The top five first jobs and university degrees of the world’s richest people

How do you become a billionaire? A new report analyzes the subjects that the top 100 richest people in the world studied in school and how they started out in their careers. Here’s a look at the trends.

While there are no guarantees that a career path will lead to certain wealth, analyzing the choices of those who have made it to the top can provide some insights. Fortunately, the British recruiting firm Aaron Wallis has done just that. Their team examined the backgrounds of the world’s 100 richest people to determine where their wealth came from.

It turned out that roughly one-third (30 percent) of the world’s wealthiest people either inherited their money or started out working for a family business. So, these are the least interesting subjects. If you have inherited enormous wealth, congratulations you can stop reading now. You’re already there.

A further 17 percent started their own business, and over half (53 percent) of the richest people began their careers by working for another company.

The most common first job of the current billionaires who began by working for someone else was a sales representative. A great number of the skills required to lead an organization are involved in the role of the sales rep.

The most successful salespeople know how to expertly communicate and empathize with their clients. They don’t just push products and services on them; instead, they understand the challenges of other organizations and find solutions to suit their needs.

They also negotiate internally to ensure that their own company can deliver on promises made and contracts signed. They must have honed people skills and a talent for negotiation and problem-solving.

The top five first jobs of the world’s richest billionaires

Sales Person

Stock Trader

Software Developer


Analyst (Varied)

The fact that both engineering and software development make the top five list is reflective of the fact that many of the world’s wealthiest entrepreneurs have made their money in technology. (The study points Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Larry Page of Google as examples.)

While we hear a lot of stories about the billionaires who dropped out of school and never obtained a degree (Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg), it turns out that three-quarters of the richest people actually did graduate from university.

For the 75 percent of the world’s wealthiest who earned university degrees, the most popular choice of study was in engineering at 22 percent. The second most common degree was in business at 15 percent, followed by finance and economics at 11 percent.

The top five university degrees of the world’s richest people



Finance & Economics


Computer Science

From this study, it looks like you are more likely to earn your wealth than to inherit it. The richest are also more likely to have a university degree than to have made it without one. Studying engineering or computers, business, finance, or law are the most common choices of the richest people.

Learn how to sell. A career in sales forces you to hone your customer service, communications, negotiation, persuasion, and problem-solving skills. These, along with many other aptitudes involved in sales, will make getting hired and getting promoted easier throughout your career.

So, while the odds are that it still won’t make you a billionaire, following the trends highlighted in this report should still lead to increased opportunities and a more successful career.

You can read the full report, with details on each of the individual 100 richest people, over on the Aaron Wallis website.

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