What are your chances of becoming a millionaire? The odds might be better than you think. According to the 2015 World Wealth Report, there are now 14.6 million people who have a net worth of at least $1 million – and 920,000 were initiated just last year. The U.S. can lay claim to 4.4 million members of the millionaire club. And if you weren’t born into money, don’t worry – only 20% of American millionaires inherited their wealth.
Looking for more insight into millionaires and how they got their money? 80% of millionaires are college graduates, and according to a 2013 report by Spears Magazine and Wealth Insight, most of them have degrees in only a few subject areas.
Below are the five degrees most likely to be earned by those who went on to become millionaires. GoodCall spoke with a few experts to understand how these particular degrees could pave the way to seven-figures:
# 1: Engineering
Millionaires are more likely to have an engineering degree than any other type of college degree. GoodCall asked Olympia LePoint, a rocket scientist, the author of Mathaphobia, and a
TED speaker who spoke on “Reprogramming Your Brain to Overcome Fear,” why engineering is a good degree for future millionaires. “The main purpose of engineering is to envision a design and bring it into reality, while overcoming some of the most difficult challenges,” says LePoint. During this process, she says, the human brain is reshaped for success, and it is able to solve not only scientific problems, but issues that extend into executive business as well.
“Each billionaire (yes, that’s a ‘b’) must envision an marketable product, and then use all available resources to bring the idea into existence. Inventing, overcoming challenges, and multimillionaire-ship all require this brain ability.”
Lynn Babington, PhD, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Fairfield University in Connecticut, adds, “Engineers are poised to be millionaires because they are creative risk takers. Their education promotes new ways of solving both simple and complex problems.” Babington says engineering students have an entrepreneurial spirit, and they learn how to leverage their talents.
#2: MBA (Master’s of Business Administration)
An MBA is the second most commonly-found degree among millionaires. Professor Jerry F. White, the Morris Endowed Director of the Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship at the Southern Methodist University Cox School of Business notes that an MBA helps many entrepreneurs expand their business operations. “Many times, we see entrepreneurs who have hit a plateau and can’t seem to take their business to the next level. Graduate business school helps them see where their deficits are, and helps them acquire knowledge and skills to overcome those deficits – often with stellar results.”
White has one student who was an entrepreneur and built a business that already had $2 million in sales, but could not get beyond that point. “However, one of the student’s management courses helped him see a serious flaw in his management approach and motivation tactics. Another class helped him understand the proper relationships between debt and equity.” White says the student’s sales doubled within a year of graduation.
The third most popular degree among future millionaires is economics. Lisa Kaess, who is the founder of Feminomics, and has a Master’s degree in Economics from the London School of Economics and Political Science, finds it ironic that this specialty, frequently referred to as “the dismal science,” would also be referred to as “popular.”
However, she says that the study of economics focuses on analysis, building models to maximize limited resources, dispassionate reasoning, understanding the big picture (business cycles) and the smaller one (the firm), all of which provide a solid foundation that can lead to high-paying careers in commerce, finance, and policy. “Many people who study economics as undergrads pursue MBAs and/or enter business, finance, and technology, such as Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, who studied economics at Harvard, and was a protégé of Larry Summers,” says Kaess. And Sandberg, it should be noted, is actually a billionaire.
Jackie Brito, Assistant Dean at the Rollins College Crummer Graduate School of Business, adds, “If you don’t see the puzzle, you can’t develop the pieces.” She explains, “If you understand the economy, you understand business, and you understand how business fits in the global economy.”
It’s no surprise that many millionaires are legal eagles, making law the fourth most commonly pursued degree. GoodCall spoke with Avery M. Blank, JD, who graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law and is a senior law and policy analyst at the Center for Health and Homeland Security at the University of Maryland. According to Blank, lawyers and millionaires share five essential skills:
- “Negotiation: Lawyers and millionaires do not like to hear the word ‘no,’ so they will persist until they
figure out a way to get what they want.
- Sound judgment: Lawyers and millionaires must think critically to make wise decisions.
- Communication: Just as a lawyer’s success hinges on the ability to write and think persuasively, millionaires cannot be successful
on their own. They must be able to communicate effectively with others to
get business done.
- Self-discipline: Becoming a lawyer requires commitment, and
millionaires are committed to achieving and even surpassing their goals.
- A sense of urgency: Lawyers must meet deadlines all the time, so they
must work with a sense of urgency to not get behind. Millionaires become
millionaires because they do not wait to do something, whether it is
starting their business, starting to save, etc.”
#5: BBA (Bachelor’s in Business Administration)
A bachelor’s degree in business administration is the fifth most popular degree among millionaires. David P. Sims, a CPA and registered investment advisor, told GoodCall how he become a millionaire:
“I received my Bachelor’s in Business Administration, with a concentration in Finance, from
William and Mary College in 2002. In 2014, I became a millionaire, but I
started investing in 2002 with about $2,000. In 2009, I took out a
$35,000 loan to buy cheap stocks when the financial crisis knocked the
bottom out of the market. By 2014, I was worth $1 million and quit my
corporate job. I bought stocks like Genworth at $1.59 before it ran to
$17.00. And I bought preferred shares of multiple beaten down names for
pennies on the dollar.
According to Sims, you don’t have to go to a prestigious university to become a millionaire. He says, “William and Mary is a state school, and I chose to go there because money
was a concern for me. My mother was a social worker and my dad worked
for the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries my entire life.
In college, I was really challenged, especially in a topic I wasn’t familiar with. But I’d say
my interest in reading about great investors like Warren Buffett and
Peter Lynch supplemented my school work. This has become a passion for
me, not just a degree.”
Millions aren’t the only thing that matter
Julie Drew, PhD, who is a professor of English at the University of Akron and the author of The Tesla Effect, urges students to remember to think outside this list when choosing a major.
“Technical/vocational training in high-paying
professions will naturally result in graduates earning high salaries, because
the degree is matched to a specific job more often than liberal arts
degrees, which focus on broad cultural knowledge and human arts and letters,
as well as creative and critical thinking, rhetorical skills, and so on,” Drew says. However, “
graduates who earn humanities and social science degrees are dispersed far
more widely in terms of profession and income level, bringing their average
income down on the whole.
” Drew also argues that more students who major in engineering,
law, and business would name becoming a millionaire as an important goal, compared to students who major in philosophy, political science, or
“Counting millionaires as a measure of success is only
meaningful if all graduates have the same goals and expectations for their
professional lives. Students choose their majors and their professions for a
variety of reasons, making their eventual success a far more complex
calculation than simple accumulated wealth.”