Dr. M. Veerappa Moily completed his Primary and High School education at Moodabidri. In 1962, he graduated from the Govt. College, Mangalore with his Bachelor's Degree from Mysore University and a Degree in Law from Bangalore University.
He began his career in Fisheries Department and later worked in LIC. He began his legal practice independently in Karkala (a temple town in Coastal Karnataka) in 1969. He established an association called KisanSabha, through which he organized and educated landless tenants about their rights under the Land Reforms Act and fought for their land-ownership. His work for the exploited tenants earned him the epithet "Friend of the tenants".
This paved the way for Dr. M. Veerappa Moily's first election to the Karnataka Legislative assembly from Karkala in 1972 and thus began his journey into Indian politics.
Furthermore, Dr. Moily holds an honorary doctorate awarded by Mangalore University, on Feb 16, 2009; and also by the Russian Academy.