What are the career choices that help prepare a few, select individuals to make it to the top of Fortune 100 (F100) firms? Specifically, are there educational institutions that do a better job of putting leaders on a path to F100 CEO?

To find out, I looked into the backgrounds of the F100 company CEOs and identified several factors associated with their career paths: undergraduate schools, undergraduate degrees, graduate schools, graduate degrees, educational majors, functional emphasis, the number of years at their current company (at which they are CEO), and the companies that produce more CEOs (methodology below). In other articles, I have explored the undergraduate schools most attended by F100 CEOs, the number of firms F100 CEOs have worked for, and the early career choices of F100 leaders. In this article, I investigate the graduate degree decisions of the F100: 1) how many obtained graduate degrees, 2) percentage from public / private schools, and 3) the type of degree.

The number of F100 CEOs who hold graduate degrees may be surprising—54% have a graduate degree while 46% do not. Of those who earned graduate degrees, 69% attended private schools while 27% attended public schools and 4% that attended international masters programs. This is strikingly different data in comparison to the undergraduate degree level, where most of the F100 CEOs attended public schools (see study results here).

The types of graduate degrees that the F100 received are interesting. 59% earned MBAs, 16% JDs, 21% non-MBA master’s degrees (e.g., MA / MS), and 5% earned some other type of degree (e.g., PhD).

For example, David Long, CEO of the Liberty Mutual Insurance Group (#68 on the F100 list) has an MS in Finance (and an undergraduate degree in Mathematics). Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America (#24 on the F100 list), received a JD from Notre Dame. And Michael Neidorff, CEO of Centene (#61 on the F100 list), earned an MA in Industrial Relations from St. Francis University.

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