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 that of a 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

There have been 46 presidencies (including the current one, Joe Biden, whose term began in 2021), and 45 different individuals have served as president. Grover Cleveland was elected to two nonconsecutive terms, and as such is considered the 22nd and 24th president of the United States. Of the 45 different people who have or are currently serving as president:


President Previous 1 Previous 2 Previous 3 Previous 4 Occupation State[c]
1   George Washington N.A[d] Constitutional Convention[e] Out of office Military[f] Planter, land surveyor Virginia
2   John Adams Vice President Foreign service[g] Continental Congress State legislator[h] Lawyer, farmer Massachusetts
3   Thomas Jefferson Vice President Secretary of State Foreign service[g] Congressman Planter, lawyer, land surveyor, architect Virginia
4   James Madison Secretary of State U.S. representative Constitutional Convention State legislator[h] Planter Virginia
5   James Monroe Secretary of State Foreign service[g] State governor U.S. senator Planter, lawyer Virginia
6   John Quincy Adams Secretary of State Foreign service[g] U.S. senator State legislator[h] Lawyer Massachusetts
7   Andrew Jackson Out of office[d] U.S. senator Military U.S. senator Lawyer, military officer Tennessee
8   Martin Van Buren Vice President Secretary of State State governor[i] U.S. senator Lawyer New York
9   William Henry Harrison Foreign service[g] U.S. senator U.S. representative State governor Military Ohio
10   John Tyler Vice President[j] U.S. senator State governor U.S. representative Lawyer Virginia
11   James K. Polk Out of office[d] State governor Speaker of the House U.S. representative Lawyer, planter Tennessee
12   Zachary Taylor Military Military Kentucky
13   Millard Fillmore Vice President[k] State office Out of office[d] U.S. representative Lawyer New York
14   Franklin Pierce Out of office[d] Military U.S. senator U.S. representative Lawyer New Hampshire
15   James Buchanan Foreign service[g] Out of office[d] Secretary of State U.S. senator Lawyer Pennsylvania
16   Abraham Lincoln Out of office[d] U.S. representative State legislator[h] Military Lawyer, land surveyor Illinois[l]
17   Andrew Johnson Vice President[m] Military governor[n] U.S. senator State governor Tailor Tennessee
18   Ulysses S. Grant Military Military Illinois[o]
19   Rutherford B. Hayes State governor Out of office[d] State governor U.S. representative Lawyer Ohio
20   James A. Garfield U.S. representative Military State legislator[h] Ordained minister, lawyer, teacher Ohio
21   Chester A. Arthur Vice President[p] Out of office[d] Federal office[q] Out of office Lawyer, teacher, tariff collector New York
22   Grover Cleveland State governor Local office[r] Lawyer New York
23   Benjamin Harrison Out of office[d] U.S. senator Out of office Military Court Reporter Indiana
24   Grover Cleveland Out of office[d] President of the U.S. State governor Local office[r] Lawyer New York
25   William McKinley State governor U.S. representative Military Lawyer Ohio
26   Theodore Roosevelt Vice President[s] State governor Military Federal office[q][t] Historian, public servant, naturalist, military officer, policeman, rancher New York
27   William Howard Taft Secretary of War Territorial governor[u] Judicial[v] Federal office[q][w] Lawyer, dean Ohio
28   Woodrow Wilson State governor Academic New Jersey
29   Warren G. Harding U.S. senator Out of office[d] State legislator[h] Journalist, publisher Ohio
30   Calvin Coolidge Vice President[x] State governor State office State legislator[h] Lawyer Massachusetts[y]
31   Herbert Hoover Secretary of Commerce Out of office[d][z] Federal office[q][aa] Mining engineer California
32   Franklin D. Roosevelt State governor Out of office[d] Federal office[q][t] State legislator[h] Lawyer New York
33   Harry S. Truman Vice President[ab] U.S. senator County commissioner (County court) Military Businessman, farmer Missouri
34   Dwight D. Eisenhower Military Military officer, university president Kansas
35   John F. Kennedy U.S. senator U.S. representative Military Journalist, military officer Massachusetts
36   Lyndon B. Johnson Vice President[ac] U.S. senator U.S. representative Federal office[q][ad] Teacher, military officer, rancher Texas
37   Richard Nixon Out of office[d] Vice President U.S. senator U.S. representative Lawyer, naval officer California
38   Gerald Ford Vice President[ae] U.S. representative Military Lawyer Michigan[af]
39   Jimmy Carter Out of office[d] State governor State legislator[h] Military Farmer, naval officer Georgia
40   Ronald Reagan Out of office[d] State governor Military Actor, Screen Actors Guild President
41   George H. W. Bush Vice President Out of office[d] Federal office[q][ah] Foreign service[g] Businessman, Naval Aviator Texas[ai]
42   Bill Clinton State governor State attorney general Lawyer, teacher Arkansas
43   George W. Bush State governor Out of office[d][7] Military[8] Businessman, Air National Guard Pilot Texas
44   Barack Obama U.S. senator State legislator[h] Academic[aj] Lawyer, teacher Illinois[ak]
45   Donald Trump Businessman, real estate developer, reality television personality New York
46   Joe Biden Out of office[d] Vice President U.S. senator Local office[r] Lawyer, author Delaware

See also


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ "State" refers to the state generally considered "home", not necessarily the state where the president was born
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u This designation is used whenever the subject was out of public office for more than one year
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War
  7. ^ a b c d e f g This is a general designation for any appointive position representing the United States to a foreign government
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j This is a general designation for any elected state legislator
  9. ^ Van Buren served just over two months of his term as governor of New York before President Jackson appointed him Secretary of State
  10. ^ Tyler succeeded President Harrison, who died in office. He was not elected.
  11. ^ Fillmore succeeded President Taylor, who died in office. He was not elected.
  12. ^ Lincoln was born in Kentucky, but moved to Indiana, then Illinois at an early age
  13. ^ Johnson succeeded President Lincoln, who was assassinated. He was not elected.
  14. ^ President Lincoln appointed Johnson military governor of Tennessee during the Civil War
  15. ^ 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.[5][6]
  16. ^ Arthur succeeded President Garfield, who was assassinated. He was not elected.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g This is a general designation for appointive domestic Federal offices below cabinet level
  18. ^ a b c This is a general designation for local elective offices
  19. ^ Roosevelt succeeded President McKinley, who was assassinated. He was elected to a full term (1904), chose not to run again in 1908, and ran unsuccessfully in 1912.
  20. ^ a b Assistant Secretary of the Navy
  21. ^ President McKinley appointed Taft governor-General of the Philippines
  22. ^ United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
  23. ^ Solicitor General of the United States
  24. ^ Coolidge succeeded President Harding, who died in office. He was re-elected to a full term in 1924.
  25. ^ Born and raised in Vermont, Coolidge permanently moved to Massachusetts to attend college.
  26. ^ Following World War I, Hoover was involved with several humanitarian organizations.
  27. ^ Director of United States Food Administration
  28. ^ Truman succeeded President Roosevelt, who died in office. He was re-elected to a full term in 1948.
  29. ^ Johnson succeeded President Kennedy, who was assassinated. He was elected to a full term.
  30. ^ head of the National Youth Administration in Texas
  31. ^ 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.
  32. ^ Ford was born in Nebraska, but moved to Michigan at an early age
  33. ^ Reagan was born, raised and educated in Illinois; he moved permanently to California after graduation from college.
  34. ^ Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
  35. ^ Bush was born in Massachusetts, and raised in Connecticut, but moved to Texas after graduation from college.
  36. ^ Obama taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School from 1992 to 2004
  37. ^ Obama was born in Hawaii and mostly raised there. His career was based in Illinois.
  38. ^ Trump, who was born in New York, ran for office in 2016 from there, but moved his official residence to Mar-a-Lago in Florida during his term.


  1. ^ International Law, US Power: The United States' Quest for Legal Security, p 10, Shirley V. Scott - 2012
  2. ^ Journal of the Congress of the Confederate States of America, 1861–1865 Volume 1. U.S. Government Printing Office. 1904. pp. 303, 658.
  3. ^ The Preacher President
  4. ^ The Singular Humility of America's Only Ordained President
  5. ^ "The Congressional Globe". Library of Congress. 1868. p. 1063.
  6. ^ McFeely, William S. (1981). Grant: A Biography. Norton. pp. 232–233. ISBN 0-393-01372-3.
  7. ^ P.O. Box 400406. "George W. Bush: Life Before the Presidency—Miller Center". Retrieved 2016-12-27.
  8. ^ 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.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)