Mayim Bialik, who earned a degree from UCLA, is shown in Los Angeles in 2012.
When you’re a kid, you tend to idolize celebrities.
You don’t think about college much, just your dream to make it on the big screen or to play a sold out concert hall. You look up at your idols, with starry eyes, wondering when you’ll get your big break like they did.
And while plenty of stars succeeded young, others took a different path.
Here are five celebrities who earned graduate degrees and how they use them today (sort of).
1. Shaquille O’Neal — retired NBA player, rapper, actor
Degree/s: MBA from University of Phoenix and PhD in education from Barry University.
How it’s being used: While it may be difficult to figure out why a millionaire like Shaq would need graduate degrees, he explained to the Washington Post why he got his MBA.
“It’s just something to have on my résumé [for] when I go back into reality,” O’Neal said in the article. “Someday I might have to put down a basketball and have a regular 9-to-5 like everybody else.”
And for the Ph.D., Shaq told CNN that he earned it for his mother, “who always stressed the importance of education.” Amen to that, Mr. O’Neal! But a 9-to-5? Seems unlikely…
2. Mayim Bialik — Amy on The Big Bang Theory
Degree/s: Ph.D. in neurobiology from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
How it’s being used: Seeing as her character Amy in the hit TV show “The Big Bang Theory” is a neurobiologist, it seems having that knowledge in real life can be helpful. While it’s probably not required and the other stars of the show don’t have such a heavy science background, it definitely can’t hurt.
Plus, it must not be too difficult for her to get into character. Or, at least, she knows nerdy, fun science-types from her college years to draw inspiration from.
3. Dexter Holland — lead singer of The Offspring
Degree/s:Master’s degree in molecular biology from the University of Southern California (USC).
How it’s being used: Known for his raunchy lyrics and the band’s upbeat rock music, it’s hard to see how a master’s in molecular biology can be useful. However, Dexter has taken on an additional pursuit: hot sauce.
Yes, hot sauce.
Debuting in late 2006, Holland’s Mexican-style hot sauce, Gringo Bandito, came to him after two years of experimentation. It’s sold at supermarkets throughout Southern California and Las Vegas (including Albertsons). Seems he could’ve used a trick or two from mixing chemicals in grad school to create the perfect hot sauce.
4. Sufjan Stevens — singer-songwriter
Degree/s: MFA in creative writing from the New School.
How it’s being used: The indie folk sensation, who seems to sell out every show he plays, has clearly found a use for his degree. On top of being published in literary journals, Stevens is known for his creative lyrics, which sometimes feel like creative fiction and non-fiction stories.
Also, it’s been said he got some of his inspiration from grad school while writing about Michigan for his thesis.
5.) James Franco — actor
Degree/s: MFA in creative writing from Columbia University. Current doctorate student of English at Yale University and, surprisingly, a couple other programs at different schools (he’s ridiculously busy, taking more than the require number of credits at several schools).
How it’s being used: This overachiever in acting and academics is also the author of a collection of short stories titled Palo Alto: Stories.
He’s also taught classes at New York University (though NYU probably would have taken him without his graduate degree) and ended a relationship because he was too busy with education.
He’s stated in many interviews that he just loves education and learns what he wants. Regardless if Franco is directly applying his education to the screen, he’s clearly gaining personal fulfillment from it.
There are many more examples of celebrities who have earned graduate degrees — some who use their degrees in both subtle and obvious ways and some who earned the degrees before they knew of their upcoming fame. Regardless, a master’s degree or Ph.D. may benefit you in a variety of fields or just intellectually.
Whether you’re mixing ingredients to make a hot sauce, like Holland, or writing short stories, like Franco, you’ll find a way to use that graduate degree.
And who knows, maybe it’ll even make you famous one day.
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