List of Presidents of the United States by previous experience

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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.

To sort a column, click the square button in the header.

By the numbers

Of the 43 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 one ex-president, John Quincy Adams, ever served as a U.S. Representative.

17 Presidents previously served as state Governors; 9 of 17 were Governors immediately before election as President.

16 Presidents previously served as U.S. Senators; only 3 immediately before election as President.

14 Presidents previously served as Vice-President. All except Nixon were VP immediately before election as 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.[3]

7 Presidents came from the state of Ohio; 6 from New York (7 if Grover Cleveland is counted twice);[4] 6 from Virginia; 4 from Massachusetts; 3 each from the states of Tennessee, California, and Texas; 2 from Illinois. Presidents have come from 10 other states, 18 different states in all.

5 Presidents were family relations of previous presidents: John Quincy Adams (son of John Adams), Benjamin Harrison (grandson of William Henry Harrison), Zachary Taylor (2nd cousin of James Madison), Franklin Roosevelt (5th cousin of Theodore Roosevelt) and George W. Bush (son of George H. W. Bush).

Order President Previous 1 Previous 2 Previous 3 Previous 4 State[5] Occupation photo
1 George Washington out of office[6] Constitutional Convention[7] out of office military[8] Virginia planter, land surveyor 100px
2 John Adams Vice-President foreign service[9] Continental Congress State legislator Massachusetts lawyer 100px
3 Thomas Jefferson Vice-President Secretary of State foreign service Congressman Virginia planter, lawyer 100px
4 James Madison Secretary of State U.S. Representative Constitutional Convention State legislator[10] Virginia planter James Madison.jpg
5 James Monroe Secretary of State foreign service State governor U.S. Senator Virginia lawyer James Monroe White House portrait 1819.gif
6 John Quincy Adams Secretary of State foreign service U.S. Senator State legislator Massachusetts lawyer John Quincy Adams.jpg
7 Andrew Jackson out of office U.S. Senator military U.S. Senator Tennessee lawyer Andrew Jackson.jpg
8 Martin Van Buren Vice-President Secretary of State State governor[11] U.S. Senator New York lawyer, political organizer MVanBuren.png
9 William Henry Harrison Local government Foreign service U.S. Senator State legislator Ohio military William Henry Harrison.jpg
10 John Tyler Vice-President[12] State legislator U.S. Senator State governor Virginia lawyer Johntyler.jpg
11 James K. Polk out of office State governor Speaker of the House State legislator Tennessee lawyer JKP.tif
12 Zachary Taylor military ---- ---- ---- Louisiana military Zachary Taylor restored and cropped.png
13 Millard Fillmore Vice-President[13] State office out of office U.S. Representative New York lawyer Millard Fillmore.jpg
14 Franklin Pierce out of office military U.S. Senator U.S. Representative New Hampshire lawyer Mathew Brady - Franklin Pierce - alternate crop.jpg
15 James Buchanan Foreign service out of office Secretary of State U.S. Senator Pennsylvania lawyer James Buchanan.jpg
16 Abraham Lincoln out of office U.S. Representative State legislator ---- Illinois[14] lawyer 100px
17 Andrew Johnson Vice-President[15] military governor[16] State governor U.S. Representative Tennessee tailor Andrew Johnson.jpg
18 Ulysses S. Grant military ---- ---- ---- Ohio military Ulysses Grant 1870-1880.jpg
19 Rutherford B. Hayes State governor out of office State governor U.S. Representative Ohio lawyer President Rutherford Hayes 1870 - 1880.jpg
20 James A. Garfield U.S. Representative military State legislator ---- Ohio lawyer James A. Garfield.jpg
21 Chester A. Arthur Vice-President[17] out of office Federal office[18] out of office New York lawyer 100px
22 Grover Cleveland State governor Local office[19] ---- ---- New York lawyer 100px
23 Benjamin Harrison out of office U.S. Senator out of office military Indiana lawyer 100px
24 Grover Cleveland out of office President of the U.S. State governor Local office[20] New York lawyer 100px
25 William McKinley State governor U.S. Representative ---- ---- Ohio lawyer Mckinley.jpg
26 Theodore Roosevelt Vice-President[21] State governor military Federal office[22] New York military historian 100px
27 William Howard Taft Secretary of War Territorial governor[23] judicial[24] Federal office[25] Ohio lawyer William Howard Taft.jpg
28 Woodrow Wilson State governor education[26] ---- ---- New Jersey academic President Woodrow Wilson portrait December 2 1912.jpg
29 Warren G. Harding U.S. Senator out of office State legislator ---- Ohio business owner Warren G Harding portrait as senator June 1920.jpg
30 Calvin Coolidge Vice President[27] State Governor State office State legislator Massachusetts[28] lawyer 100px
31 Herbert Hoover Secretary of Commerce out of office[29] ---- ---- California mining engineer 100px
32 Franklin D. Roosevelt State governor out of office Federal office[30] State legislator New York lawyer FRoosevelt.png
33 Harry S. Truman Vice President[31] U.S. Senator State office State office Missouri business owner HarryTruman.jpg
34 Dwight D. Eisenhower military ---- ---- ---- Kansas military Eisenhower official.jpg
35 John F. Kennedy U.S. Senator U.S. Representative military ---- Massachusetts politician John F. Kennedy, White House color photo portrait.jpg
36 Lyndon B. Johnson Vice-President[32] U.S. Senator U.S. Representative Federal office[33] Texas teacher 100px
37 Richard Nixon out of office Vice-President U.S. Senator U.S. Representative California lawyer Richard M. Nixon, ca. 1935 - 1982 - NARA - 530679.jpg
38 Gerald Ford Vice-President[34] U.S. Representative military ---- Michigan[35] lawyer Gerald Ford.jpg
39 Jimmy Carter out of office State governor State legislator military Georgia farmer Jimmy Carter.jpg
40 Ronald Reagan out of office State governor ---- ---- California[36] actor Official Portrait of President Reagan 1981.jpg
41 George H. W. Bush Vice-President out of office Federal office[37] foreign service Texas[38] businessman George H. W. Bush, President of the United States, 1989 official portrait.jpg
42 Bill Clinton State governor State Attorney General ---- ---- Arkansas lawyer, teacher Bill Clinton.jpg
43 George W. Bush State governor out of office [39] military [40] ---- Texas businessman George-W-Bush.jpeg
44 Barack Obama U.S. Senator State Legislator ---- ---- Illinois lawyer 100px

See also


  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. 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
  4. Cleveland served nonconsecutive presidential terms.
  5. "State" refers to the state generally considered "home", not necessarily the state where the president was born
  6. This designation is used whenever the subject was out of public office for more than one year
  7. 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.
  8. Commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War
  9. This is a general designation for any appointive position representing the United States to a foreign government
  10. This is a general designation for any elected state legislator
  11. Van Buren served just over two months of his term as Governor of New York before President Jackson appointed him Secretary of State
  12. Tyler succeeded President Harrison, who died in office. He was not re-elected.
  13. Fillmore succeeded President Taylor, who died in office. He was not re-elected.
  14. Lincoln was born in Kentucky, but moved to Illinois at an early age
  15. Johnson succeeded President Lincoln, who was assassinated. He was not re-elected.
  16. President Lincoln appointed Johnson military governor of Tennessee during the Civil War
  17. Arthur succeeded President Garfield, who was assassinated. He was not re-elected.
  18. This is a general designation for appointive domestic Federal offices below cabinet level
  19. This is a general designation for local elective offices
  20. This is a general designation for local elective offices
  21. Roosevelt succeeded President McKinley, who was assassinated. He was re-elected once (1904), chose not to run again in 1908, and ran unsuccessfully in 1912.
  22. Assistant Secretary of the Navy
  23. President McKinley appointed Taft Governor-General of the Philippines
  24. United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
  25. Solicitor General of the United States
  26. President of Princeton University
  27. Coolidge succeeded President Harding, who died in office. He was re-elected to a second term.
  28. Born and raised in Vermont and spent time in Vermont politics. Permanently moved to Massachusetts to attend college.
  29. During and following World War I, Hoover was involved with several humanitarian organizations.
  30. Assistant Secretary of the Navy
  31. Truman succeeded President Roosevelt, who died in office. He was re-elected to a second term.
  32. Johnson succeeded President Kennedy, who was assassinated. He was re-elected to a second term.
  33. head of the National Youth Administration in Texas
  34. Ford succeeded President Nixon, who resigned. He was not re-elected. Previously, Ford was appointed Vice-President after Spiro Agnew resigned. Currently only President not to have been elected to the Executive Branch.
  35. Ford was born in Nebraska, but moved to Michigan at an early age
  36. Reagan was born, raised and educated in Illinois; he moved permanently to California after graduation from college.
  37. Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
  38. Bush was born and raised in Massachusetts, but moved to Texas after graduation from college.