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Members of Congress by Profession: What Your Lawmaker Did Before Being Elected

Actors and Football Players, Talk Show Hosts and Comedians

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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 to recall them.

Related Story: 5 Celebrity Politicians

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

Members of Congress By Profession

So who are these people and what did they do? There are the obvious non-politicians: actor and President Ronald ReaganSongwriter Sonny Bono was one half of Sonny and Cher, one of the most popular rock duos of the 1960s and early 1970s, author and talk-show host Al Franken, who was best known for his role on "Saturday Night Live." And who can forget professional wrestler Jesse "The Body" Ventura, whose political resume ended at governor of Minnesota.

But what about the common members of Congress? Where did they come from? What were their professions?

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 public servant. That's a nice-sounded term for career politician. More than half of our U.S. senators served in the House, for example.

Related Story: Is Congress Underpaid?

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

More Unusual Professions

Of course, not everyone in Congress is a lawyer or professional politician or celebrity seeking to make a serious name for himself or herself.

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

  • Car dealer
  • Rodeo announcer
  • Welder
  • Funeral home owner
  • Software engineer
  • Physician
  • Dentists 
  • Veterinarians 
  • Psychiatrist
  • Psychologists
  • 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

Are You Thinking of Running for Office?

Before you launch that presidential campaign, there are some things you ought to know. These dentists and stockbrokers and astronauts didn't just jump headfirst into politics. Most were involved, whether it was through volunteering with campaigns, becoming members of the local party committees, giving money to super PACs or other political action committees and serving in small, unpaid municipal positions.

If you're thinking of running for Congress, you might want to check out these tips first.

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