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Higher Ed in the News

No college degree for one of every 20 in Congress

December 28, 2009

A college degree is not required for a job in the U.S. Congress. How many of our elected members of Congress did not graduate from college?

According to the Congressional Research Service, 27 House members and one senator currently serve without a college degree. Two governors serve without degrees as well.

  • 169 House members and 57 senators hold law degrees
  • 83 House members and 17 senators hold master's degrees

The House and Senate also include:

  • 16 doctors
  • 268 former state legislators
  • 6 former Peace Corps members
  • 5 accountants
  • 1 former prison guard
  • 3 organic farmers

As recently as four decades ago, at least 54 in the House and Senate were not college graduates. 

From 1940 to 2007, the percentage of people age 25 and older with bachelor's degrees has increased from 4.6 percent to 28.7 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Congressional candidates without degrees make their way into office through alternative paths such as local politics, grassroots organizations, entertainment, military experience, family inheritance and business.

Steven Taylor, professor of government at American University, predicts that a college degree will be increasingly important to members of the House and Senate.

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Read the full story from the Scripps News Service.