The subjects you should study if you want to be a billionaire

What university subjects were most commonly studied by the world’s richest people, like Microsoft’s Bill Gates? (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

There are more billionaires walking the planet than ever before.

According to the Forbes 2017 Billionaires List, there are now a record 2,043 billionaires, having increased by 233 from the previous year.

If you fancy joining the ranks of the mega rich – these billionaires are worth a whopping $7.7 trillion (about £5.7 trillion) – then what do you need to do?

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It turns out picking the right subjects to study at university or college can play a big part. Analysis of the rich list by recruitment specialists Aaron Wallis has highlighted that of the 100 richest billionaires, 75 pursued some form of higher education.

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As the table below highlights, these mega rich people picked some rather disparate subjects to study, though there are a few that stand out as being particularly popular among the would-be wealthy.

Degree subject Number of richest billionaires that studied this subject
Engineering 22
Business 16
Finance & Economics 11
Law 6
Computer Science 4
Art / History of Art 3
Philiosophy 2
Politics 2
English 2
History 2
Mathematics 2
Medicine 1
Physics 1
Psychology 1

Source: Aaron Wallis

Clearly, having a hands on understanding of engineering is a useful way to end up with the big bucks; if people are willing to spend £1,000 on a mobile phone that’s awfully similar to the one they already have, then it’s a good sign that tech is a fruitful area to pursue. Indeed, according to Forbes, there are now 183 tech billionaires.

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However, it’s notable that business and economics also score highly. Understanding economic cycles, and when – not just how – to make a deal are obviously incredibly useful assets for the super rich to have.

Working as a stock trader is one of the most common first jobs for the ultra rich (REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski/File Photo)

Aaron Wallis also picked out certain trends among the first jobs held by the richest of the rich. A significant 30% of the richest 100 inherited their wealth, which isn’t an option for most of us, but more than half of them started their working life in somebody else’s company.

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Interestingly, of those 53 super billionaires, the most common starting role was as a salesman (10), just ahead of being a stock trader (9), a software developer (5) and an engineer (5).

Again, a familiarity with making deals, with understanding how to sell something, is a big plus if you want to end up with a swimming pool filled with money a la Scrooge McDuck.

If you do manage to find yourself on the rich list, be warned that membership may only be temporary.

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Forbes kicked 78 members of the 2016 billionaires list off as a result of falling fortunes, most notably Elizabeth Holmes whose net worth went from $3.6 billion (£2.67 billion) to a big, fat zero after her blood testing company Theranos was the subject of a scandal that has raised the prospect of liquidation.