List of Presidents of the United States by previous experience

Although many paths may lead to the Presidency of the United States, the most common job experience, occupation or profession of U.S. presidents has been lawyer.[1] This sortable table enumerates all holders of that office, along with major elective or appointive offices or periods of military service prior to election to the Presidency. The column immediately to the right of the Presidents' names shows the position or office held just before the Presidency. The next column to the right lists the next previous position held, and so on. Note that the total number of previous positions held by an individual may exceed four; the number of columns was limited to what would fit within the page width. The last two columns on the right list the home state (at the time of election to the Presidency) and primary occupation of each future President, prior to beginning a political career.

By the numbers

Of the 44[lower-alpha 1] different people who have served as President:

  • 26 Presidents had previously been lawyers.
  • 22 Presidents had previous military experience; 9 were generals in the US Army.[2]
  • 18 Presidents previously served as U.S. Representatives; 6 of 18 held this office prior to the four 'previous positions' shown in this table. Only one - James A. Garfield - was a Representative immediately before election as President. Only John Quincy Adams served as a U.S. Representative after being President. Additionally, after being president, John Tyler served in the Provisional Confederate Congress and was later elected to the Confederate House of Representatives, but he died before taking his seat.[3]
  • 17 Presidents previously served as Governors; 16 were State Governors; 9 were Governors immediately before election as President. Only one, William Howard Taft, served as a Territorial Governor.
  • 16 Presidents previously served as U.S. Senators; only 3 immediately before election as President. Only one president, Andrew Johnson, ever served as a U.S. Senator after his presidency.
  • 14 Presidents previously served as Vice President. All except Richard Nixon were Vice Presidents immediately before becoming President; 9 of the 14 succeeded to the Presidency because of the death or resignation of the elected President; 5 of those 9 were not re-elected.
  • 8 Presidents were out of office (for at least one year) immediately before election as President.
  • 8 Presidents previously served as Cabinet Secretaries; 6 as Secretary of State; 5 of the 8 served immediately before election as President.
  • 7 Presidents had previous experience in foreign service.[4]
  • 5 Presidents had never been elected to public office before becoming President: Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant, Herbert Hoover, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Donald Trump. Most of these had, however, been appointed to several prominent offices. Hoover's contributions toward the Treaty of Versailles preceded his appointment as Secretary of Commerce. Taylor, Grant and Eisenhower led U.S. forces to victory in the Mexican–American War, American Civil War and World War II, respectively, each occupying the highest-ranking command post of their time. Donald J. Trump is the group's sole exception, having never held any public office nor any military position.
  • 2 Presidents served as Party leaders of the House of Representatives, James A. Garfield and Gerald Ford.
  • 1 President served as an ordained minister, serving as a pastor in the Disciples of Christ (Christian) Church. James A Garfield. [5] [6]
  • 1 President had never served in elected public office, the military, or government before becoming President: Donald Trump was a real estate developer, businessman, and television personality who was the chairman of the Trump Organization.
  • 1 President served as Speaker of the House of Representatives, James K. Polk.
  • 1 President served as President pro tempore of the United States Senate, John Tyler.
  • 1 President served as Party leader of the United States Senate, Lyndon B. Johnson.
  • 1 President served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, William Howard Taft. He did so after his presidency.
  • 1 President served as President of the United States for two non-consecutive terms, Grover Cleveland.


PresidentPrevious 1Previous 2Previous 3Previous 4OccupationState[7]
1George Washingtonout of office[8]Constitutional Convention[9]out of officemilitary[10]planter, land surveyorVirginia
2John AdamsVice-Presidentforeign service[11]Continental CongressState legislatorlawyer, farmerMassachusetts
3Thomas JeffersonVice-PresidentSecretary of Stateforeign serviceCongressmanplanter, lawyer, land surveyor, architectVirginia
4James MadisonSecretary of StateU.S. RepresentativeConstitutional ConventionState legislator[12]planterVirginia
5James MonroeSecretary of Stateforeign serviceState governorU.S. Senatorplanter, lawyerVirginia
6John Quincy AdamsSecretary of Stateforeign serviceU.S. SenatorState legislatorlawyerMassachusetts
7Andrew Jacksonout of officeU.S. SenatormilitaryU.S. Senatorlawyer, soldierTennessee
8Martin Van BurenVice-PresidentSecretary of StateState governor[13]U.S. Senatorlawyer, political organizerNew York
9William Henry HarrisonLocal governmentforeign serviceU.S. SenatorState legislatormilitaryOhio
10John TylerVice-President[14]State legislatorU.S. SenatorState governorlawyerVirginia
11James K. Polkout of officeState governorSpeaker of the HouseState legislatorlawyer, planterTennessee
12Zachary Taylormilitary------------militaryLouisiana
13Millard FillmoreVice-President[15]State officeout of officeU.S. RepresentativelawyerNew York
14Franklin Pierceout of officemilitaryU.S. SenatorU.S. RepresentativelawyerNew Hampshire
15James Buchananforeign serviceout of officeSecretary of StateU.S. SenatorlawyerPennsylvania
16Abraham Lincolnout of officeU.S. RepresentativeState legislatorMilitarylawyer, land surveyorIllinois[16]
17Andrew JohnsonVice-President[17]military governor[18]U.S. SenatorState governortailorTennessee
18Ulysses S. Grantmilitary------------militaryIllinois[19][20]
19Rutherford B. HayesState governorout of officeState governorU.S. RepresentativelawyerOhio
20James A. GarfieldU.S. RepresentativemilitaryState legislator----Ordained minister, lawyer, teacherOhio
21Chester A. ArthurVice-President[21]out of officeFederal office[22]out of officelawyer, teacher, tariff collectorNew York
22Grover ClevelandState governorLocal office[23]--------lawyerNew York
23Benjamin Harrisonout of officeU.S. Senatorout of officemilitarylawyerIndiana
24Grover Clevelandout of officePresident of the U.S.State governorLocal office[23]lawyerNew York
25William McKinleyState governorU.S. Representativemilitary----lawyerOhio
26Theodore RooseveltVice-President[24]State governormilitaryFederal office[25]military historian, rancherNew York
27William Howard TaftSecretary of WarTerritorial governor[26]judicial[27]Federal office[28]lawyer, deanOhio
28Woodrow WilsonState governor------------academicNew Jersey
29Warren G. HardingU.S. Senatorout of officeState legislator----journalist, publisherOhio
30Calvin CoolidgeVice President[29]State GovernorState officeState legislatorlawyerMassachusetts[30]
31Herbert HooverSecretary of Commerceout of office[31]Federal office[32]----mining engineerCalifornia
32Franklin D. RooseveltState governorout of officeFederal office[25]State legislatorlawyerNew York
33Harry S. TrumanVice President[33]U.S. SenatorCounty commissioner (County court)militarybusinessperson, farmerMissouri
34Dwight D. Eisenhowermilitary------------military, University PresidentKansas
35John F. KennedyU.S. SenatorU.S. Representativemilitary----journalist, military officerMassachusetts
36Lyndon B. JohnsonVice-President[34]U.S. SenatorU.S. RepresentativeFederal office[35]teacher, military officerTexas
37Richard Nixonout of officeVice-PresidentU.S. SenatorU.S. RepresentativelawyerCalifornia
38Gerald FordVice-President[36]U.S. Representativemilitary----lawyerMichigan[37]
39Jimmy Carterout of officeState governorState legislatormilitaryfarmerGeorgia
40Ronald Reaganout of officeState governor----MilitaryactorCalifornia[38]
41George H. W. BushVice-Presidentout of officeFederal office[39]foreign servicebusinessman, military pilotTexas[40]
42Bill ClintonState governorState Attorney General--------lawyer, teacherArkansas
43George W. BushState governorout of office[41]military[42]----businessperson, military pilotTexas
44Barack ObamaU.S. SenatorState legislator--------lawyer, teacher, community organizerIllinois[43]
45Donald Trump----------------businessman, real estate developer, television personalityNew York

See also


  1. Grover Cleveland was elected to two nonconsecutive terms, and as such is considered the 22nd and 24th President of the United States; only 44 people have served.


  1. International Law, US Power: The United States' Quest for Legal Security, p 10, Shirley V. Scott - 2012
  2. George Washington was commanding general of the Continental Army, the pre-independence equivalent of the US Army. The 9 US Army generals were Jackson, W. H. Harrison, Taylor, Pierce, Grant, Hayes, Garfield, B. Harrison and Eisenhower. Others with military experience were Monroe, McKinley, T. Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, L. B. Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Ford, Reagan, G. H. W. Bush, G. W. Bush.
  3. Journal of the Congress of the Confederate States of America, 1861–1865 Volume 1. U.S. Government Printing Office. 1904. pp. 303, 658.
  4. Martin van Buren's brief foreign service is not counted since, although he was appointed Ambassador to the United Kingdom, the appointment was rejected by the U.S. Senate
  5. The Preacher President
  6. The Singular Humility of America's Only Ordained President
  7. "State" refers to the state generally considered "home", not necessarily the state where the president was born
  8. This designation is used whenever the subject was out of public office for more than one year
  9. Washington was first chosen by the Virginia State Legislature to be a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. Then he was elected by the delegates to be president of the convention.
  10. Commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War
  11. This is a general designation for any appointive position representing the United States to a foreign government
  12. This is a general designation for any elected state legislator
  13. Van Buren served just over two months of his term as Governor of New York before President Jackson appointed him Secretary of State
  14. Tyler succeeded President Harrison, who died in office. He was not elected.
  15. Fillmore succeeded President Taylor, who died in office. He was not elected.
  16. Lincoln was born in Kentucky, but moved to Indiana, then Illinois at an early age
  17. Johnson succeeded President Lincoln, who was assassinated. He was not elected.
  18. President Lincoln appointed Johnson military governor of Tennessee during the Civil War
  19. Grant was born and raised in Ohio. He rose to prominence as a Civil War general from Illinois and Illinois was his residence for his political career."The Congressional Globe". Library of Congress. 1868. p. 1063.
  20. McFeely, William S. (1981). Grant: A Biography. Norton. pp. 232–233. ISBN 0-393-01372-3.
  21. Arthur succeeded President Garfield, who was assassinated. He was not elected.
  22. This is a general designation for appointive domestic Federal offices below cabinet level
  23. 1 2 This is a general designation for local elective offices
  24. Roosevelt succeeded President McKinley, who was assassinated. He was elected once (1904), chose not to run again in 1908, and ran unsuccessfully in 1912.
  25. 1 2 Assistant Secretary of the Navy
  26. President McKinley appointed Taft Governor-General of the Philippines
  27. United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
  28. Solicitor General of the United States
  29. Coolidge succeeded President Harding, who died in office. He was elected to a second term.
  30. Born and raised in Vermont and spent time in Vermont politics. Permanently moved to Massachusetts to attend college.
  31. Following World War I, Hoover was involved with several humanitarian organizations.
  32. Director of United States Food Administration
  33. Truman succeeded President Roosevelt, who died in office. He was elected to a second term.
  34. Johnson succeeded President Kennedy, who was assassinated. He was elected to a second term.
  35. head of the National Youth Administration in Texas
  36. Ford succeeded President Nixon, who resigned. He was not elected. Previously, Ford was appointed Vice-President after Spiro Agnew resigned. Currently only President not to have been elected to the Executive Branch.
  37. Ford was born in Nebraska, but moved to Michigan at an early age
  38. Reagan was born, raised and educated in Illinois; he moved permanently to California after graduation from college.
  39. Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
  40. Bush was born in Massachusetts, and raised in Connecticut, but moved to Texas after graduation from college.
  41. P.O. Box 400406. "George W. Bush: Life Before the Presidency—Miller Center". Retrieved 2016-12-27.
  42. York, Byron. "Byron York on George W. Bush & National Guard on National Review Online". Archived from the original on 2008-08-30. Retrieved 2016-12-27.
  43. Obama was born in Hawaii and mostly raised there. His career was based in Illinois
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