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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. 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.

Of the 44 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.

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.

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

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 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.

7 Presidents came from the state of New York (8 if Grover Cleveland is counted twice), 6 from Ohio and 5 from Virginia; 4 from Massachusetts; 3 each from the states of Tennessee, California, Texas and Illinois. Presidents have come from 10 other states, 18 different states in all.

5 Presidents were close family relations of previous presidents: John Quincy Adams (son of John Adams), Benjamin Harrison (grandson of William Henry Harrison), Zachary Taylor (second cousin of James Madison), Franklin Roosevelt (nephew-in-law and distant cousin of Theodore Roosevelt), and George W. Bush (son of George H. W. Bush).

President Previous 1 Previous 2 Previous 3 Previous 4 State Occupation
1 George-Washington.jpg George Washington out of office Constitutional Convention out of office military Virginia planter, land surveyor
2 Johnadams.jpg John Adams Vice-President foreign service Continental Congress State legislator Massachusetts lawyer
3 02 Thomas Jefferson 3x4.jpg Thomas Jefferson Vice-President Secretary of State foreign service Congressman Virginia planter, lawyer
4 James Madison.jpg James Madison Secretary of State U.S. Representative Constitutional Convention State legislator Virginia planter
5 James Monroe White House portrait 1819.gif James Monroe Secretary of State foreign service State governor U.S. Senator Virginia lawyer
6 John Quincy Adams.jpg John Quincy Adams Secretary of State foreign service U.S. Senator State legislator Massachusetts lawyer
7 Andrew Jackson.jpg Andrew Jackson out of office U.S. Senator military U.S. Senator Tennessee lawyer
8 MVanBuren.png Martin Van Buren Vice-President Secretary of State State governor U.S. Senator New York lawyer, political organizer
9 William Henry Harrison.jpg William Henry Harrison Local government foreign service U.S. Senator State legislator Ohio military
10 Johntyler.jpg John Tyler Vice-President State legislator U.S. Senator State governor Virginia lawyer
11 JKP.tif James K. Polk out of office State governor Speaker of the House State legislator Tennessee lawyer
12 Zachary Taylor restored and cropped.png Zachary Taylor military ---- ---- ---- Louisiana military
13 Millard Fillmore.jpg Millard Fillmore Vice-President State office out of office U.S. Representative New York lawyer
14 Mathew Brady - Franklin Pierce - alternate crop.jpg Franklin Pierce out of office military U.S. Senator U.S. Representative New Hampshire lawyer
15 James Buchanan.jpg James Buchanan foreign service out of office Secretary of State U.S. Senator Pennsylvania lawyer
16 Abrahamlincoln.jpg Abraham Lincoln out of office U.S. Representative State legislator ---- Illinois lawyer
17 Andrew Johnson.jpg Andrew Johnson Vice-President military governor State governor U.S. Representative Tennessee tailor
18 Ulysses S. Grant 1870-1880.jpg Ulysses S. Grant military ---- ---- ---- Ohio military
19 President Rutherford Hayes 1870 - 1880.jpg Rutherford B. Hayes State governor out of office State governor U.S. Representative Ohio lawyer
20 James A. Garfield.jpg James A. Garfield U.S. Representative military State legislator ---- Ohio lawyer
21 Chester A. Arthur.jpg Chester A. Arthur Vice-President out of office Federal office out of office New York lawyer
22 Grover Cleveland.jpg Grover Cleveland State governor Local office ---- ---- New York lawyer
23 Benjamin Harrison.jpg Benjamin Harrison out of office U.S. Senator out of office military Indiana lawyer
24 Grover Cleveland.jpg Grover Cleveland out of office President of the U.S. State governor Local office New York lawyer
25 William McKinley by Courtney Art Studio, 1896.jpg William McKinley State governor U.S. Representative military ---- Ohio lawyer
26 President Theodore Roosevelt, 1904.jpg Theodore Roosevelt Vice-President State governor military Federal office New York military historian
27 William Howard Taft.jpg William Howard Taft Secretary of War Territorial governor judicial Federal office Ohio lawyer
28 President Woodrow Wilson portrait December 2 1912.jpg Woodrow Wilson State governor education ---- ---- New Jersey academic
29 Warren G Harding portrait as senator June 1920.jpg Warren G. Harding U.S. Senator out of office State legislator ---- Ohio journalist
30 29 Calvin Coolidge 3x4.jpg Calvin Coolidge Vice President State Governor State office State legislator Massachusetts lawyer
31 President Hoover portrait.tif Herbert Hoover Secretary of Commerce out of office ---- ---- California mining engineer
32 FDR in 1933.jpg Franklin D. Roosevelt State governor out of office Federal office State legislator New York lawyer
33 Harry S. Truman.jpg Harry S. Truman Vice President U.S. Senator County commissioner (County court) military Missouri business owner
34 President Eisenhower Portrait 1959.tif Dwight D. Eisenhower military ---- ---- ---- Kansas military
35 John Fitzgerald Kennedy.png John F. Kennedy U.S. Senator U.S. Representative military ---- Massachusetts politician
36 37 Lyndon Johnson 3x4.jpg Lyndon B. Johnson Vice-President U.S. Senator U.S. Representative Federal office Texas teacher
37 Richard M. Nixon, ca. 1935 - 1982 - NARA - 530679.jpg Richard Nixon out of office Vice-President U.S. Senator U.S. Representative California lawyer
38 Gerald Ford.jpg Gerald Ford Vice-President U.S. Representative military ---- Michigan lawyer
39 JimmyCarterPortrait2.jpg Jimmy Carter out of office State governor State legislator military Georgia farmer
40 Official Portrait of President Reagan 1981.jpg Ronald Reagan out of office State governor ---- ---- California actor
41 George H. W. Bush, President of the United States, 1989 official portrait.jpg George H. W. Bush Vice-President out of office Federal office foreign service Texas businessman
42 44 Bill Clinton 3x4.jpg Bill Clinton State governor State Attorney General ---- ---- Arkansas lawyer, teacher
43 George-W-Bush.jpeg George W. Bush State governor out of office military ---- Texas businessman
44 Official portrait of Barack Obama.jpg Barack Obama U.S. Senator State Legislator ---- ---- Illinois lawyer
45 Donald Trump official portrait (cropped).jpg Donald Trump out of office ---- ---- ---- New York business owner



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