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August 7, 2013

Guest Post: Five Actors With Surprising Degrees

— Posted by Alex Faubel


They may have achieved fame and fortune in Hollywood, but these stars don’t just rely on their looks and charm; they’ve earned degrees in everything from English to neuroscience. Some of them have gone the traditional route and studied after high school; others have opted for online college courses. While certain celebrities stopped at a bachelor’s degree, a few have a master’s or even a Ph.D. Of all the celebrity secrets out there, advanced degrees may be the most surprising.


Will Ferrell: University of Southern California


Whether you remember him as Santa’s biggest elf or as a newscaster in Anchorman, comedian Will Ferrell takes his education seriously. The actor graduated from the University of Southern California with a major in sports broadcasting and sports information. Ferrell’s character-driven comedy got its start when he worked as an intern with NBC Sports and had the crew laughing with a few impromptu jokes. Maybe his background in broadcasting is why he was so believable in his role as Ron Burgundy.



James Franco: UCLA, Columbia University and Yale University


James Franco got his first big role in Freaks and Geeks, playing a future high school drop-out who was more interested in girls than studying, but in real life the actor holds academics in high regard. He has a bachelor’s degree in English with an emphasis on creative writing from UCLA, but that was just the start of his academic career. Between movie roles and hosting the Academy Awards in 2011, he also earned his master’s degree from Columbia University’s online Distance Learning Program. He’s got his PhD in English from Yale University and is now working towards another PhD in creative writing from University of Houston.



Bill Cosby: University of Massachusetts


For decades, Bill Cosby has entertained millions as an actor and stand-up comedian. His character on The Cosby Show was a physician, but the real-life Dr. Cosby earned his degree in education, not medicine, from the University of Massachusetts. From his early work with The Electric Company on PBS to his run as America’s favorite TV dad in the 1980s, Cosby has devoted himself to improving young people’s lives.


Mayim Bialik: UCLA


Her breakout role on Blossom and current role on the hit comedy The Big Bang Theory have kept Mayim Bialik in the public eye for years, but what she does off-camera is even more fascinating. The daughter of two teachers, Bialik learned at an early age to respect education. She took the lesson to heart, earning a pair of bachelors’ degrees in Hebrew and Jewish studies and neuroscience from UCLA. After a short break from academic work, she returned to get her doctorate in neuroscience with a focus on obsessive-compulsive disorders in children and adolescents.


Eva Longoria: Texas A&M University-Kingsville


Eva Longoria achieved fame as one of the stars of Desperate Housewives, but off the set the actress is committed to her own education and others’. She earned a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from Texas A&M University-Kingsville. She now champions the cause of higher education, particularly for Latino students and financially disadvantaged high school graduates who might otherwise miss out on educational opportunities. Longoria is focusing more on the big screen than on television these days, but she hasn’t lost her appreciation for the value of a good education.


Actors who have to work on location find traditional coursework a challenge. Whether they are filming in Tunisia or Toronto, it’s tough to commute to a local university campus. Online college courses are the solution for some stars while others take time off to go back to school. Either way, celebrities who invest in their futures with a good education don’t need to worry as much about landing a role when they have degrees as a backup plan.



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Alex Faubel writes on behalf of Westwood College, which offers online degree programs for non-traditional students seeking to start or advance their careers.

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