Super-smart: 10 superheroes with university degrees and doctorates

Super-smart: 10 superheroes with university degrees and doctorates
A replica of a crouching Spiderman (L) sits past figurines of Star Wars's characters Han Solo and Darth Vader comic book character stand is displays during the French Comic-Con Paris, at Paris Expo Porte de Versailles on March 31, 2024. Source: AFP

The fact that there are superheroes with degrees tells us a lot.

Whether it’s The Incredibles or Kim Possible, a Marvel or DC hero, these fictional characters have powers to do a seemingly infinite number of extraordinary things.

By swinging around buildings or shooting glowing balls of fire, they save entire cities, countries and even the universe.

Yet, for all their man-made or innate special powers, many superheroes still find the need to go to university — and not just for one, but several degrees.

What’s up with that?

How to become a superhero? Start with a degree

While most superheroes have origin stories like being born on another planet, being trained as a spy since young or literally being a god, a fair chunk of them started out with a university degree. 

Some of them either have multiple doctorates, degrees, and diplomas, or they have the field equivalent of them all.

To understand why someone who can shoot lasers or control minds sees the need of a university degree, we first need to turn to the definition of “higher education.”

Today, we define higher education as any study that takes place, usually after the age of 18 and sixth form or college, at a university.

Globally, over 220 million people are pursuing degrees or diplomas in public and private universities, colleges, technical training institutes, and vocational schools.

And they’re doing so for various reasons. If we look back to history, the Puritans founded Harvard College in 1636, the purpose of higher education was to produce “a learned clergy and a lettered people.”

In 2024, that’s changed a lot. According to a study of 60 peer-reviewed journal articles and 25 books published between 2000 and 2016, there are nine key reasons why people go to university:

  1. Social democratic values and action
  2. Advanced intellectual skills
  3. Advanced communication skills
  4. Interpersonal skills
  5. Preparation for employment
  6. Preparation for graduate school
  7. Personal life quality enhancement
  8. Personal integrity
  9. Family expectations

Like us, superheroes benefit from specialised knowledge and skills.

Batman may have Alfred and all the advanced technology in the world, but he still needs a working understanding of the laws of physics, with all the gravity-defying stunts he gets up to.

But perhaps for a group of people whose job is to help people and solve crime, the greatest benefit of a university degree is how it helps them understand people and crime.

For example, if you have the ability to shoot webs out of your palms, how do you know when to use these powers and how to use it best? Should you save a bus full of children or a train full of old people?

Once you have the answers to that, you’ll also need to communicate your opinions well, to your family and fellow superheroes.

Fail to understand people and the moral code they live by, and anyone with special powers is nothing more than a villain.

superheroes with degrees

You’d be surprised by the amount of superheroes with degrees. Some even have multiple. Source: AFP

Superheroes with degrees and doctorates 

Dr Strange

Stephen Strange was once a famed neurosurgeon who went to medical school at Columbia University. Using his photographic memory, he graduated with an M.D. and PhD simultaneously in four short years. 

While his magical powers came from his own recklessness and arrogance, there’s no denying that the good doctor has a brilliant mind. He can soak up information like a sponge — regardless of whether it’s origins are mystical or mundane.

Jean Gray

According to the official wiki page, Jean Gray holds a medical doctorate from Stanford University and holds a minor degree in psychology. After college, she took up a position at the Xavier Institute as a biology professor.

Her status as a telepathic and telekinetic mutant allows her to “hear”, control, influence, and communicate with the minds of others. Super useful for a psychology degree, if you think about it.

superheros with degrees

Fun fact: Despite being best known for playing Spider-Man, Tom Holland has said he has a very strong fear of spiders in real life. Source: AFP


Whether you’re a fan of the original Spider-Man comics or one of the Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, or Tom Holland adaptations, all Spider-Man stories start out the same – Peter Parker is an incredibly smart and gifted student. 

In the movies, Peter Parker is often shown inventing his own weapons and gadgets. This is emphasised even more with Marvel’s version of Spider-Man, with Peter’s level of intelligence catching the attention of Tony Stark himself.

And while he was rejected from MIT, it was solely based on his personal identity being revealed to the world, not because of his grades. 

In the original comics, he earns a science scholarship to Empire State University, a private Ivy League research university in Manhattan, New York City. While struggling to juggle his studies with his superhero life, he eventually goes on to earn a graduate degree in biophysics and his doctorate in biochemistry.

The Hulk may be the brainiest of all superheroes. Source: AFP


Robert Bruce Banner – or “The Hulk” as he’s more famously known as – has not one, but seven PhD’s. After graduating from Science High School, he studied nuclear physics at the fictional Desert State University.

He holds doctorates in nuclear physics, biomedical engineering, health physics, particle physics, biochemistry, mechanical engineering and computer science. According to the official wiki, Banner is famous for possessing a mind so brilliant that it cannot be measured by any known intelligence test.

In the Earth 616 comics, he’s an American theoretical physicist famed for his work in the fields of nuclear physics and gamma radiation. He even has expertise in fields like architecture, and even dabbles in gardening during his spare time.

Clark Kent

Yes, even Superman went to college. 

Despite being an alien orphan from another planet, Clark Kent graduated from Metropolis University with a degree in journalism. He then worked a nine-to-five job as a reporter for the Daily Planet, where he had a reputation for covering many stories about Superman – for obvious reasons. 

superheroes with degrees

Superheroes with degrees get acknowledged beyond their work fighting crime. Here, Baskin Robbins acknowledges their best employee – Ant-Man – with fun takeaway gifts during their 70th birthday celebration. Source: AFP.


Scott Lang may have started out as a thief before his Ant-Man gig, but he’s an extremely smart thief. In fact, he’s actually a scientist and inventor with a master’s degree in electrical engineering from MIT. 

In the movies, Scott worked for a company named VistaCorp, which was scamming its customers by overcharging. Eager to do the right thing, Scott tried to return the money to customers by breaking into his boss’s house – unfortunately, he was caught and jailed for four years.

Despite his degree, his time in prison cost him his chances at a normal engineering job, and he ended up working at Baskin Robbins. Spoiler alert: Things eventually did get better, though. 

Mister Fantastic

Reed Richards was an accomplished scientist and inventor before he became Mister Fantastic. He enrolled in the California Institute of Technology at 14 years old and then broke records for the highest IQ of 267 at 16 years old. 

The leader of the Fantastic Four has stretched himself in more ways than others. He has a whopping 18 doctorates in engineering, math, and physics, and has attended prestigious universities such as Caltech, Harvard University, Columbia University, and State University.

superheroes with degrees

Megan Thee Stallion makes a cameo on the Disney+ series of She-Hulk, proclaiming Jennifer Walters to be “much more fun than her last lawyer.” Source: AFP


When she’s not busy saving the world as the superstrong She-Hulk, Jennifer Walters is a private attorney in Los Angeles.

Famously known as the Hulk’s female counterpart, she’s actually his cousin and is just as passionate about education as he is.

She graduated with a law degree from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

In the Disney+ series She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, she navigates the woes of life in court, finding a match as a 30-something-year-old single woman and juggling being a green six-foot-seven-inch superpowered Hulk.

Actors Robert Downey Jr. (L) and Chadwick Boseman onstage during Marvel Studios fan event at The El Capitan Theatre on October 28, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. Source: AFP

Black Panther

The Black Panther – king of Wakanda and former international student. 

Before T’Challa became king and the Black Panther, he travelled to the US and Europe, attending prestigious institutes under the alias “Luke Charles.” During that time, he received a PhD in physics from Oxford University.

In the comics, T’Challa is stated to be the eighth smartest man in the world.

He also combined alchemy with science to create a new scientific field called shadow physics, which he used to track vibranium on a quantum level.


Interestingly in the Marvel sequel Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Shuri, the new Black Panther, visits MIT to seek out Riri Williams, a science genius who enrolled when she was only fifteen. 

The university hopped onto the hype train, even screening the movie on campus to hundreds of excited students.

A short fan film was released based on Riri Williams, starring real-life MIT student Ayomide Fatunde, a chemical engineering student.

“Although Riri Williams is a fictional MIT black woman, she’s played by a real MIT black woman, directed by a real MIT black woman, and ‘lives’ in a real MIT black woman’s dorm room, something I thought was pretty awesome,” says Selam Gano, a Robotics student at MIT.

“It shows that all of Riri’s characteristics can be found, collectively, among all of the black women at MIT, and I’m glad that there’s now an additional story among all the fictional stories where people can witness this identity.”


Even in the fictional world, you still need a degree to become a lawyer. 

Lawyer by day and crimefighter by night, Matt Murdock is an Ivy League graduate who received his law education from Columbia University and Harvard University.

He uses his keen “radar sense” in both his professional and personal life, allowing him to sense the location and shape of objects to a less sensitive degree.

superheroes with degrees

Many Marvel villains and superheroes with degrees graduated from MIT, including Tony Stark, Otto Octavius, Erik Killmonger and more. Source: AFP

Iron Man

This list wouldn’t be complete without Tony Stark, fondly known to MIT as their “greatest fictional alumnus”.

In the comics, Tony Stark claims to have received two master’s in engineering by 19 years old. Some issues mentioned that the character has three doctorates in engineering physics, artificial intelligence and other related fields. 

In the 2008 Marvel movie, Tony is seen wearing his school ring (dubbed the Brass Rat). The movie also shows Tony on the cover of MIT Technology Review, a real alumni magazine from the university.