Making It Big: Without Even a High School Degree

robert de niro
robert de niro

Many of the driven, talented, and lucky have been able to make it big without a formal education -- some without even finishing high school. They range from Oscar-winner Robert De Niro to tycoon investor Kirk Kerkorian, reports Forbes.

The recent Forbes article, which lists 25 multimillionaires with no high school diploma, stirs the pot on a growing controversy. That heated argument, becoming more heated by the day, is about the nature of the relationship between formal education and professional success.

Some research, for example, shows that it's fairly common for "C" students to become the bosses of "A" students. The implication, of course, is that excelling academically does not guarantee a payoff in terms of career success.

But the Forbes piece pushes the whole question down to a more fundamental level. Those like De Niro and Kerkorian, along with musician Billy Joel and French investor Francois Pinault, bypassed even graduating from high school. Some contend that shutting the door on formal education is necessary to tune in to what your gut is telling you, as well as getting the most out of what the school of hard knocks can teach.

But before you flee the educational program you're enrolled in, or dump your plans to invest in a college education, remember one thing: Financial success without a secondary degree is atypical. When income figures from members of the two groups are calculated, those with at least a college degree earn (on average) much more.

Those who are able to earn big bucks without a degree seem to have some interesting traits in common. The first being ambition and the drive to push themselves in their chosen field. The second being luck (or the appearance thereof) in terms of having been able to attract a powerful mentor or just having been in the right place when opportunity knocked.