Schools With Most Fortune 500 CEOs

Chevon’s John Watson is the MBA who runs the largest company on the Fortune 500 list. He got his MBA from Chicago Booth.

Harvard Business School has four times as many chief executives of Fortune 500 companies than Stanford and three times as many as Wharton, according to a new study out. The analysis of where the CEOs of the Fortune 500 went to school was done by U.S. News & World Report.

The study found that the MBA was the most popular degree with the corporate elite. Some 200 out of 500 CEOs had an MBA degree on their resumes and 140 more had other graduate degrees among their academic credentials.

Harvard Business School led all B-schools with the most MBAs: 40 in all. Indeed, one in every five Fortune 500 CEOs with an MBA earned it at HBS. The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School was next, with 13 CEOs, while Stanford was third, with ten.

Following the big three was the University of Chicago Booth School of Business with 7, including Chevron’s John Watson, who is the MBA who heads up the highest ranked company (No. 3) on the Fortune list. Chicago metro rival Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management is right behind Booth with six Fortune 500 CEOs, tied with Indiana University’s Kelley School with six as well. Then came Columbia Business School and the University of Virginia’s Darden School, each with four Fortune 500 CEO alums.

U.S. News said that MIT, which failed to have a single Fortune 500 chieftain with an MBA, was still third on its list overall among institutions that awarded the most other graduate degrees to the executives, after Harvard and Columbia.

When U.S. News tabulated the results the include undergraduate and all graduate degrees, it found that the 500 executives collectively earned about 465 college degrees. About 35 Fortune 500 executives didn’t graduate from college, including Ralph Lauren and Sands Corp. CEO Sheldon Adelson, who both dropped. Still, the Fortune 500 executives who completed both college and graduate school collectively earned about 200 MBAs and about 140 other graduate degrees.

Harvard University topped the list of Fortune 500 CEO degree granters with 65 total degrees, said U.S. News. The next closest school was Stanford University, which doled out 27 undergraduate and graduate degrees. University of Pennsylvania awarded a total of 24 degrees to Fortune 500 CEOs, while the executives on the Fortune list earned 18 degrees from Columbia University.

Schools With Most MBA Alums Atop The Fortune 500

Rank & SchoolFortune 500 MBA AlumsFortune 500 Other Graduate AlumsFortune 500 Total Alums
  1. Harvard Business School401465
  2. UPenn (Wharton)13424
  3. Stanford GSB10627
  4. Chicago (Booth)7NANA
  5. Northwestern (Kellogg)6311
  5. Indiana (Kelley)6011
  7. Michigan (Ross)5314
  8. Columbia41118
  8. Virginia (Darden)4414
10. Cornell (Johnson)3213
10. Dartmouth (Tuck)3012
10. Rutgers3311

Source: U.S. News & World Report analysis of Fortune 500 CEOs



  • Clarence Nixon

    I was told that Kettering University has produced 13% of the Fortune 100 ceo’s?

  • M7_aspirant

    Looks like Booth just scored another F500 CEO, this time at Microsoft.

  • Thanks for mentioning (and linking) my piece!

  • josh

    Sorry better table (hopefully):

    Original Rank  School             MBA Alums   FT Enrollment Percent
    1                      HBS                40                    1,802               2.22%
    10                    Rutgers            3                      190                  1.58%
    5                      Indiana             6                      419                  1.43%
    3                      Stanford GSB 10                    803                  1.25%
    2                      Wharton          13                    1,717               0.76%
    8                      Virginia           4                      657                  0.61%
    4                      Chicago           7                      1,160               0.60%
    10                    Dartmouth       3                      548                  0.55%
    5                      Northwestern  6                      1,115               0.54%
    10                    Cornell           3                      593                  0.51%
    7                      Michigan         5                      1,046               0.48%
    8                      Columbia         4                      1,278               0.31%

  • josh

    If you ignore other correlating factors and use percent of fortune 500 MBA alums as a percent of full-time MBA enrolment figures (from this site) to take size into account you get a different ranking.
    Original RankSchoolMBA AlumsFT MBA EnrollmentPercent1Harvard Business School401,8022.22%10Rutgers31901.58%5Indiana (Kelley)64191.43%3Stanford GSB108031.25%2UPenn (Wharton)131,7170.76%8Virginia (Darden)46570.61%4Chicago (Booth)71,1600.60%10Dartmouth (Tuck)35480.55%5Northwestern (Kellogg)61,1150.54%10 Cornell (Johnson)35930.51%7Michigan (Ross)51,0460.48%8Columbia41,2780.31% 
    I’m not sure if this adds to the analysis but I found it interesting.

  • josh

    Also, you need to consider the graduating class size. Since HBS and Wharton graduate so many students they have a better chance of graduating a fortune 500 CEO…

  • Very good point. I totally agree with you. Thanks for making it.

  • Keep in mind though that the current generation of MBAs (from the late-1990s onwards – basically those under 40) no longer aspire to become a Fortune 500 CEO to the same degree compared to previous generations.

    I am willing to bet that if you surveyed MBA students and alums and asked them whether they would rather be a Fortune 500 CEO or the founder of their own business — the majority would rather own/operate their own business. And I bet that even in finance, the majority would rather run their own privately held funds than be a CEO of a major financial institution.

    Being a Fortune 500 CEO (or the CEO of any major publicly traded company) is akin to being in public office. You’re essentially a semi-public figure under so much scrutiny and with the tenures of CEOs become less and less (they get hired and fired now every 5-7 years on average), it’s not exactly seen as the plum job like it was perhaps in the 1980s and before.

    I’d venture to say it’s also because the job of a CEO at any large publicly traded company is much more demanding and requires an even greater sacrifice to one’s personal life than perhaps generations past: these days, large companies are global (lots more long-distance business travel) and they are under greater media/public/shareholder scrutiny, and the immense demands of “hitting the quarterly numbers.” Yes, the money can be amazingly good, but most people who are in a position to become CEO of a Fortune 500 company (in their 40s or later) typically are less willing to make that huge tradeoff when they know how much sacrifice they have to make at the expense of their personal life and family. Especially now when there are other avenues to be well compensated and to do work that is meaningful or fulfilling – without have to wade through decades of bureaucratic sludge and politics to become the head of a Fortune 500 company.

  • Rockams

    This list, i must say throws up some interesting facts…. performance of Indiana University and Kelley in particular is commendable…. even Rutgers. Some surprising entries and some not so obvious omissions.