Skip to main content

8 Important Qualifications to Become President of the United States of America

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

Eric Coggins has degrees in political science, global management, and global organizational leadership. He teaches international business.

2016 presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton: Is either one qualified? Learn what the qualifications to become president are.

2016 presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton: Is either one qualified? Learn what the qualifications to become president are.

What Qualifications Should a President Have?

This article seeks to facilitate a conversation. The minimum requirements for becoming the president of the United States of America are outlined in Article II of the United States Constitution. Those minimum qualifications include the following:

  • being a "natural born Citizen" (this phrase is not defined in the Constitution but has been interpreted to include someone who was born in another country to either one or both parents who hold US citizenship),
  • being at least 35 years old, and
  • having spent at least fourteen years total of residence within the US.

8 Unwritten Qualifications to Be President

But what other qualifications and life experiences would you like to see a candidate have on his or her résumé to be deemed worthy of consideration for the American presidency? What kind of vocational experience is best suited for the job? What educational level? What kind of volunteer service record (if any)? What about the previous political experience? Should they have spent time in the military?

What do you think? Let's have a conversation about the best qualifications and life experiences needed to be an American president.

#1: Proven Character

Should a potential president of the United States have an unimpeachable character? How important should proven character be as a prerequisite for the presidency? All human beings are flawed, and it is likely that presidents will have to make alliances with at least some others who don't share their personal values. Still, how important is it that a candidate has proven character?

Is a person's character important for the presidency?

#2: Political Experience

The American presidency is a political office. The man or woman who commands from the Oval Office must be able to negotiate with other politicians in the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as foreign dignitaries and leaders. This person will be the leader of the free world and must be able to walk the tightrope between conviction and compromise.

More than that, he or she must be able to work the room (or the telephone) to advance America's interests. How much previous political experience do you think a candidate should have to successfully carry out these responsibilities?

#3: Business Background

The president of the United States commands the largest economy in the world. Even so, the US economy continues to lose market share as compared to other developing markets such as China, India, and Brazil. Some economists project that China will surpass the US in real GDP by as early as 2016 and in total GDP by 2030.

Given the United States' role in the world economy, do you think a candidate's résumé should include a background in business organizational leadership? Should the candidate demonstrate success in business?

#4: Educational Background

What type of educational background should an American presidential candidate have? The president must read large volumes of legislative data, keep up with economic conditions, have a continuously updated working knowledge of science, the environment, and the economy, and remain actively aware of the world at large. He or she must have awareness and foresight to understand the prevailing conditions both domestically and internationally.

Given the amount of information the POTUS must process in order to make decisions about complex matters of domestic and foreign policy, what educational level do you think is best suited for the American presidency?

#5: Military Background

The president's first constitutional duty is as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. He or she must understand the role of the military and the capacity of each division and come up to speed quickly in terms of military strategy. How much prior military experience do you think a candidate should have in order to be effective in his or her duties as Commander-in-Chief?

Only one of the last five presidents (George H. W. Bush, decorated as a WWII combat pilot) had any real military experience (although George W. Bush trained for a limited time as a reserve). If you think military experience is needed, what level or amount of experience should he or she have attained?

#6: Volunteer Community Service

The president is America's top public servant. We assume he or she serves the betterment of the country and its citizenry. In most cases, ordinary citizens can also impact their neighborhoods and communities as volunteers. They will serve as volunteers in little league or soccer, PTSA members, school aides, and other community-related positions.

Should the occupier of the Oval Office demonstrate a love for the country and an ability to inspire others to join in the work of betterment? To what extent should a candidate for the American presidency have given his or her extra time as a community volunteer?

#7: Foreign Affairs Background

Some political pundits and experts argue that American presidents play a larger role in foreign affairs than domestic ones. Accordingly, they argue that the person in the Oval Office should focus on international or foreign policy. His or her position as Chief Diplomat, coupled with his or her position as Commander-in-Chief, makes wisdom and expertise in foreign affairs and foreign policy a must. If so, how much prior foreign policy or foreign business experience should a candidate for the American presidency have to be effective?

#8: Overall Leadership Experience

Of course, more than anything else, the president of the United States is a leader. In fact, the person in the Oval Office has been referred to as "the leader of the free world" and the "head of the earth's remaining superpower." The American president commands one of the most (if not the most) important positions on the planet. So if a person aspires to the American presidency, how much leadership experience should they have on their résumé?

Other Qualifications for Presidents

There are more requirements candidates must meet to run for president, as well.

Do You Have to Be Born in the US to Run for President?

According to the Constitution, a president must be a "natural-born citizen," which has been interpreted to mean that they must be born on US soil or possibly born abroad but to one or both US parents. However, the definition of this phrase hasn't been tested in court.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Run for President?

At least 35 years old.

For How Long Do You Have to Have Lived in the US to Run for President?

At least 14 years. There is evidence that those who wrote the Constitution believed this requirement could be satisfied cumulatively rather than consecutively (in other words, those years of residence don't have to be grouped together).

Can a Felon Run for the Presidency?

There are no rules or laws against a felon running, but no felon has ever been elected.

What Are the Requirements for the Vice Presidency?

Because of the Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution, the qualifications for vice president are the same as for the president (which makes sense since the VP might have to fill the POTUS's shoes).

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: Should a candidate have to release financial reports and tax returns for the last 10 years? Should a candidate also provide health records for the past 5 years?

Answer: It seems reasonable that candidates for president should be fully transparent with their financial records and health records.