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

Updated on March 14, 2017
Donald Trump & Hillary Clinton: Is Either One Qualified?
Donald Trump & Hillary Clinton: Is Either One Qualified? | Source

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:

  • 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.

What other qualifications (meaning 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 from the job? What educational level? What kind of volunteer service record (if any)? What about previous political experience? Should they have military experience?

So what do you think? Let's have a conversation about the qualifications for the American presidency.

Q: Do you have to be born in the US to run for president?

A: 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.

#1 Proven Character

A central talking point of any election are the characters of the two candidates from the two major political parties. 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 have proven character? Please add your answer in the poll below.

Proven Character

How important is proven character?

See results

#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?

Political Experience

What kind of political experience should a presidential candidate have?

See results

Q: How old do you have to be to run for president?

A: At least 35 years old.

#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?

Business Experience

How much successful business experience do you think a presidential candidate should have?

See results

#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, and have a continuously updated working knowledge of science, 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?

Educational Level

What level of education should a presidential candidate have attained?

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Q: For how long do you have to have lived in the US to run for president?

A: 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 all together).

#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, 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?

Military Experience

What previous military experience should a presidential candidate have?

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#6 Volunteer Community Service

The president is America's top public servant. We assume he or she serves for 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?

Volunteer Community Involvement

How much previous volunteer community involvement should a candidate have had?

See results

Q: Can a felon run for the presidency?

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

#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?

International Experience

How much foreign or international experience should a future president have?

See results

#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?

Leadership Experience

How much prior overall leadership experience should a candidate have?

See results

Q: What are the requirements for the vice presidency?

A: 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).

Who Can Run for President?

What qualities have we left off? What about wealth, morality/religion, or other prerequisites? Please join the discussion!

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    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Great post here and very informative. I loved your polls, fun and challenging. Hopefully, we will see the best man win on Nov. 6th.

    • ecoggins profile image

      ecoggins 4 years ago from Corona, California

      Thank you teaches12345, I appreciate your feedback. You are always so encouraging. Since there are so many facets to this subject, I think this will be a fun topic to flesh out even further and perhaps get it and keep it on the first page of the major search engines. Personality, speaking ability, leadership style are just a few possible add ons.

    • bradmasterOCcal profile image

      bradmasterOCcal 17 months ago from Orange County California


      Well done article, and it would be hard to imprint the presidents of the last one hundred years to conform to your list.

      Political Experience

      We can deduce from the presidential history of the last one hundred years, that this is the least useful attribute of the presidency. The reason that I say this is because we got to where we are today because all of our presidents had the gift of politics.

      Some of the presidents were red belt politicians, but in the end you have to look what it did for the country or more importantly to the country.

      Most of the recent presidents were Lawyers, and while you didn't mention that attribute of the presidents, it is also another less useful quality of the presidents. In fact, there are too many lawyers in congress as well.

      I can submit a case that our country has been and continues in decline to a large part due to presidents that have political experience, and legal experience.

      While those two attributes were useful to the presidential candidates they were negatively useful for the country and the people.

      Business Background

      It is also obvious from recent history that neither congress nor the presidency no matter what their formal business background has been able to positively affect the economy of the US.

      So, I would say that having a knowledge of business while not a prerequisite for the presidency could be useful, but it would be better if acquired through experience rather than a formal business education. Formal education is academic, but actual experience is real world.

      Military Background

      A military background would be a plus, but a great leader doesn't have to be even engaged in a field to be successful. A great leader knows how to use the brilliance and expertise of those gifted in the field.

      This would be a far superior attribute than say a career military person, because that person has been focused on a totally different goal and outcome, that would the president of the US.

      Volunteer Community Service

      This might be a bonus area, only to the extent of being able to identify with the people rather than the politicians, businesses, and the wealthy.

      Foreign Affairs

      Certainly a knowledge of the world, its countries, its peoples, and its problems would be useful to any president, and also someone in congress. But, once again, the better attribute would be to pick and utilize the true experts in foreign affairs, and use their knowledge to base the presidential decisions.

      Overall Leadership Experience

      Leadership should be the number one attribute for the presidential candidate. The amount, and success of that leadership experience cannot be quantified objectively, so the quality has to be judged by looking at the entire person.

      What has caused the US to elect presidents that didn't do their best for the country, and the people is the political party. The democrats and the republican parties have been at odds since they were first created in the 19th century.

      The goals of these two parties couldn't be more diverse. If both parties were on the opposite ends of a seesaw, one side would be totally up in the air, while the other party would be on the ground.

      We need two parties whose goals are to put the seesaw in equilibrium. This has been a random, and brief transitional state for the country at best.

      So my conclusion is that in reality, it won't really matter which person, and which party makes it to the presidency in 2016, as we only have to look at the history of the presidency to see how the country is in decline.

    • profile image

      DebHanes 14 months ago

      I would love a comparison on just how majority answers Obama has. I think he fails most! much or how little of any of the above

    • profile image

      Gabriel 13 months ago

      thanks this helped me so much with my report... don't ask...

    • profile image

      Sue 9 months ago

      Thank you for sharing this information, I would wonder how Donald Trump would score here, probable close to zero experience. My opinion on candidates for president, should be more qualified for the job, just like other professions. I work for the government in Agriculture and to get a job with my expertise, one must have a bachelor of science degree. So with the President, i think the candidate should at least have a degree in politics.....just saying.

    • profile image

      bradmasterOCcal 9 months ago

      The problem has been that we have had too many professional politicians and especially ones that are run by their party. Since the 70s these politicians have put the US in a decline, and it continues today. They have also caused us to lose every war that we have been in since 1898. Winning a war is not the same thing as a military victory, although we didn't even have that in many wars, like Vietnam.

      So all the qualifications of these politicians didn't help the country or the people. Senator Obama, and Senator Hillary Clinton certainly didn't have any helpful experience.

      My point is that US history for the last 100 hundred years has shown that the two opposing parties have failed to compromise, and instead they just try to undo what the other party did when they were in control.

      This persisted through the beginning of this century, and hit the wall because gridlock has stunned the government. If we continue to use the "political experience" qualification criteria how can there be any positive change in the outcome.

      Don't take my word, look at the US history.

      The last thing that we need is more politicians pushed on the people by the two parties. The fact that Donald Trump is not being run by the republican party, and that he has not brought down the country as did the professional politicians, is a positive, not a negative to becoming president.

      Politicians that have never had real jobs in the private sector, are like school teachers that never worked outside of academia.

      Politicians don't understand or care about the private sector, and they live in a world where the federal government cannot fail by definition.

      The federal employees are treated like the master instead of public servants. They are given the best retirements, health care, benefits, and job security.

      These don't exist for the most part in the private sectors. Where most non union workers work under an At Will Employment Contract. They can be let go without even a reason, at the will of the employer.

      The bar has been set so low by the endless stream of professional politicians that Donald Trump could only make things better using his independence, and not being a politician.

    • ecoggins profile image

      ecoggins 9 months ago from Corona, California

      Thank you Sue for your comments. It seems Donald Trump has a degree in economics from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Wharton is a highly respected business school. He also has business, and leadership experience, and some international experience. To negotiate the kinds of deals he has to build his business empire, he would have to have at east some informal political experience. He admits donating money to politicians from both the Democratic and Republican parties. It is unclear what type of volunteer experience he has had, and he has had no military experience to speak of.

    • ecoggins profile image

      ecoggins 9 months ago from Corona, California

      Thank you bradmasterOCcal for your extended comments. Indeed, it seems the bar has been set quite low for politicians in general. Your comments show why I wrote this article in the first place that is to show that this is now a more complicated world and the United States needs to promote national leaders that have at least a fair understanding of each facet of the nation and its place in the global community. I personally lived abroad for only five years and have no military experience but I could have told President George W. Bush that invading Iraq was a bad idea including why and what the likely results would be. We are seeing those results played out now. You have to understand the mentality of the people forged by their culture in order to anticipate how they will respond to a given situation. You are right political experience should not be the sole or even main criteria for being President.

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      Mr painter 8 months ago

      A presidential candidate has to show a high degree of honesty and fairness when dealing with the interests of the US the most influential country in the world it needs to be tough in his decisions but at the same time show compassion for the rest of the world this are characteristic of the United States of America it needs not to be SELFISH and EGOCENTRIC. and does not have to hide anything that would be important to Citizens.,

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      Rex Cottrell 7 months ago

      In addition to the listed requirements the following should be added.

      1. Felons should not be eligible to run for POTUS or VPOTUS.

      2. A TS background investigation should be accomplished.

      3. Be required to disclose current and past 5 years of tax returns.

    • profile image

      Deb Hanes 7 months ago

      Great column...too bad government doesn't care about ant of this!

    • profile image

      LOL 6 months ago

      Why are there so many ads? Otherwise I like this article.

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      ricardo 6 months ago

      this article is very informative

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      UnKown 5 months ago

      Who do yall plan on voting for

    • profile image

      alyssa 5 months ago


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      Katie 4 months ago

      I enjoyed

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      Mary 4 months ago

      This was an interesting survey. Interesting in that " character" was not one of the requirements. I know we, as humans, have our flaws, but I think a persons character should be a very important trait as a requirement for President. We are taught to judge a person by his character. Character tells a lot about a person. I would want to see a comprehensive background check added to your requirement survey. A person running for office would have to be willing to subject him/ herself to a comprehensive personal scrutiny check in all the dimensions of his life, such as : financial, criminal, social, family, community,personal, business involvements, spiritual... And anything else along these lines. Kind of like a FBI investigation check. Thorough. I don't think being a politician or a lawyer should rank a person more qualified, or even, be a qualifying requirement at all. I would think the opposite. I would agree that a person has to have a high level of business acumen in order to run a balanced budget and to address the economy. As we can see, none of our presidents have had a business mind, or they haven't implemented nor cared to use it. ( lol) I think character is very important. Our president needs to have integrity and honesty. How else does one give him/ her control. If I don't trust a person, I don't give him the keys to my car. Director of the FBI, Comey,seems to have it:) I think a person's acumen for culture and religious differences would be of value, too, in order to use appropriate judgement in situations abroad, and at home. The involvement in Syria is a good example. Enjoyed your survey.

    • profile image

      Mary 4 months ago

      I forgot to add on my post. I am voting for Trump. He at least made me feel he was for the people by having a grass root campaign donation and not an elitist campaign donation. He may have done inappropriate things, but it was not on government time or threaten the security of our nation. And he is a good businessman that knows how to wheel and deal. Let's hope if he gets to the White House he will do justice and play honorably by his name. I think his family will be his conscious.

    • ecoggins profile image

      ecoggins 4 months ago from Corona, California

      Thank you Mary for your extended comments. When I first wrote this article four years ago, I was thinking about vocational experience. Except questions about Bill Clinton's private life before the 1992 election, character has not been an issue in presidential elections. This election has been sadly unique in that regard. I very much appreciate your comments.

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      Joe 3 months ago

      Whoever wrote this article needs to go back to grade school. There are ONLY two pieces of criteria which QUALIFIES a person to be President.

      1. Natural born citizenship

      2. At least 35 years of age

      That's it!!!

    • ecoggins profile image

      ecoggins 3 months ago from Corona, California

      Thank you Joe for your comment. I can't really tell if you read the article or not because I acknowledged the constitutional minimum qualifications in the first paragraph. In actuality Article II states that there are three qualifications not two, the two you mentioned as well as living in the US for 14 years. Yet, I think it is safe to assume that most people do not elect a person just because they meet the constitutional minimum requirements. Most people are looking for someone with a certain combination of life experiences which they think make him or her "qualified" to be president. That combination would vary from one person to another or one group to another. So this article asks us to use our imaginations a little bit and think of types of life experiences which we think would make a person "fit" or "qualified" to hold the highest position in the American federal government.

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      Rich 3 months ago

      I support the constitution and the constitution reads:

      Qualifications for the Office of President

      Age and Citizenship requirements - US Constitution, Article II, Section 1

      No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States.

      Term limit amendment - US Constitution, Amendment XXII, Section 1 - ratified February 27, 1951

      No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once.

    • ecoggins profile image

      ecoggins 3 months ago from Corona, California

      Thank you Rich for your comments. I too support the constitution and do not believe that extra qualifications should be added. Accordingly, I changed the wording in the opening paragraph to be a little less confusing. I qualified the term "qualifications" by adding the parenthetical (meaning life experiences) and changed the term "should" to "would you like to see a candidate have." I hope that makes my intentions more clear to future readers. Thank you again for your helpful comments.

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      helen 5 weeks ago

      must have both a physical and mental evaluation

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