16 Famous People Who Earned PhDs, Medical Degrees, And Other Doctorates (And Not Just Honorary Ones)

Plenty of celebs — from Taylor Swift to Tracee Ellis Ross — have been recipients of honorary doctorates. However, some have actually put in the work and earned a genuine PhD, medical degree, or other doctoral-level degree.

Here are 16 celebs who've earned the right to say, "Actually, it's Dr.":

1.Dr. Shaquille O'Neal earned his doctorate in education from Barry University in 2012, fulfilling a promise he made to his mom that he'd finish college after leaving Louisiana State for the NBA.

Shaq at graduation
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2.Dr. Ken Jeong earned his medical degree from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and completed his internal medicine residency in New Orleans, where he won the "Big Easy Laff-Off." Soon after, he moved to LA to pursue comedy.

Ken Jeong in a doctor's coat
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3.Dr. Mayim Bialik took a break from acting after Blossom and earned her PhD in neuroscience from UCLA. When she returned to acting, she played neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory.

Mayim Bialik in a lab coat
Michael Yarish / © CBS / Courtesy Everett Collection

4.In the early '70s, Dr. Brian May paused his astrophysics studies (his thesis was almost complete) to play guitar as a founding member of Queen, but 30 years later, he "put everything ... on hold for a year" and completed his PhD from Imperial College, graduating in 2007.

Brian May onstage performing
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5.Dr. George Miller dabbled in short film at the end of medical school and continued working as a doctor to earn a living while writing and directing his first low-budget feature film, Mad Max. He, of course, went on to write and direct the successful, decades-spanning Mad Max franchise.

George on the Mad Max set
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6.Dr. Robert A. Leonard, who led Sha Na Na and performed at Woodstock, left music when he was awarded a prestigious Fulbright fellowship, which funded his PhD in linguistics at Columbia. Since then, he's become "one of the foremost language detectives in the country." He worked on JonBenét Ramsey's murder case, testifying that the ransom note he analyzed wasn't written by the man who made a false confession.

Robert performing at Woodstock

7.Dr. Pedro-Juan Vázquez Bragan — aka PJ Sin Suela — graduated from Universidad Central del Caribe with his medical degree in 2015, but he quickly decided to pursue rap instead of medicine. However, he returned to medicine to help his fellow Puerto Ricans after Hurricane Maria and during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pedro-Juan smiling in front of an entrance with a Spotify logo
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8.The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power actor Dr. Lenny Henry (aka Sir Lenny Henry) earned his PhD in media arts from Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2018. His thesis was titled "Does the Coach Have to be Black? The Sports Film, Screenwriting and Diversity: A Practice-Based Enquiry."

Lenny in a scene from The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
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9.Before joining the family business as a fashion designer, Dr. Miuccia Prada earned her PhD in political science from the University of Milan.

Miuccia smiling
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10.Dr. Graham Chapman, who was in the comedy group Monty Python, earned his MD from the Medical College of St Bartholomew's Hospital. He didn't practice medicine for long, but his educational background came in handy when he wrote for the series Doctor in the House.

Graham sitting at a table and holding props
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11.Actor and comedian Dr. Ellen Cleghorne, who was an iconic Saturday Night Live cast member in the '90s, earned her PhD in performance studies from NYU in 2014. The program taught her "to look at something and see one thing in everything."

Ellen in a sketch
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12.Dr. Don S. Davis earned a doctorate in theater from Southern Illinois University in 1982. He was an academic and professor until 1987, when he retired to pursue acting full time, landing notable roles in Stargate SG-1 and Twin Peaks.

Don in a scene from Stargate
MGM Television Prod. / Courtesy Everett Collection

13.Worried that he'd never be able to support himself as a writer, Dr. Michael Crichton earned his MD from Harvard Medical School in 1969. However, during his final year, the film rights to his bestseller The Andromeda Strain were sold. He forwent a medical career entirely and went on to write novels like Jurassic Park and movies like Westworld.

Michael sitting outside
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14.Dr. Dan Grimaldi, who played Patsy and Philly Parisi on The Sopranos, earned his PhD in data processing from the City University of New York. He also worked as a professor.

Dan smiling in a suit
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15.Dr. Harold Gould earned a PhD in theater from Cornell. He was also a professor at the university from 1948 to 1953, and he taught drama, literature, and speech. However, in his late 30s, he left academia for acting, landing roles in everything from The Sting to The Golden Girls.

Harold embracing Betty White
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16.And finally, when Dr. Peter Weller, who played the titular character in RoboCop, was 51, he enrolled in the summer Italian art program at Syracuse University. He went on to earn his master's; then, in 2014, he earned his PhD in Italian Renaissance art history from UCLA. He later created a scholarship fund for Syracuse grad students in the same program.

Peter as RoboCop
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