Personal Finance

How some former presidents got their start

An empty Oval Office at the White House in Washington.
Brooks Kraft LLC | Corbis | Getty Images

The president of the United States may be the most powerful person on the planet, but the job requirements to get to the White House are surprisingly simple.


Of course, the commander-in-chief must be at least 35 years old and a natural-born citizen. But by some standards there are significantly fewer qualifications than other professions. There's no college requirement for example just ask Harry S. Truman, who never earned a degree.

With no set educational or career path to follow, past presidents have been everything from police officer to professor, according to a recent report by CareerCast.

"A prestigious background still holds quite a bit of weight, but it doesn't necessarily determine your qualifications for the job," said Kyle Kensing, CareerCast's online content editor.

While certain pathways to the Oval Office are well worn, others are less so.

Military service is one time-tested route to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., starting with the first president, George Washington, as well as Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower.

Many presidents are also former attorneys, including John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Barack Obama. James Madison and James Monroe were among some presidents who transitioned into the White House from secretary of state.

Others held more uncommon professions prior to being elected. Click ahead for CareerCast's list of some of the more unusual ones.

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan in a 1965 TV episode of "Death Valley Days."
Warner Bros. | Hulton Archive | Getty Images

Before becoming the leader of the free world, Ronald Reagan was a leading man in Hollywood.

Barack Obama

Barack Obama as student at Harvard university, c. 1992.
Apic Photo | Getty Images

Barack Obama was a community organizer on Chicago's South Side before he was elected a senator from Illinois.

George W. Bush

Co-owner and managing general partner of the Texas Rangers George W. Bush and mother Barbara Bush attend a Texas Rangers game circa 1989-1998 in Arlington, Texas.
Rich Pilling | MLB Photos | Getty Images

The 43rd president was an oil executive in his home state Texas.

Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter on his peanut farm, Plains, Georgia, 1976.
PhotoQuest | Getty Images

Jimmy Carter was a down-to-earth farmer before making his way to Washington.

Herbert Hoover

Group portrait of the Stanford University surveying squad, which includes future American president Herbert Hoover (sitting left, 1874 - 1964) as a young man, Stanford, California.
Hulton Archive | Getty Images

Herbert Hoover (sitting left) was a geologist in the early 1890s and worked in survey teams in Arkansas, California and Nevada. He then went on to a career in mining before entering politics.

William Howard Taft

Former U.S. President William Howard Taft as Chief of Supreme Court, Portrait, circa 1920's.
Universal History Archive | UIG | Getty Images

William Howard Taft started and ended his career as a judge, early on in the Ohio Superior Court and later as chief justice.

Theodore Roosevelt

New York police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt (1858 - 1919) takes his seat in Mayor Strong's Police Patrol cart, waving his truncheon proudly. A cartoon drawn by G Y Coffin for 'The Washington Post'.
MPI | Getty Images

Teddy Roosevelt was a police officer and then police commissioner of New York before becoming president.

Harry Truman

President Harry S. Truman takes his regular morning stroll in Casper, Wyoming during the 1948 Presidential Election.
Dean Conger | Corbis | Getty Images

After serving in the military, Harry Truman (center left) opened a haberdashery and was a retail manager in the store before seeking elected office.

Lyndon B. Johnson

Lyndon B. Johnson with the 6th and 7th grade students in the class he taught in 1928 and 1929. Cotulla, Texas.
Corbis | Getty Images

Lyndon Johnson (standing, center) was one of a few former presidents who started out as a classroom teacher. One of the subjects he taught, debate, would help him in his political career.

Woodrow Wilson

Candid photograph of Woodrow Wilson, sitting at roll-top desk at Princeton University, 1909.
JHU Sheridan Libraries | Gado | Getty Images

Woodrow Wilson was a popular prelaw teacher at Princeton University before becoming the elite school's president and then ultimately the nation's.

Related Tags