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Who Is The Only U.S. President To Have A PhD Degree?


While many people assume that every U.S. president must have a Ph.D. degree, believe it or not, there is only one U.S. president with a Ph.D. Some U.S. presidents never even went to college, while others earned other kinds of advanced degrees. So who is the only U.S. president to have a PhD degree?

The Top 10 U.S. Presidents to Earn the Best Education

While most American presidents were well-educated, not all of them went to school, surprisingly. They all had very different views on education, but all held the knowledge to take on their presidential responsibilities. The presidents to have received the best education may in fact surprise you.

In no chronological order, the presidents with the highest recognized degrees are Woodrow Wilson, William Howard Taft, Franklin Pierce, Rutherford B. Hayes, Bill Clinton, Gerald Ford, George W. Bush, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and Barack Obama.

Who is The Only U.S. President To Hold A PhD?

Woodrow Wilson is known as one of the nation’s greatest presidents and is the only U.S. president to hold a Ph.D. degree.

Wilson was the 28th U.S. president and served in office from 1913 to 1921. He also held the position of president at Princeton University before becoming U.S. president and obtained his doctorate degree in 1886 from Johns Hopkins University in Political Science.

Surprisingly, Wilson was reported to have struggled with reading in school and only learned how to read at the age of 10. He was believed to possibly have been dyslexic. Woodrow Wilson is living proof that academic struggles don’t have to stop you from achieving your goals, as he went from being a struggling student to becoming the only American president with a Ph.D.!

The American flag, representing the pride that all of these U.S. Presidents have for their country.

Photo by Benjamin Lehman from Pexels

The Top 10 Colleges That Produced The Most Presidents

While Woodrow is the only U.S. president with a Ph.D. degree, many other presidents also have prestigious degrees from a variety of top universities.

The university to claim the most U.S. presidents as alumni is Harvard University with eight presidents that graduated from the institution, including Barack Obama, George Bush, John F. Kennedy, both Roosevelts, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Rutherford Hayes.

The runner-ups for the university to claim the most presidential alumni are Yale University with 5 presidents, College of William and Mary with 3 U.S. presidents, and Princeton University with 2 presidents, including Woodrow Wilson.

Which U.S. Presidents Never Earned a Degree?

Since holding a Ph.D. degree is not a requirement to be president, many never even attended college and held no degree. This did not affect their success as they became president of the United States.

There are 9 U.S. presidents reported to have never attended college, including George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Grover Cleveland, and Harry Truman.

What Other Advanced Degrees Do Past U.S. Presidents Hold?

A PhD is not the only advanced degree out there and is not a requirement to be elected as president. There are many other highly educated U.S. presidents, such as Bill Clinton who holds a Master’s degree in Law from Yale. Richard Nixon holds a Master’s degree in Law from Duke University, George Bush has an MBA from Harvard, Barack Obama has a Master’s in Law from Harvard, and John F. Kennedy has a bachelor’s degree in science from Harvard University.

A graduate of the University of The People, an online, tuition-free university, that has high hopes to one day be president.

Image by Dickson Donatus from Pixabay

What Lessons Can We Take From These Presidents?

Seeing that there is only one U.S. president with a Ph.D., there are many lessons to be taken from our presidents. These U.S. presidents who never attended college knew that their education was limited, with some that only had a mere year of formal schooling.

They each chose on their own to take their education beyond the classroom and study without going to traditional school, through books, external expert sources, and mentors that they trusted.

These U.S. presidents have proven that education does not always have to take place in a classroom setting, and that practical life experience and a desire to learn can be just as good. Those presidents who obtained degrees other than PhDs knew that it was sufficient for what they wanted to accomplish.

Does This Mean You Shouldn’t Get A PhD?

Obtaining such a degree is a personal choice, and depends on a wide variety of factors. A PhD is the highest possible degree and comes with many advantages. As presidents have shown, however, it’s not a requirement for success.

Woodrow Wilson, who is the only U.S. president to have a Ph.D. degree, probably would have been elected with or without his degree. Other advanced degrees that are less expensive and time-consuming can also take you very far. Times are changing, and traditional schooling is no longer the only way.

There are many more realistic and affordable ways nowadays to obtain an accredited degree. The University of the People, for example, is a tuition-free, online university that allows people from all over the world to study at their own pace, from the comfort of their homes. This provides students with the chance to balance work and family obligations at the same time.

Maybe down the line, we’ll see a University of the People student become president — certainly anything is possible!