US presidents and Degrees

William Howard Taft was chief Justice and later president of USA

By Chris Kyle
John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, once suggested that we “remember that our nation’s first great leaders were also our first great scholars.”

Case in point: Five of our first six U.S. presidents received a college degree, and the sixth, George Washington, received a surveyor’s certificate from The College of William and Mary.

In honor of President’s Day and the 43 men who have held the job, let’s take a look at some certificate and degrees available today, and the presidents who earned them.

Lyndon B. Johnson earned his teaching certificate from Southwest Texas State Teachers College in 1930 (now Texas State University-San Marcos) and worked as a teacher before and after graduation.

Woodrow Wilson served as president of Princeton University and worked as a teacher prior to becoming President of the United States. John Adams taught before he went into politics, as did Andrew Jackson and Grover Cleveland (who landed an assistant teacher position through the help of his brother William).

Harry Truman attended Kansas City Law School (now the University of Missouri-Kansas City). Though he didn’t complete his Juris Doctor (JD) degree, his two years of schooling would have been enough time to earn an associate’s degree in paralegal studies or court reporting.

Barack Obama has been very vocal about the power of an associate’s degree. “In an economy where jobs requiring at least an associate’s degree are projected to grow twice as fast as jobs requiring no college experience, ” he says. “It’s never been more essential to continue education and training after high school.”


Most of our presidents – 34 to be exact – have earned a bachelor’s degree.

Jimmy Carter and Herbert Hoover studied engineering in college and earned bachelor’s of science degrees. They are the only two presidents to have found work as engineers.

Ronald Reagan studied sociology and economics at Eureka College in Illinois, becoming an actor and sportscaster before launching his career in politics.

When he was elected in 2000, George W. Bush became the first U.S. President to have earned his master’s in business administration (MBA), though this fact isn’t so surprising when you consider that the world’s first MBA program wasn’t established until 1908.


More than half of our 44 presidents (23 total) have been lawyers, including Obama, which is a trend that began with John Adams, our second president.

Obama earned his JD from Harvard, where he served as the first black president of the school’s law review.

William Howard Taft is the only president who also served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He received his bachelor of laws, a precursor to the JD, at the University of Cincinnati.

If our presidents have taught us anything, it’s that many different degrees can lead to greatness.

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