Here's what the world's most successful people study

Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs CEO.

Not everyone can be a successful dropout like Richard Branson or Mark Zuckerberg.

So what sort of degree does it take to put you on the path to success?

A new study by the British Council has revealed that a degree in social sciences, along with international studies and work experience are the two most common traits of professional leaders around the world.

The findings, discussed at the British Councils’ international higher education conference Going Global revealed 55% of leaders held a degree in social sciences or humanities, while 46% took up work or studies outside of their home country.

International experience was found to be important in fostering soft skills such as communication skills, cultural understanding, flexibility, and the ability to solve problems.

The study analysed 1,709 professional leaders from 30 countries with corporate, non-profit and government backgrounds.

British Council director of education Professor Rebecca Hughes said people who can draw from multiple cultural reference points with academic training and explore the human dimensions behind observational data end up being the most successful leaders.

“The world needs leaders who can handle complexity and give diverse perspectives on the challenges we all face,” she said.

Leaders under 45 had a tendency to favour the social sciences and humanities, while those over 45 were more likely to have studied STEM degrees (science, technology, engineering or maths).

“Our research shows a clear need for leaders who have critical analytical and interpretative skills as well as professional knowledge, leaders who can make decisions based on understanding of cultural context and human insight, and leaders who are international in their outlook and, increasingly, in their learning experience,” British Council director in the US Paul Smith said.

Smith said quality leadership and the ability to navigate risk and opportunity would depend on people’s ability to uncover “holistic solutions to humanly complex problems”.

“Knowledge and aptitude in the humanities, the social sciences and STEM are all essential to grow trustworthy global leadership,” he said.

Now read: 29 People With ‘Soft’ College Majors Who Became Extremely Successful.

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