In a day and age where society still puts skill and beauty over brains, it is refreshing to see that some famous persons value higher education. We often look up to celebrities, be it sports stars, movie stars or political figures. We create idols, heroes and try to emulate their wealth, fame or looks. However, it is less often thought about where our idols and heroes went to school.

We all hear about college kids quitting school to be drafted by the next sports team, earning millions of dollars to play a sport. The unsung heroes, though, are those that can manage to stay in school, not just to get a degree, but to see it all the way through to a doctorate. This article will look at 20 celebrities with PhDs so that we can admire our idols and heroes for another reason: their brains.

What is a Doctorate Degree?

The title “Dr.” doesn't just come from a white lab coat and a stethoscope. While it is true that a medical doctor does have a doctorate degree, you can earn a doctorate in virtually any and every field of study.

A doctorate is the highest level of degree offered by educational institutions and allows the person who earned the degree to add the “Dr.” to their name.

Additional Study

A doctorate, or Ph.D., is the degree earned after four years of additional study after you have earned your four-year bachelor’s degree. To qualify for a Ph.D., you must complete and pass all required classes and usually must also write a paper. A dissertation, capstone paper or mentored work in the selected field are common requirements to achieve that sheepskin document.

Most people will find that a doctorate isn’t required for their field of study and will stop their education after the bachelor’s degree. However, some fields, particularly in higher education, medicine, and science, require one before anyone will consider you for career placement.

Actual Versus Honorary

Doctorates are not easy to come by, as you can see. They take years of dedication, hard work and a mastery of the subject matter. Unless, of course, you're famous enough to receive an honorary one. But even honorary Ph.D.s generally go to people who've become distinguished in their field.

An honorary doctorate is a Ph.D. given to an individual as an award rather than a degree. The title Dr. is, in this case not used in the person's name, except within the institution that granted the honorary degree.

An Actual Ph.D.

The name comes from the Latin Philosophiae doctor and [Doctor of Philosophy] and requires courses, exams, residence, etc. When an honorary doctorate is given, it is a sign of respect and admiration for that group or individual for their services or contributions to the institution or society as a whole.

Kermit the Frog, a muppet, has an honorary doctorate from Southampton College, New York. This is not the most unusual instance of an honorary doctorate though.

In Israel, Bar-Ilan University bestowed an honorary degree to Magen David Adom, which isn’t a person, nor a muppet, it is the Israel national emergency service institution.

Odd degree giving is not why we are here though. We are after the celebrities with Ph.Ds. That have done the work and studies required to earn the degree the old-fashioned way.

The Celebrities with PhDs

What celebrities hold a Ph.D.? Let’s take a look.

Here's An Information of The Celebrities With PHDs

Sports Doctorates

Athletes are known for their prowess on the court or in the field. Shagging fly balls or dunking over an opponent. However, many of these men and women also work out their minds, holding the country’s highest educational achievement.

Shaquille O’Neal

Photo of Shaquille O'Neal.

CC By-SA 2.0 Keith Allison via Flickr.

Shaq spent 19 years on the basketball court earning four NBA title trophies and missing a lot of free throws. However, while he was on the court, he also continued his education. He earned his masters and bachelors degrees while playing basketball full time.

After he retired from the sport, he spent the next year finishing up his studies and earning his Ph.D. in human resource development.

Here's A Video About
"Shaquille O’Neal Earns A Doctorate Degree"

The Klitschko Brothers

The Klitschko Brothers with their boxing medals.

Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko are heavyweight boxing champions as well as doctors. The brothers fought in the ring and the classroom, both earning Ph.D.’s and nicknames (Dr. Ironfist and Dr. Steelfist). Vitali was the first boxing world champion to ever hold a Ph.D.

Frank Ryan

Frank Ryan

Photos courtesy of Frank Ryan and the Cleveland Browns.

Cleveland Browns quarterback, Frank Ryan, led the team to win a championship in 1964 against the Baltimore Colts. He also led himself down the aisle to accept his Ph.D. a mere six months later.

Mikhail Youzhny

Mikhail Youzhny

CC 2.0 Carine06 via Wikimedia Commons.

A world-ranked tennis player and former number one Russian ranked, Youzhny earned his Ph.D. from Moscow University in 2010.

Mike Marshall

Mike Marshall, one of many celebrities with PhDs.

Marshall was the 1974 Major League Baseball Cy Young award winner and arguably the best screwball pitcher to ever play the game. While pitching for the Minnesota Twins, he earned his Ph.D., stating that pitching was a hypothesis that just worked.

Alan Page

Alan Page

CC By-SA 2.0 VocalEssence Ensemble Singers via Flickr (cropped).

Former NFL great earned his doctorate in law and is now a supreme court judge in Minnesota.

Lise Leveille

Lise Leveille, one of many celebrities with PhDs.

Photos: BC Children's Hospital and Library and Archives Canada (inset).

Canadian Olympic gymnast Lise Leveille earned her Ph.D. in medicine and opened a pediatric orthopedic surgery in Dallas, Texas.

Actors and Actresses

Movie stars, television stars and even those starring in commercials have also led the way to higher education. Walking the red carpet may not be a notable skill, but these actors and actresses have the willpower to walk the stage.

Mayim Bialik

Mayim Bialik.

CC by A-SA 4.0 N4Chavez via Wikimedia Commons.

Maybe the best-known Ph.D. holder in the acting world is Mayim Bialik. Her role on The Big Bang Theory has her cast as the only member of the show that actually has a doctorate in the field of her character.

Robert Vaughn

Robert Vaughn is a celebrity with a PhD.

CC0 Public Domain US via Wikimedia Commons.

With a doctorate in communication, it is no wonder the Man From U.N.C.L.E. could smooth talk the ladies.

Dan Grimaldi

Dan Grimaldi - a celebrity with a PhD.

Promotional image via IMDB.

Dan Grimaldi holds a Ph.D. in data processing but is best known for playing twins on HBO’s The Sopranos.

Peter Weller

Peter Weller

Image: CC By 2.0 Supercon Conventions via Flickr.

Robocop has a brain. Actor Peter Weller earned his Ph.D., not by punching through brick walls, but through studying Roman art.

Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin, on eof many celebrities with PhDs.

CC By 2.0 Steve Jurvetson via Wikimedia Commons.

Temple Grandin earned her degree while acting and becoming a role model for disabled actors worldwide.


Music is a talent learned, and it should be no surprise that a lot of musicians also hold the highest degree. Many musicians have degrees and doctorates in the music of some sort. However, for a few, the music world isn’t their one true passion, it seems.

Greg Graffin

Greg Graffin

Image CC By-SA 3.0 Antje Naumann (AllSystemsRed) via

Greg Graffin holds a Ph.D. in zoology as well as playing keyboards for Bad Religion.

Milo Aukerman

Milo Aukerman

CC A-SA 3.0 IllaZilla via Wikimedia.Org.

Milo Aukerman, lead for The Descendents holds a doctorate in biology.

Dexter Holland

Dexter Holland

CC By A-SA 4.0 ImageLivioandronico2013 via Wikimedia.Org.

The Offspring frontman, Dexter Holland, also holds a Ph.D. in molecular biology.

Celebrities of Note

The rest of the list is full of names you should recognize. However, you may be surprised that they also should be called “Doctor.” Here are more celebrities with PhDs.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King

Condoleezza Rice

Condoleeza Rice

Rachel Maddow

Rachel Maddow

Image CC By 2.0 JD Lasica via Flickr.

Miuccia Prada

Minuccia Prada with Marta Wojcicka.

Image CC By-SA 2.0 Cory M. Grenier via Flickr.

Christy Turlington

Christy Turlington

Image CC By A-SA 2.5 via Lukeford.Net.

In Conclusion

Being famous, holding celebrity status and being the idol or hero of a young person shouldn’t be about your ability to sing or act. While these attributes are well deserved, the most inspiring celebrities are those that can hold their celebrity status up along with the doctorate.

It may surprise you to learn who has stuck it out through eight years of study. It should also inspire you to do the same.

Never Give Up

Whether you are still in school, thinking of attending, returning or starting, you should realize that it is never too late to give yourself a higher level of education. It is true that not every field requires a doctorate, but holding a Ph.D. and being able to call yourself "Dr." is something that you will cherish for a lifetime.

Don’t be afraid to go out and earn it. If these celebrities can do it, you can too. And who knows, perhaps you will find a spark, make a notable difference or strike out on your own, doing something completely different. It is even possible that we will see your name on this list in the future.

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