What All The World’s Leaders Studied In School (2018 Edition)

When you’re deciding what to study at college, the chances are that not many of us would have been thinking about which subject would be best for putting us on the path to the White House, or 10 Downing Street, or the Kremlin. But that’s exactly where some former college students ended up, so were there any clues about their career path from the courses they chose?

Learn what world leaders study

Photo by Matt Botsford

And which subjects have produced the most world leaders? CashNetUSA have done the research, looking into the educational history of every leader in every country in the world, and their results are hugely interesting, to say the least. 83% of the top politicians on the globe did some form of higher education, with others having either the Royal or military background to make that unnecessary.

Politics and economics, unsurprisingly, led to the most world leaders, coming just ahead of law, with military and law enforcement in third. All three certainly play their part in the day to day lives of most presidents and prime ministers, so clear their educations will be useful.

Here’s what the leaders in each continent studied:

North America

It’s hard to talk about North America without mentioning President Donald Trump and how he studied economics at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, a subject that stood him in good stead as both a businessman and now a President. But North America’s other big personality, Justin Trudeau went a different path, studying environmental geography, while El Salvador’s Salvador Sanchez Ceren trained to be a teacher and worked as one for ten years.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel was clearly very clever even when she was a teenager because her education saw her earn a doctorate in quantum chemistry. Many European leaders were law students in their youth, with political and economic courses also dominating, but there are still some curveballs. Take Stefan Löfven, Prime Minister of Sweden, whose path to politics saw him working as a welder before becoming involved with his trade union, while Antoni Marti of Andorra studied to be an architect before becoming a prime minister.


As you might expect from a continent that has seen plenty of troubled times over the last century, there are a good number of leaders with military backgrounds in Africa. However, there are also plenty of examples of politicians who studied very different courses, like Ali Mohamed Shein, who earned a Ph.D. in clinical biochemistry and metabolic medicine, while Adama Barrow of Gambia got a diploma in real estate before his rise to power.


You might expect Vladimir Putin to have studied something with a military angle, but in fact the Russian President did a law degree at university. Less surprising is that North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un’s education took place at the Kim Il-Sung Military University, while King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud didn’t need to go to college at all. However, when Sooronbai Jeenbekov of Kyrgyzstan studied zoological engineering, he probably didn’t expect that one day he would be President.


Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand studied communications at University, while Australia’s Malcolm Turnbull took the more traditional route of a law degree on his way to elected office. Tallis Obed Moses of Vanuatu studied theology, while Jioji Konrote’s road to being President of Fiji was a military one, where he rose to the ranks of major general.

South America

Horacio Cartes expected to be flying high in his career when he studied aviation at college, but he probably didn’t expect to reach the heights of Paraguayan President. Two of South America’s leaders did courses in engineering, while Tabare Vazquez of Uruguay studied oncology and radiology at medical school before working as a specialist in his days before winning two separate terms as President.

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