Politics Isn’t All Political Science: What Governors Major In

David Luther
by David Luther
Major-Specific, Study - 2 years ago
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Ok, so you’re a realist — you don’t believe your elementary school social studies teacher and know you probably won’t be president. So you set your sights a little lower than the White House: the governor’s mansion.

I got you.

So get ready to start kissing some babies (with parental consent), because we’ve mapped governors’ majors so you can see how your gubernatorial resume compares —that means your governor resume (you should probably know that).

We’ll have you sleeping in that governor’s mansion in no time — without a scandal, that is. And in case you change your mind or do get caught in a scandal, we’ve always got other options for you.

Some interesting observations off the bat

While there’s no sure-fire recipe for political success, there are definitely some patterns that emerge — and some counterintuitive findings as well.


1. You don’t necessarily need a degree
To begin with, Governors Gary Herbert from Utah and Scott Walker from Wisconsin don’t have degrees at all — that’s why those states are empty on the map— which quickly demonstrates that there’s no secret sauce for gubernatorial success.

2. Public schools make a strong showing
Counting West Point, there are 27 undergraduate public schools compared to 21 private schools, and only six Ivy leagues:

  • Dartmouth — 3
  • Harvard — 2
  • Yale — 1

There’s also no secret Governor’s Program at any of these schools, because Dartmouth and Harvard are the only schools with more than one gubernatorial alum.

3. Not a lot of STEM degrees
Even though they’re in high demand pretty much everywhere else, there are only three engineering degrees and one biology degree in the whole bunch.

Some of the majors are the usual suspects

These are the most common majors for governors:

  1. Political Science — 10
  2. Business — 7
  3. Economics — 5
  4. English — 4

I suppose it makes sense that political science is the most popular major for governors — after all, everyone seems to want to find a job that makes use of their major. That said, when you consider that a governor is essentially the CEO of a state, the abundance of financially-focused majors makes sense as well.

And as the former governor of California can attest, being able to speak English is kind of helpful too.

There are a lot of law degrees

At times it seems like going to law school is a prerequisite for politicians — but I guess it makes sense that lawmakers know a lot about law.

Governors don’t make laws though, so it’s interesting that twenty-four of our governors have law degrees. And coincidentally, Political Science and English are two of the most popular law school majors as well.

There are also some unusual suspects

We have a few outliers popping up, which goes to show that you can always make use of your degree, even if it isn’t ostensibly tied to your first job or field.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown — Women Studies
Oregon’s population is 50.5 percent female and she won the election with 50.62 percent of the vote — coincidence, or not?

Yes. Yes, it’s actually almost by definition a coincidence.

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin — East Asian Studies
I’m not sure how this one helped him considering that Kentucky’s Asian population is about 1 percent.

North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum — University Studies
No, this one doesn’t mean he studied universities, it’s more or less what NDSU calls “undecided”. He went on to Stanford for his MBA and founded a successful venture capital company, so he decided a bunch of things eventually.

Kansas Governor Brownback — Agricultural Economics
Considering that agriculture accounts for more than 40 percent of his state’s total economy, it actually makes sense that Gov. Brownback has a degree in agricultural economics. He also has a law degree, so he pretty much fits the mold of a farmer politician.

St Governor Major College Party
AK Bill Walker Business Lewis and Clark College Independent
AL Kay Ivey Education Auburn University Republican
AR Asa Hutchinson Accounting Bob Jones University Republican
AZ Doug Ducey Finance Arizona State University Republican
CA Jerry Brown Classics University of California at Berkeley Democratic
CO John Hickenlooper English Wesleyan University Democratic
CT Dannel Malloy Political Science Boston College Democratic
De John Carney English Dartmouth College Democratic
FL Rick Scott Business University of Missouri at Kansas City Republican
GA Nathan Deal Liberal Arts Mercer University Republican
HI David Ige Engineering University of Hawaii Manoa Democratic
IA Terry Branstad Political Science University of Iowa Republican
ID Butch Otter Political Science College of Idaho Republican
IL Bruce Rauner Economics Dartmouth College Republican
IN Eric Holcomb History Hanover College Republican
KS Sam Brownback Agricultural Economics University of Kansas Republican
KY Matt Bevin East Asian Studies Washington and Lee University Republican
LA John Bel Edwards Engineering United States Military Academy Democratic
MA Charlie Baker English Harvard College Republican
MD Larry Hogan Political Science Florida State University Republican
ME Paul LePage Business University of Maine Republican
MI Rick Snyder General Studies University of Michigan Republican
MN Mark Dayton Psychology Yale University Democratic-Farmer-Labor
MO Eric Greitens Philosophy, Politics and Economics Duke University Republican
MS Phil Bryant Criminal Justice University of Southern Mississippi Republican
MT Steve Bullock Philosophy, Politics and Economics Claremont McKenna College Democratic
NC Roy Cooper Political Science, Psychology University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Democratic
ND Doug Burgum University Studies North Dakota State University Republican
NE Pete Ricketts Biology University of Chicago Republican
NH Chris Sununu Engineering Massachusetts Institute of Technology Republican
NJ Chris Christie Political Science University of Deleware Republican
NM Susana Martinez Criminal Justice University of Texas at El Paso Republican
NV Brian Sandoval English, Economics University of Nevada at Reno Republican
NY Andrew Cuomo Liberal Arts Fordham University Democratic
OH John Kasich Political Science Ohio State University Republican
OK Mary Fallin Human and Env. Science Oklahoma State University Republican
OR Kate Brown Women’s Studies University of Colorado at Boulder Democratic
PA Tom Wolf Political Science Dartmouth College Democratic
RI Gina Raimondo Economics Harvard College Democratic
SC Henry McMaster History University of South Carolina Republican
SD Dennis Daugaard Political Science University of South Dakota Republican
TN Bill Haslam History Emory University Republican
TX Greg Abbott Business University of Texas at Austin Republican
VA Terry McAuliffe Political Science Catholic University of America Democratic
VT Phil Scott Industrial Education University of Vermont Republican
WA Jay Inslee Economics University of Washington Democratic
WV Jim Justice Marketing Marshall University Democratic
WY Matt Mead Broadcasting Trinity University Republican