The Top 10 Fortune 500 CEOs with an MBA |

The Top 10 Fortune 500 CEOs with an MBA

By Julia G

Updated February 26, 2021 Updated February 26, 2021

Many MBA students dream of heading up a Fortune 500 company, but for most, it remains a pipe dream. Interestingly, only around a third of CEOs in the most recent Fortune 500 ranking have MBAs, meaning that it’s certainly not a prerequisite. However, the 10 CEOs below have put their MBA learning into practice at the helm of the world's leading firms:

1) C. Douglas McMillan, University of Tulsa College of Business Administration

Company: Walmart

Fortune 500 Rank: 1

Carl Douglas McMillan was born in 1966 and grew up in Arkansas, attending the University of Arkansas and graduating with a bachelor’s degree in accounting in 1989. Having first worked for Walmart as a summer associate in 1984, he later returned to the company full-time while studying for his MBA. McMillon completed the program the following year, graduating with a University of Tulsa MBA in 1991.

Walmart began in the US in 1962, but now operates around the world, with many stores and subsidiary groups based in different countries. It remains the largest grocery retailer in the US but has grown substantially and now offers a plethora of other products.

2) Darren W. Woods, The Kellogg School of Management

Company: ExxonMobil

Fortune 500 Rank: 2

Hailing from Wichita, Kansas, Darren Woods has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Texas A&M University. He then completed an MBA at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Woods joined ExxonMobil in 1992, working at the company for 24 years before being promoted to CEO. Prior to his appointment Woods ran the refining and chemical divisions of the company.

ExxonMobil is one of the largest multinational oil and gas corporations in the world. It is also the largest oil refiner in the world and produces about three percent of the world’s oil and two percent of the world’s energy.

3) Tim Cook, The Fuqua School of Business

Company: Apple Inc.

Fortune 500 Rank: 3

Timothy Donald Cook has been the CEO of Apple Inc. since the resignation of Steve Jobs in 2011 due to ill health. Before getting the CEO appointment, he held the role of Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Apple. Born in Mobile, Alabama, in 1960, he earned a Bachelor of Science in industrial engineering from Auburn University and his MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business in 1988. Cook is the first openly gay Fortune 500 CEO.

Apple Inc. is one of the world’s Big Four tech companies, designing, developing and selling consumer electronics, computer software and online services. Their best-known products include the iPhone smartphone, the iPad tablet and the Mac personal computer.

4) Mary T. Barra, Stanford Graduate School of Business

Company: General Motors (GM)

Fortune 500 Rank: 13

Mary Barra first studied at the General Motors Institute, graduating with an electrical engineering degree. However she also worked for them in 1980 in Detroit where she demonstrated her leadership skills as manager of an assembly plant. She completed an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business in 1990.

Founded in 1908, GM has grown into a multinational corporation that designs and produces vehicles used worldwide. Interestingly, GM is the only car manufacturer whose headquarters remain in Detroit, historically known as the ‘Motor City’.

5) Jamie Dimon, Harvard Business School

Company: JPMorgan Chase

Fortune 500 Rank: 18

Jamie Dimon was born in New York City in 1956. He majored in psychology and economics at Tufts University. Post-graduation, he worked as a management consultant for two years before enrolling on the MBA program at Harvard Business School, graduating in 1982. Prior to his move to JPMorgan in 2000, he worked for American Express and Commercial Credit. He was named as CEO of JPMorgan on 31 December 2005.

JPMorgan Chase is a multinational investment bank and financial services company headquartered in New York City. It is ranked by S&P Global as the largest bank in the US and the sixth largest bank in the world by total assets.

6) H. Lawrence Culp Jr., Harvard Business School

Company: General Electric (GE)

Fortune 500 Rank: 21

Harry Lawrence ‘Larry’ Culp Jr. was born in the Washington D.C area. He earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from Washington College, followed by an MBA at Harvard Business School. Larry is the 12th CEO of GE, joining the board of directors in April 2018 before being named as CEO in October of the same year.

He served as president and CEO of Danaher Corporation prior to joining GE, from 2000 to 2014. He also used to be a senior lecturer at HBS, focusing on leadership, strategy and general management in the MBA and executive education programs.

GE is an American multinational conglomerate operating in a huge variety of segments including aviation, renewable energy, power, healthcare, venture capital and oil and gas among others.

7) Joseph W. Gorder, Our Lady of the Lake University

Company: Valero Energy Corporation

Fortune 500 Rank: 24

Joe Gorder took over as Chairman and CEO of Valero Energy Corporation in 2014, after serving at the company for 25 years. He attended the University of Missouri-St. Louis where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration, before attending Our Lady of the Lake University, where he completed his MBA.

Valero is based in Texas and researches, manufacturers and markets fuels for transportation industries, as well as other petrochemical products. Founded in 1980, it now has a number of refineries outside the US, for example in the UK and Canada.

8) Satya Nadella, Booth School of Business

Company: Microsoft

Fortune 500 Rank: 26

Hailing from Hyderabad, India, Satya Nadella received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the Manipal Institute of Technology. He then travelled to the US to study for an M.S in computer science at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, graduating in 1990. He subsequently received an MBA from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Nadella joined Microsoft in 1992 and held a variety of roles, including Vice-President of the Business Division, before being appointed as CEO in February 2014, the third CEO in the company’s history.

Microsoft was founded in 1975 by Bill Gates and has consistently been one of the world’s leading technology companies since its inception. In April 2019, it became the third US public company to be valued at over US$1 trillion.

9) Gary R. Heminger, University of Dayton

Company: Marathon Petroleum

Fortune 500 Rank: 31

Heminger joined Marathon Petroleum in 1975, meaning his time at the company has spanned over an impressive 40 years. He completed his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Tiffin University in 1976, whilst already employed by Marathon. This was followed by an MBA from the University of Dayton, Ohio, in 1982.

Marathon Petroleum is the largest petroleum refinery operator in the US, with 16 refineries and over 3 million barrels per day of refining capacity. Their origins date back to 1887, when their former parent company, Marathon Oil, joined together with several other small oil companies to form The Ohio Oil Company.  

10) Gail Koziara Boudreaux, Columbia Business School

Company: Anthem Inc.

Fortune 500 Rank: 33

Born in 1960, Gail Koziara Boudreaux attended Dartmouth College for her BA, where she was also an outstanding player for the Dartmouth Big Greens Women’s basketball team. She completed her MBA at Columbia Business School in 1989.

She worked at various healthcare firms in the US including Aetna, BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois and UnitedHealthcare, before being appointed CEO of Anthem in 2017. Anthem Inc. is the largest healthcare insurance provider in the US with over 40 million members.

This article was originally published in October 2019 . It was last updated in February 2021

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Written by

Julia is a writer for, publishing articles for business students and graduates across the world. A native Londoner, she holds an MSc in Marketing Strategy & Innovation from Cass Business School and a BA in Classical Studies & English from Newcastle University.