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Country Stars’ Surprising College Degrees

Terry Wyatt/Getty Images

Anybody who has seen This Is Spinal Tap knows the stereotype: popular musicians aren’t the smartest bunch. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Especially when it comes to country stars.

There’s a good chance your favorite country singer got edu-ma-cated at an institution of higher learning. And judging by some of these college degrees, it seems like not everybody had their sights sets on the big time.

Now, a lot of country stars went to college but put their degrees on the back burner in favor of a music career. That’s the case with Brett Eldredge (Elmhurst College), Jake Owen (Florida State), Tim McGraw (University of Louisiana at Monroe) and several others. Heck, Chris Stapleton moved to Nashville to attend Vanderbilt and study engineering (thank goodness that didn’t work out).

Other singers made sure to go back and finish their degrees. Interestingly, very few majored in music. Unsurprisingly, several majored in music business — like Brad Paisley, who is the shining star of music academia. He started at West Liberty State College in West Virginia before being offered a fully paid ASCAP scholarship to attend Belmont in Nashville, majoring in music business and interning at several high-profile music companies.

But would you believe me if I told you some stars studied teaching, advertising and even anthropology? Here are some country stars’ surprising college degrees.

1. Kris Kristofferson

Kris Kristofferson
New West Records

Kristofferson takes the cake for education. He excelled in just about everything he did in life, including academia. He graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Literature from Pomona College. Then, Kristofferson received the world’s most prestigious scholarship. He became a Rhodes Scholar, getting his masters in English Literature from Oxford University.

2. George Strait

Cooper Neill/Getty Images
Cooper Neill/Getty Images

George Strait studied agriculture at what is now known as Texas State University. It makes sense for Strait, who grew up in the farming and livestock community. He would then start his legendary career not far from campus at San Marcos’ Cheatham Street Warehouse.

3. Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen

Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen
Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen

Another notable Texas State alum, Randy Rogers studied “Mass Communications” with an emphasis on Public Relations. It’s hard to imagine Rogers in the PR world, so it’s probably a good thing he followed in Strait’s footsteps and started playing at Cheatham Street. And we’ll throw Wade Bowen in there, too, for good measure. Rogers’ best bud Bowen got a degree in PR from Texas Tech University. And they didn’t even plan it!

4. Kix Brooks

Kix Brooks
Green Room PR/Brett Warren

There’s a reason the jack-of-all-trades is so passionate about the music community. Kix Brooks studied Theatre Arts at Louisiana Tech, so he knows firsthand what an arts education can give you. He went on to become one half of megaduo Brooks & Dunn, and has since become a noted radio host and philanthropist.

5. Sam Hunt

Sam Hunt
Sam Hunt

Sam Hunt had to battle not one, but TWO stereotypes: the “dumb rock star” stereotype, and the “dumb jock” stereotype. That’s because he was a starting quarterback at University of Alabama Birmingham after spending two years at Middle Tennessee State. So how did he beat the stereotype? By majoring in Philosophy, and then ultimate graduating with a degree in Economics, of course.

6. Garth Brooks

country singers real names
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The biggest name in country music for the last 30 years, Garth Brooks reached his superstar status thanks to not only his talent, but also his marketing savvy. Brooks graduated from Oklahoma State University with a degree in Advertising before beginning his expansive career. Let’s see if he can put it to good use on his upcoming releases. He’s already snagged spots with CBS and Target, so it’s looking promising. Kenny Chesney also got a degree in Advertising (from East Tennessee State).

7. Cole Swindell and Luke Bryan

Cole Swindell
Jim Wright

Both Bryan and Swindell went to Georgia Southern University (if you couldn’t tell by Swindell’s hat). They met when Bryan was touring and still playing frat parties. Most people know that Swindell then got a gig as Bryan’s merch guy on the road. Swindell graduated with a Marketing degree, while Bryan graduated with a degree in Business Administration.

8. Reba McEntire

Reba McEntire Kris Kristofferson
Reba McEntire

Man, who wouldn’t want Reba McEntire to teach their class? It almost happened, too. The country icon got her degree in Teaching from Southeastern Oklahoma State. But if the no-nonsense attitude she portrays in her music and TV show are to be believed, she may crack the whip on the class more than once.

9. Jennifer Nettles

Jennifer Nettles
Jennifer Nettles

One half of standout duo Sugarland and a fantastic solo artist in her own right, Jennifer Nettles attended school at the tiny Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia. At the private women’s college, Nettles studied Sociology and Anthropology. She also started her first band, Soul Miner’s Daughter.

10. Josh Abbott

Josh-Abbott-Band
Wide Open Country

Josh Abbott was only a few credits away from getting his master’s degree in Rhetoric from Texas Tech University before he took off to start a music career. The decision worked out for him, because in a few years he rose to the top of the Texas country world.

11. Charles Kelley

Lady Antebellum
Charles Kelley

The whole Lady Antebellum trio is a pretty smart bunch, but Charles Kelley was one career move away from being a big name in banking. That’s cause he attending the University of Georgia and graduated with a degree in Finance. Maybe that has something to do with Lady Antebellum being one of the top selling country bands in the world?

12. Carrie Underwood

Carrie Underwood
Carrie Underwood

Carrie Underwood was actually studying to be a journalist before American Idol changed her life forever. She attended the tiny Northeastern State University in Oklahoma, and when she took a break for Idol, the school actually gave her internship credit for the show. Underwood returned afterwords to finish her degree in Mass Communications with an emphasis on Journalism.

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Country Stars’ Surprising College Degrees