Members of Congress by Profession

Actors and Football Players, Talk Show Hosts and Comedians

Capitol Dome
This is the dome of the U.S. Capitol. Architect of the Capitol

There are lots of professional politicians, those solons who hop from one elective office to another and always land on their feet—or at the helm of some federal agency or even in the Senate—because there's no such thing as statutory term limits, and there's no way for voters to recall them if they're unhappy with the job they're doing.

But many members of Congress came from real professions before being elected. There have been actors, comedians, talk-show hosts, journalists and various types of doctors who have served in the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. 

Politicians By Profession

Plenty of obvious non-politicians have made their way through Washington and various state capitals.

Actor and President Ronald Reagan was never a member of Congress, but he served a governor of California before becoming commander in chief. The closest he came to elective office before that was as president of the Screen Actors Guild.

Songwriter Sonny Bono was one-half of Sonny and Cher, one of the most popular rock duos of the 1960s and early 1970s before becoming a congressman from California.

Author and talk-show host Al Franken was best known for his role on "Saturday Night Live" before being elected a U.S. Senator from Minnesota.

Then there was professional wrestler Jesse "The Body" Ventura, whose political resume ended at governor of Minnesota.

Business and Law

Data compiled regularly by the Washington, D.C., publication Roll Call and the Congressional Research Service have found that the most common professions held by burgeoning members of the House and Senate are in law, business and education.

In the 113th Congress, for example, nearly a fifth of the 435 House members and 100 senators worked in education, either as teachers, professors, school counselors, administrators or coaches, according to the Roll Call and Congressional Research data.

There were twice as many lawyers and businessmen and businesswomen.

Professional Politicians

The most common profession among members of Congress, though, is that of a public servant. That's a nice-sounding term for a career politician. More than half of U.S. senators previously served in the House, for example. That's a trend that continued to the 116th Congress.

But there are dozens of former small-town mayors, state governors, former judges, ex-state lawmakers, former congressional staffers, sheriffs, and FBI agents, just to name a few.

More Unusual Professions

Not everyone in Congress is a lawyer, professional politician or celebrity seeking to make a serious name for themselves.

Some of the other jobs held by members of Congress include the following:

  • Car dealer
  • Rodeo Announcer
  • Welder
  • Funeral home owner
  • Software engineer
  • Physician
  • Dentist
  • Veterinarian
  • Psychiatrist
  • Psychologist
  • Optometrist
  • Nurse 
  • Minister
  • Physicist
  • Engineer
  • Microbiologist 
  • Radio talk show host 
  • Journalist
  • Accountant
  • Pilot
  • Astronaut
  • Professional football player
  • Filmmaker 
  • Farmer
  • Almond orchard owner
  • Vintner 
  • Fisherman
  • Social worker
  • Stockbroker

Thinking of Running for Office?

Before launching a presidential campaign, there are some things to know:

These dentists, stockbrokers, and astronauts didn't just jump headfirst into politics. Most were already involved in politics in some other way, whether it was through volunteering with campaigns, becoming members of local party committees, giving money to super PACs or other political action committees and serving in small, unpaid municipal positions.