Ever wondered what kind of jobs American presidents had before they became President? While the vast majority of presidents were either a lawyer, worked in another department/branch of the US government, or in the military, some others took more unique roots to the most powerful job on Earth. To celebrate President’s Day, we’ve compiled a list of some of our former commander-in-chiefs and their early-career jobs.
Likely the president most famous for having another career, Ronald Reagan was a famous actor from the late 1930s to the mid 1960s. He starred alongside his future wife, Nancy, in several movies. His most well-known movie is called the Kings Row, where Reagan played an amputee with the famous lines, “Where’s the REST of me??”
Lyndon B Johnson – Teacher
Lyndon B. Johnson worked as a teacher before entering politics. He taught public speaking at Sam Houston High School in Houston and coached the debate team. Johnson points to his experiences teaching Mexican-American children as one of the primary motivators in his push for equal access in American education.
Herbert Hoover – Mining Engineer
Herbert Hoover was an extremely successful mining engineer who worked on projects around the globe. He spent time in Western Australia working as both a geologist and mining engineering on gold mining operations. Later, Hoover became chief engineer for Kaiping Mines, which was the first modern mining company in China.
Warren Harding – Teacher, Insurance Salesman
Warren G. Harding explored tons of careers before becoming President! His first two jobs included being a teacher and an insurance salesman. Later, he bought the newspaper The Marion Star. He became both a journalist and editor for this paper.
Teddy Roosevelt – Rancher and Military Historian
Teddy’s the best. He did a bit of everything, but most prominently he was a rancher and a military historian. Before Theodore Roosevelt became president, he wrote and published the book The Naval War of 1812. It’s still relevant today and shows how gifted a scholar and historian Roosevelt was. He also owned a ranch in North Dakota, and published three more books about his experiences in ranching.
Andrew Johnson – Tailor
Andrew Johnson was apprenticed to a tailor until his 21st birthday. He continued to work as a tailor and even started his own business in Tennessee!
Grover Cleveland – Sheriff
The only man to be president twice began his career in law enforcement, as a sheriff in Erie County, New York.
Woodrow Wilson was a teacher and academic before beginning his political career. Here’s a list of universities at which he taught: Cornell University, Bryne Mawr College, Wesleyan University, New York Law School. Throughout Wilson’s career, he taught a variety of subjects including Ancient Greek and Roman history and coached the football team at Wesleyan. He was then President of Princeton University before becoming US President.
James Garfield – Janitor, Teacher
James Garfield worked as a janitor to help pay his way through his schooling, and later became a teacher in Greek and Latin. He also preached at multiple neighboring churches! He later married his former student, Lucretia Rudolph, who would become a very influential First Lady due to his illness and incapacitation during his short presidency.
William McKinley – Postal Clerk
William McKinley was born into a family of iron-makers. When his family’s finances declined, McKinley was unable to finish college and later took jobs first as a postal clerk and then as a teacher.
Harry S Truman – Timekeeper, Clerk, Farmer
Harry S. Truman also had a variety of careers before becoming president. He first worked as a timekeeper, who is someone that accounts for the work of a group of employees. He later worked as a clerk, which involves adminsitrative duties. Finally, he periodically worked as a farmer at his family’s farm. Truman is the most recent president without a college degree!
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