There is no guaranteed path to success when it comes to where presidential candidates attend college or what they decide to study. Past presidents have come from large public universities and private colleges across the nation. They’ve studied everything from economics and sociology to foreign service and the law.
Here’s a look at the degree earned and alma mater of every president since 1980.
- Donald Trump. BS in economics from the University of Pennsylvania
- Barack Obama. BA in political science from Columbia University; law degree from Harvard University
- George W. Bush. BA in history from Yale University; MBA from Harvard Business School
- Bill Clinton. BS in Foreign Service from Georgetown University; law degree from Yale University
- George H.W. Bush. BA in economics from Yale University
- Ronald Reagan. BA in economics and sociology from Eureka College
The one common theme is they all have college degrees (the last president without a college degree was Harry S. Truman, who served from 1945 to 1953). This continues with the current crop of candidates. It’s notable how some have followed non-traditional paths that include dropping out and going back to school, changing schools, and dedicating themselves to military service.
Presidential politics is always a topic of interest at New England College. Every four years, NEC hosts the College Convention, an event that attracts students from around the world. Most presidential candidates attend the convention, giving thousands a chance to see them and hear their message firsthand.
Presidential Candidates’ Colleges and Majors
The following information comes from media reports, the candidate’s websites and university websites. This list focuses on the president and the top-ranked contenders for the Democratic Party presidential nomination as of the December debates.
Biden served as vice president for President Barack Obama from January 2009 to January 2017. Before that, he served as a senator from Delaware from 1973 to 2009. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Delaware in 1965 and graduated from Syracuse University College of Law in 1968.
“Mayor Pete,” the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, served in the U.S. Navy Reserve from 2009 to 2017, spending some of this time deployed in Afghanistan. Buttigieg graduated in 2004 from Harvard University with a degree in history and literature. He became a Rhodes Scholar, graduating from Pembroke College, the University of Oxford with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics and Economics.
Klobuchar served as county attorney in Hennepin County, Minnesota, from 1999 to 2007. She has been a U.S. senator from Minnesota since 2007. She graduated with a BA in Political Science from Yale University in 1982. In 1985, she graduated from the University of Chicago Law School.
The senator from Vermont grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and started his post-secondary education by attending Brooklyn College from 1959-1960. He then transferred to the University of Chicago, graduating in 1964 with a bachelor’s degree in political science.
Steyer has never held public office. He is a billionaire who made his fortune working for Goldman Sachs and later by creating Farallon Capital, a hedge fund. A New York City native, Steyer graduated from Yale University with a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science and later earned an MBA from Stanford University.
Trump never held public office until winning the presidency in the 2016 election. He began his education at Fordham University in New York City before transferring to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He graduated in 1968 with a BS in Economics.
Elizabeth Warren has served as a senator from Massachusetts since January 2013. A native of Oklahoma, she first attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C., from 1966 to 1968, but dropped out to get married. She eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in speech pathology and audiology in 1970 from the University of Houston and a law degree from Rutgers University in 1976.
Yang has never held public office. He has worked in education for most of his adult life, including owning a test preparation company called Manhattan Prep and founding the non-profit organization Venture for America. Yang graduated in 1996 from Brown University with a degree in economics and political science. He then earned a law degree from Columbia University in 1999.