Every liberal arts major has heard the joke before:

Q: What did the philosophy major ask the STEM major?
A: Would you like fries with that?

Turns out, however, that liberal arts majors can do much better than flipping burgers. The critical thinking skills, broad perspective, and lifelong learning habits of the typical liberal arts major lend themselves well to a wide variety of career pathways and goals.

Including the goal of making bucket loads of money.

We found this out by poking into the Inc 5000 list – Inc.’s list of America’s top entrepreneurs, year by year.

Inc ranks American entrepreneurs according to the percentage revenue growth of the companies they’ve helmed over the last 4 years. To qualify, each company must have had at least $100,000 in revenue in 2014, and at least $2 million in revenue in 2017. These are phenomenal companies, led by the best entrepreneurs and CEOs in America.

CEOs with Liberal Arts Degrees: What We found

Now, if you were to look at the top 250 entrepreneurs on Inc’s list, how many of them would you expect to have liberal arts degrees?

Perhaps you have no idea, so let’s do some estimating.

Around 12% of all graduates major in liberal arts, and only 11% of them go into business – which means that liberal arts majors who go into business make up about 1.3% of all graduates. Business majors, meanwhile, make up about 19% of all graduates.

Purely by the numbers, then, we’d expect no more than 12 liberal arts majors in the top 250 entrepreneurs: approximately 1 for every 19 business majors.

Well, our expectations were thrown out the window when we discovered more than twice that many. No less than 29 out of the top 250 entrepreneurs have liberal arts degrees!

Based on this research, an estimated 11.6% of top CEOs have liberal arts degrees – more than half what we would expect.

And if you don’t believe us, take a look for yourself:

Entrepreneur #1

Dave Barnett

CEO & Founder
B.S in Philosophy from Emory University

COMPANY: PopSockets makes self-adhesive, collapsible, expandable cell phone grips to help take selfies, text with one hand, and avoid dropping your phone.

Entrepreneur #2

Ryan Peterson

CEO of Flexport
B.A in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley

COMPANY: Flexport moves freight globally by air, ocean, rail, and truck for the major brands.

Entrepreneur #3

Maria Molland Selby

CEO & Founder
B.A in Economics from Northwestern University

COMPANY: THINX creates options and products that overcome the taboos about menstruation and reproductive health.


Entrepreneurs #4 & #5

Trina Spear

Co-Founder & Co-CEO
B.A in Economics from Tufts University

Heather Hasson

Co-Founder & Co-CEO
B.A. Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison

COMPANY: FIGS creates and sells stylish scrubs and other medical garb directly to health care professionals.

Entrepreneur #6

Alexander Renzi

B.A. Economics & Communications from Northwestern University

COMPANY: Lo70s is a full service, programmatic agency specializing in media monetization.

Entrepreneur #7

David Schlanger

B.A. Economics from Georgetown University

COMPANY: Progyny is a fertility benefits management company that combines clinical and emotional guidance, science, technology, and data to provide comprehensive fertility services for self-insured employers.

Entrepreneur #8

Jeff Kupietzky

B.A. Economics from Columbia University

COMPANY: PowerInbox is an e-mail based, personalized content recommendation platform that increases reader engagement while providing incremental revenue for e-mail publishers.

Entrepreneur #9

Paul Bertozzi

President & CEO
B.A. Economics from Auburn University

COMPANY: Live Oak Contracting is a general contracting firm offering multifamily and commercial development, design/build, renovation, rehab, and tenant improvement projects.

Entrepreneur #10


Benjamin Miller

B.A. Economics from the University of Pennsylvania

COMPANY: Fundrise develops an online platform that offers a simple, low-cost way to invest in real estate.

Entrepreneur #11

Name: Steve Sidel
Company: Mindoula
Inc’s description: Deploys case managers, care managers, community health workers, psychiatrists, and peer support specialists for those facing mental health challenges.
Position: CEO & Founder
Degree & College: B.A. Political Science from Brown University

Entrepreneur #12

Stuart Landesberg

CEO & Co-Founder
B.A. Economics from Amherst College

COMPANY: Grove Collaborative is a subscription-based service that delivers eco-friendly, natural home and personal care products to members.

Entrepreneur #13

Kory Stevens

B.A. Linguistics Brigham Young University

COMPANY: TAFT is a direct-to-consumer men’’s footwear brand.

Entrepreneur #14

Robert Reffkin

CEO & Founder
B.A. Economics-Philosophy and History, from Columbia University in the City of New York

COMPANY: Compass is a subscription-based service that delivers eco-friendly, natural home and personal care products to members.

Entrepreneur #15

Jim Sullivan

CEO & Founder
B.A. Economics from the State University of New York at Binghampton

COMPANY: HealPros helps health plans close care gaps for plan members with critical conditions like diabetes by providing in-home mobile testing.

Entrepreneur #16

Steve Vierra

COO & Co-Founder
A.A. Psychology from Saddleback College

COMPANY: SkillSet Group provides senior technical staffing and outsourced HR services to a diverse range of industries.

Entrepreneur #17

Kerry McGonigal

Managing Partner
B.A. Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley

COMPANY: Hyperion Partners specializes in consulting and business development for mobile technologies.

Entrepreneur #18

Andrew Josuweit

CEO & Founder
B.S. Economics from Bentley University

COMPANY: Student Loan Hero helps borrowers understand, manage, and repay their student loans.

Entrepreneur #19

Bryan Goldberg

B.A. Economics from Middlebury College

COMPANY: Bustle Digital Group publishes Bustle, Romper, Elite Daily, and other sites targeted to millennial women.

Entrepreneur #20

Andrew Fischer

CEO & Co-Founder
B.S. Economics from Vanderbilt University

COMPANY: Choozle provides a digital advertising platform that uses detailed consumer data to power real-time programmatic campaigns across display, mobile, social and video mediums.

Entrepreneur #21

Bob Kapadia

B.S. Economics, Biology from Northwestern University

COMPANY: Linea di Liara sells European-inspired wall lamps, ceiling lights, and chandeliers.

Entrepreneur #22

Patrick McKenna

B.A. English from Washington State University

COMPANY: Strike Social develops artificial intelligence software that powers social media advertising campaigns for major brands.

Entrepreneur #23

Kade Wilcox

B.A. History from West Texas A&M University

COMPANY: Primitive Social helps businesses tell their story online through their websites and social media and generates leads to ideal customers.

Entrepreneur #24

Joseph Dalton

B.A. History from University of California, Berkeley

COMPANY: ODL Services provides aviation, intelligence, technology development, logistics, and special operations support to government and commercial clients.

Entrepreneur #25

Jeremy Bodenhamer

B.A. English from Westmont College

COMPANY: ShipHawk develops a platform for retailers of all sizes to help them manage shipping and reduce costs.

Entrepreneur #26

Patrick Maloney

CEO & Founder
B.A. Philosophy, Political Science, and Economics from University of Pennsylvania

COMPANY: Inspire offers personalized energy management services to help consumers adopt clean energy and smart home technologies.

Entrepreneur #27

Pat Strader

B.A. Sociology & Anthropology from West Virginia University

Company: Digital Relativity offers traditional and digital marketing and advertising services.

Entrepreneur #28

Andrew Stalbow

CEO & Co-Founder
B.A. International History & Politics from the University of Leeds

COMPANY: Seriously develops the Best Fiends mobiles games and related consumer products.

Entrepreneur #29

Mitchell Cho

B.A. Government & International Politics from George Mason University

COMPANY: FedWriters helps government and commercial organizations develop a range of documents including technical reports, research studies, regulatory documents, user manuals, marketing materials, newsletters, and online and multimedia content.

This list has hopefully convinced you that liberal arts majors can excel in business – even outside the Inc 5000, liberal arts majors play a major role in business. Here are more business leaders with liberal arts degrees!

Businesswoman #30

Anne Iezzi

Vice President
B.A. History & Sociology from Eastern Connecticut University

COMPANY: Voya helps you plan, invest, and protect your savings to and through retirement.

Businessman #31

Danny Nicholson

B.A. Communications from Charleston Southern University

COMPANY: Connie Maxwell Children’s Home has a long history of caring for children and their families, and has continued to develop new programs with individualized services that provide stability and Christ-centered support during their time of need.

BusinessMan #32

David O’Reilly

Founder and Co-Owner, Owen Rowe Winery
B.A. Liberal Arts from Thomas Aquinas College

COMPANY: Owen Roe Winery produces beautiful wines from superior sites in the Pacific Northwest.

Entrepreneur #33

Emily Johnston

B.A. Art History from Sweet Briar College

COMPANY: The London-based blog Fashion Foie Gras is the place for women to get all their daily fashion news.

Businesswoman #34

Gretchen Hall

President & CEO
B.A. Economics from Lyon College

COMPANY: The Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau (LRCVB) is the official destination marketing organization for the City of Little Rock, charged with marketing and selling the city as a meeting, sports and leisure travel destination.

Entrepreneur #35

Harpreet Bedi

Co-Founder, Managing Director, Legal Counsel
B.A. Economics & International Relations from Sweet Briar College

COMPANY: Garcha Hotels is a luxury hotel group founded in 2015. The group consists of a chain of boutique hotels, many of which are located in Singapore.

Businessman #36

J. Eric Wilson

B.A. English & Economics from Lyon College

COMPANY: Noble Impact is an education non-profit that exposes students to relevant experiences and tools that enable them to navigate a world defined by uncertainty.

BusinessWoman #37

Jane Nemcova

Managing Director, Artificial Intelligence
B.A. Liberal Arts from Thomas Aquinas College

COMPANY: Lionbridge creates, transforms, tests, and trains content across a wide variety of industries – from text, voice, audio, video, to structured & unstructured data.

Businesswoman #38

Jane Nielsen

B.A. Economics from Smith College

COMPANY: Ralph Lauren offers luxury and designer men’s and women’s clothing, kids’ clothing, and baby clothes.

Businesswoman #39

Janice Deskus

B.A. Psychology from Eastern Connecticut University

COMPANY: Staples helps the world work better with work solutions that deliver industry-leading products, services and expertise across office supplies, facilities, breakroom, furniture, technology, promotional products, and print & marketing services.

Businesswoman #40

Millicent Lann

Managing Partner
B.A. Speech, Communication, & Rhetoric from Charleston Southern University

COMPANY: Premier Care provides a specialized treatment program for opioid dependent adults, ages 18 and over, who require physician-monitored methadone or suboxone treatment in addition to comprehensive counseling and crisis intervention services.

Businesswoman #41

Pamela Craig

Board of Directors & Chair, Audit Committee
B.A. Economics from Smith College

COMPANY: Akamai keeps digital experiences closer to users than anyone — and attacks and threats farther away.

Businessman #42

Ray Simpson

B.A. English Language & Literature from Lyon College

COMPANY: Simpson Galleries has been serving Houston’s need for the very best in antique sales venues for more than fifty years.

Businesswoman #43

Sarah Lynn Oquist

B.A. English from Lyon College

COMPANY: Sapientia Law Group was formed by a group of experienced lawyers from “big firms” to small, who independently arrived at one conclusion: The old law firm model is broken; there has to be a better way. This sentiment was not confined simply to the age-old criticism of billable hours, but extended to traditional firm infrastructures, value systems, compensation models, and an inability to achieve meaningful diversity.

Businessman #44

Shawn Meaike

B.A. Sociology from Eastern Connecticut University

COMPANY: Our mission at Family First Life is to make the families we protect and the families of our agents our number one priority.

Businesswoman #45

Stephanie Lee Berger

B.A. Political Science and Anthropology from Sweet Briar College

COMPANY: RISE is an international consulting firm providing advice, support and training to NGOs, philanthropic organizations and political and community leaders in the Middle East and Europe.

Businessman #46

Stephen O’Keefe

B.A. History from Christendom College

COMPANY: Virtual Service Operations is an end-to-end hybrid-cloud service management company, giving you the peace of mind to hand over projects and allowing you the freedom to scale your operation.

Businessman #47

Tim Halisky

B.A. History from Christendom College

COMPANY: RLA Mid-Atlantic partners with retail brokers to find innovative solutions to challenging insurance needs.

Hopefully, if you still had financial concerns about liberal arts degrees, this list has helped to clear them up.

To be sure, we don’t advocate the liberal arts for all students.

Liberal arts are, however, a choice that many students should seriously consider and explore.

As the individuals in this list have shown, a liberal arts major is often a step on the pathway toward a wildly successful career.