Does Elon Musk Have A Bachelor Degree In Physics?

In December 2022, a thread that was authored by the Twitter account “Capitol Hunters” went viral when it alleged that billionaire Elon Musk lied about his educational background.

More specifically, the thread alleged that Musk lied about receiving a bachelor of arts degree in physics from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as his claim of briefly attending a Ph.D. program at Stanford.

The thread also went viral because it was authored by the Twitter account “Capitol Hunters.” This article investigates the debate that surrounds obtaining a degree in physics.

What Elon Musk Said About His Education

Early biographies claimed that in 1995, Musk graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with degrees in both economics and physics. For instance, Musk disclosed the following details about his academic and professional experience in a 2002 SEC filing for the business PayPal:

From 1995 through February 1999, Mr. Musk served in a variety of capacities at Zip2 Corp., including Chairman, CEO, and CTO. In 1995, Mr. Musk earned a B.S. in Economics from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a B.S. in Physics from the University of Pennsylvania.

Internet advertising businessman John O’Reilly sued Elon Musk in 2007 over allegedly fraudulent representations Musk made to obtain a business meeting with him in 1995. O’Reilly claimed that Musk stole trade secrets. In the document, O’Reilly asserted:

Musk erroneously asserted that he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in physics in 1995, although the only degree he actually possesses was earned after that year. According to evidence and belief, Musk only holds a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania, which he earned in 1997.

Musk’s degrees were made public in the lawsuit, which resulted in a decision in his favor. Martin Eberhard, the founder of Tesla, used these records as evidence in a 2009 lawsuit in which he accused Elon Musk of “taking control of the company [Tesla], orchestrating his ouster in 2007, and trying to rewrite history’ to claim credit for developing the ground-breaking electric Roadster the two men collaborated to develop.”

Although the dispute was resolved outside of court, Musk discussed his educational background in a deposition that was required by this matter. Regarding the timing of when he actually obtained these degrees, Musk was ambiguous in that situation.

Pennsylvania University Statements And Documents

Another area of contention focuses on the specific format and content of the physics degree. In the paperwork submitted as part of the O’Reilly and Eberhard claims, there are certificates for both a Penn economics degree and a claimed physics degree.

Musk is listed as a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. Musk donated Penn’s Center for Particle Cosmology a “substantial donation” in 2009, the same year the issue with Eberhard was contested, enabling for the yearly “Elon Musk Public Lecture”:

The Center for Particle Cosmology received a kind endowment in 2009, the center’s first year of operation, which allowed for the holding of the Elon Musk Public Lecture. Mr. Musk is a proud supporter of the preparedness that a physics education offers in a variety of jobs and an alumnus of Penn’s Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The owner of the legal blog Plain site and longtime critic and adversary of Elon Musk, Aaron Greenspan, requested a declaration from Penn regarding Musk’s academic credentials in 2019. The university’s public affairs staff responded by saying:

Elon Musk graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in physics and a B.S. in economics (with a focus on finance and entrepreneurial management). The certificates were given out on May 19, 1997.


Musk is regarded by the University of Pennsylvania as having completed both the economics and physics programs. However, Musk’s earlier claims regarding his educational history have been, at best, vague.

Although this claim was never entirely accurate, it may have helped Musk’s early commercial career. Musk has claimed on numerous occasions to have earned a physics degree in 1995.

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