day 3 of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, wearing Thakoon's Butterfly Print Shirt paired with orange trousers. Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival

She graduated from Harvard. She was also invited back to campus in 2016 as the Harvard Class Day speaker.

21. Christy Turlington Burns studied comparative religion and Eastern philosophy.

Christy Turlington Burns
The model and actress will be running for advocacy group Every Mother Counts. For more information, visit everymothercounts.org REUTERS

She finished her bachelor's degree at NYU. She also has a master's in public health from Columbia University.

22. Sacha Baron Cohen holds a degree in history with a focus on antisemitism.

Sacha Baron Cohen arrives to attend a screening of the Oscars, in Sydney, Australia, April 26, 2021. Rick Rycroft/Pool via
Sacha Baron Cohen arrives to attend a screening of the Oscars, in Sydney, Australia, April 26, 2021. Rick Rycroft/Pool via Reuters / POOL

He got his degree from Christ's College Cambridge. Having been raised in a British Jewish family, he is fluent in Hebrew. In his keynote speech for the Anti-Defamation League, he said, "I've been passionate about challenging bigotry and intolerance throughout my life." He also talked about traveling around America and writing his thesis about the civil rights movement. "As a comedian, I've tried to use my characters to get people to let down their guard and reveal what they actually believe, including their own prejudice."

23. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson studied criminology.

Dwayne_TheRockJohnson
Actor Dwayne Johnson is pictured. AFP/Chris Delmas

He initially wanted to play for the NFL, but due to an injury he got while studying at the University of Miami, he focused on getting his degree instead. He graduated in 1995.

24. Rooney Mara graduated with a degree in psychology, international social policy and nonprofits.

14 Rooney Mara - Getty Images
Casting Lisbeth Salander took months but director David Fincher eventually settled on Rooney Mara, whom he had directed in Social Network. Mara got into character by getting real piercings and having temporary tattoos drawn over her body. She also worked with a movement coach to change her stance and walk. Getty Images

Rooney initially enrolled in the Traveling School and was not keen on going to college. When she did go, she first went to George Washington University before transferring to NYU, where she graduated from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study. She spent a college summer volunteering in Nairobi's Kibera area in Kenya in 2006.

25. Hugh Laurie studied anthropology and archaeology.

Cast member Hugh Laurie attends the premiere of the film ''Hop'' in Los Angeles
Cast member Hugh Laurie attends the premiere of the film ''Hop'' in Los Angeles March 27, 2011. Reuters

He got his degree from the University of Cambridge Selwyn College.

26. Kerry Washington holds a degree in anthropology and sociology.

Kerry Washington
Kerry Washington is grateful to have been part of “Scandal” for the past seven seasons. Pictured: Washington attends the 2018 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on Mar. 4, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. Getty Images/Dia Dipasupil

She studied at George Washington University. Her alma mater's website has this to say about her: "She gained wide public recognition for starring as Olivia Pope on the television series, Scandal, breaking barriers by becoming the first Black woman to headline a network TV show since 1974."

27. Ashley Judd holds an undergraduate degree in French and a graduate degree in public administration.

RTX1A9WS
Ashley Judd arrives for the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner in Washington, D.C. on April 25, 2015. Judd played the younger version of Marilyn Monroe in 1996’s "Norma Jean & Marilyn." Reuters

She earned her bachelor's degree from the University of Kentucky, then proceeded to study at Harvard for her master's.

28. Dakota Fanning majored in women's studies.

Dakota Fanning
Dakota Fanning said she’d be happy to return to “The Alienist” for another season at a For Your Consideration event on May 15, 2018 in New York City. Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Turner

She earned her degree from NYU's Gallatin School of Individualized Study in 2011. She finished her studies in 2016, saying that Gallatin had been very flexible with her schedule. She told Indiewire in 2015 that they allowed her to do independent studies. "Everybody's been very understanding and supportive of that. It's kind of what Gallatin was founded upon, so it's really worked for me."

29. Gemma Chan has a law degree.

Gemma Chan
Gemma Chan is pictured attending the 91st Annual Academy Awards on Feb. 24, 2019 in Hollywood, California. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

She studied at Oxford before she pursued acting. Interestingly, Gemma said her degree helped her transition to acting and memorizing lines. "I had to learn about 2,000 cases by heart, so I am fairly good at learning scripts quickly," she said in 2019. She added that it also helped her read her contract!

30. America Ferrera finished a degree in international relations.

America Ferrera 2008
"Ugly Betty" star America Ferrera walked the red carpet in charcoal-gray, lace one-shoulder Monique Lhuillier gown and Jimmy Choo heels. Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

She started to attend USC in 2002, but she got the lead role in "Ugly Betty," which prompted her to take a leave of absence. She finished her degree as a well-known celebrity. She even tweeted excitedly about her graduation – a feat that took her ten years.