Engineering is a winner – if you go to university at all, that is
Prospective university students set on making their millions should sign up for some extra engineering lectures, new analysis has shown.
More than a fifth, or 22pc, of the world’s wealthiest people studied engineering at university, accounting for almost twice as many billionaires’ degrees as the next most popular choice.
A business education has helped 12pc of plutocrats amass their fortunes, while nine per cent of the fattest cats studied an arts subject at university – more than those who specialised in more business-oriented topics such as economics and finance.
Approved Index, the business-to-business buying platform, analysed the educational background of billionaires by examining Forbes’ list of the richest 100 people in the world.
While just four per cent of these people studied maths and science at university, the strong turnout for engineering graduates supports those campaigning for a better emphasis in schools on so-called STEM subjects, which includes science, technology, engineering and maths.
Engineering graduates are also the richest of their prosperous peers, with an average wealth of $25.8bn, compared to a net worth of $24bn for billionaires without a degree and $22.5bn for those who studied finance.
Girls who take just one A-level in this area could earn an extra £4,500 each year, a recent report found, while those who do two STEM subjects could see their salaries increase by a third. The wage boost for boys is slightly lower, at 8 per cent.
The recent focus on STEM subjects means the billionaires of the future could look different to those of today. The number of students taking chemistry at A-level has risen by almost a fifth, while physics, biology and maths have increased by 15 per cent, 12 per cent and 8 per cent respectively.
An Oxbridge education bumps up a starting salary to the tune of £7,600, according to a recent report from the Sutton Trust, although another survey found that a degree from the London Business School is the most lucrative for British alumni.
However, the report suggests that multi-millionaires in the making might be better off foregoing university altogether, as almost a third of the wealthiest people in the world do not have degrees – although their average wealth is lower than those with engineering degrees.
Bill Gates, the richest person in the world with a fortune of around $79bn (£53.1bn), famously dropped out of Harvard, as did Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, the youngest person in Forbes’ top 100 with a $33.4bn net worth.
Amy Catlow, director at Approved Index, said: “These findings undoubtedly add a new dimension to the debate about the relevance and value of a degree today and suggest that in order to have a thriving and diverse economy, we need to encourage a varied range of specialisms.”
There are 2,325 billionaires in the world with a combined net worth of $7.29 trillion, which is almost a tenth of global GDP and is higher than the combined market capitalisation of all the companies that comprise the Dow Jones Industrial Average, according to The Wealth-X and UBS Billionaire Census.