He enrolled at Peking University where he studied information management and earned a Bachelor of Science degree. In the fall of 1991, Li went to the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York in the US to study for a doctorate in computer science. He received his Master of Science in Computer Science degree in 1994 after deciding not to continue with the PhD.
In 1994, Li joined IDD Information Services, a New Jersey division of Dow Jones and Company, where he helped develop a software program for the online edition of The Wall Street Journal. He also worked on improving algorithms for search engines. He remained at IDD Information Services from May 1994 to June 1997. In 1996, while at IDD, Li developed the Rankdex site-scoring algorithm for search engine page ranking, which was awarded a U.S. patent. He later used this Technology for the Baidu search engine.
In 2001, he was named one of the "Chinese Top Ten Innovative Pioneers" In 2002 and 2003, he was consecutively named one of "IT Ten Famous Persons". In April 2004, he was named the second session of "Chinese Software Ten Outstanding Young Persons". On 23 August 2005, he was named the twelfth session of "ASEAN Youth Award". On 28 December 2005 he was named one of the "CCTV 2005 Chinese Economic Figures of The Year" On 10 December 2006 he was named 2006's "World's Best Business Leader" by the American Business Weekly.
Li studied information management at Peking University and computer science at the State University of New York at Buffalo. In 2000 he founded Baidu with Eric Xu. Li has been CEO of Baidu since January 2004. The company was listed on NASDAQ on August 5, 2005. Li was included as one of the 15 Asian Scientists To Watch by Asian Scientist Magazine on 15 May 2011.
On August 29, 2014, Robin Li was appointed by the United Nations Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, as co-chair of the Independent Expert Advisory Group on Data Revolution for Sustainable Development.