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In 2014, there were 1,645 billionaires in the world with a combined net worth of $6.4 trillion, according Forbes. What kind of education does it take to become one of the world’s richest people? Let's check out the five richest people and what kind of education got them there.

  1. Bill Gates, cofounder of Microsoft (MSFT). Net worth $76 billion. Gates attended an exclusive private college prep school where he, along with other students, had access to a teleprinter and a General Electric computer. Gates began learning the computer language BASIC. One of his classmates was Paul Allen who would become his future Microsoft cofounder. While in high school, Gates wrote his first computer program, an application that allowed people to play tic tac toe against the machine. Gates was an excellent high school student. After graduation, he attended Harvard University for two years before dropping out. Soon after, he reunited with his high school computer buddy Paul Allen, and they started the company that would become Microsoft. Gates is not only one of the riches men in the world but is viewed as one of the 5 Most Feared Figures in Finance and for good reason.
  2. Carlos Slim Helu, Mexican investor and telecom CEO. Net worth $72 billion. Slim, who was the richest person in the world from 2010 to 2013, is sometimes called the Warren Buffet of Mexico. Through his company Grupo Carso, he has massive holdings in many industries. He is also the CEO of Latin America’s largest mobile phone carrier. Slim’s father was a Lebanese immigrant who started with a dry goods store and branched out into real estate. Slim was put to work in the family business at a young age. He learned enough about business from his father that by age 12 he had already purchased shares in a Mexican bank. Slim graduated from the National Autonomous University of Mexico with a degree in civil engineering. (For related reading, see: How Carlos Slim Built His Fortune).
  3. Amancio Ortega, founder of Zara. Net worth $64 billion. Ortega is Spanish fashion executive and founding chairman of Inditex fashion group, which includes international fast fashion giant, Zara. Ortega grew up poor in a small town where his father was a railway worker. Ortega dropped out of school at age 14 to find a job and help his family. He found work with a local shirtmaker and that is where he started his education in fashion.
  4. Warren Buffet, businessman and investor. Net worth $58.2 billion. Now known as the Oracle of Omaha, Buffett was the son of a congressman and a precocious student. As a child and teen, he engaged in many side jobs and money-making schemes including delivering newspapers, selling magazines door-to-door, and buying and installing pinball machines at local businesses. At age 11, he had already bought his first securities. In high school, he was able to buy a farm. Buffett enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania at the age of sixteen to study business and finished his degree at the University of Nebraska. At 20 years old, he had already amassed $20,000 from his childhood business ventures. Buffett finished his formal education at Columbia University where he earned a master’s degree in economics. He is also fond of noting that he took a Dale Carnegie class in public speaking. To find out more about Buffett's investment strategy and philosophy, see: Warren Buffett: How He Does It.
  5. Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle (ORCL). Net worth $48 billion. Ellison is the only billionaire on this list to drop out of not one, but two colleges. He enrolled at the University of Illinois, but dropped out after two years. After spending time in California, Ellison returned to the Midwest and complete just one term at the University of Chicago, where he first became interested in computers. Ellison moved to California where he worked as a programmer and eventually started the company that would become Oracle. Ellison is the 2nd Top Paid CEO (see: 5 Top Paid CEOs).

The Bottom Line

Out of the Forbes list of the 400 richest people, 63 have just a high school diploma. These include Mark Zuckerburg, Bill Gates, and Sean Parker. Twenty-nine of 400 richest people in the world have a master’s degree, and 21 have PhDs. There are also 35 law degrees and five MDs in the mix. As Warren Buffet is quoted in Business Insider, ”The best education you can get is investing in yourself. But that doesn't always mean college or university.”

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