Where Did President Obama and His Top Officials Go To College?

The president's team includes many attorneys, not surprising in a town (Washington D.C.) that has the most attorneys per capita in the country.

By Neil Johnson
Posted 2012

President Obama's Cabinets Education Profile
President Obama's Cabinets Education Profile

Maybe it’s no surprise that in the town as densely packed with lawyers as Washington D.C., so many members of President Barack Obama’s cabinet have a law degree.

Washington has more than 270 lawyers for every 10,000 residents, according to averyindex.com, a website that provides independent law firm rankings. By comparison, New York City has roughly 20.

In addition to Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, seven of the 15 people appointed as cabinet members have law degrees. Several others have graduate degrees with an emphasis on public administration and one has a doctorate in physics.

Here’s a rundown of where some of the top people in the Executive Branch went to college, according to their government biographies and their other biographical websites.

President Barack Obama. After attending Occidental College, a small, liberal arts school in Los Angeles for two years, Obama transferred to Columbia University in New York and graduated in 1983 with a degree in political science. He entered Harvard Law School in 1988 and graduated in 1991.

Vice President Joe Biden. A native of Scranton, Pa., Biden graduated from the University of Delaware in 1965 and from Syracuse University Law School in 1968.

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Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The nation’s 67th Secretary of State attended public schools before going to Wellesley College in Massachusetts and graduating in 1969. She went on to graduate from Yale Law School in 1973. Clinton did a year of post-graduate study on children and medicine at Yale Child Study Center.

Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner. A former CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Geithner graduated from Dartmouth College in 1983 with a bachelor s degree in government and Asian studies. In 1985 he received a master’s degree in international economics and East Asian studies from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. The former CIA director whose parents owned a restaurant in California attended Santa Clara University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1960 and went on to receive a law degree at Santa Clara in 1963.

Attorney General Eric Holder. Growing up in New York City, Holder earned a Regent’s Scholarship while attending Stuyvesant High School. He graduated from Columbia College in 1973 with a major in American History and in 1976 graduated from Columbia University Law School.

Secretary of the Interior Kenneth Salazar. A former U.S. Senator from Colorado, Salazar graduated from the private Colorado College in Colorado Springs in 1977 with a degree in political science. He received a law degree from the University of Michigan Law School in 1981.

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Secretary of Agriculture Thomas J. Vilsack. Born in an orphanage and adopted in 1951, the country’s 30th Secretary of Agriculture graduated from Hamilton College in New York in 1972 and received a law degree from University of Albany Law School in 1975.

Secretary of Commerce John E. Bryson (former). Bryson resigned June 21, 2012. He graduated from Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in 1965 and received a law degree from Yale Law School in 1969.

Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. Solis, whose first taste of public office came in 1985 on a California community college Board of Trustees, graduated from California State Polytechnic University in Pomona with a degree in political science in 1979 and received a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Southern California in 1981.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. Named the 13th most powerful woman in the world in 2011 by Forbes, Sebelius received a bachelor’s degree from the Washington, D.C., Roman Catholic Trinity Washington University in 1970 and has a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Kansas in 1977.

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun L.S. Donovan. A former commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation, Donovan received a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in public administration and architecture from Harvard University.

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. A former junior high school social studies teacher in his native Illinois, LaHood has a bachelor’s degree in education and sociology from Bradley University in Peoria, Ill.

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. Chu has a heavy science background and holds 10 patents. He has a bachelor of arts degree in mathematics, a bachelor of science degree in physics, both from the University of Rochester in New York, and a Ph.D. in physics from the University of California.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. A professional basketball player in Australia from 1987 to 1991, Duncan graduated with a major in sociology from Harvard University in 1987 where he was co-captain of the basketball team.

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Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. A former U.S. Army general and wounded twice in Vietnam, Shineki graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1965 with a bachelor’s degree. He received a master’s degree in English from Duke University and taught English at West Point for two years.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. An opera lover and high school clarinet player, Napolitano graduated from Santa Clara University in 1979 as the school’s first female valedictorian and received her law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law.

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