More than nine-in-ten U.S. representatives and senators have a college degree, continuing a decadeslong trend. In the 118th Congress, 94% of representatives and all but one senator hold at least a bachelor’s degree, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. House and Senate biographical data.
The share of voting members of Congress with a college education has steadily increased over time. In the 79th Congress (1945-46), for instance, 56% of House members and 75% of senators had a bachelor’s degree or higher. By the 103rd Congress (1993-94), this share had risen to 90% of members or more in both chambers. In each Congress since then, nine-in-ten or more members have held at least a bachelor’s degree.
The share of members in each chamber with at least a bachelor’s degree peaked in the 116th Congress (2019-20), when 96% of representatives and all 100 senators had one. Although both shares have remained high, they have slightly declined since then.
This analysis includes the 534 voting members of Congress seated as of Feb. 2, 2023.
This analysis builds on earlier Pew Research Center work to analyze the educational attainment of lawmakers in the U.S. Congress. To determine the educational background of lawmakers in the 118th Congress, we used U.S. House and Senate biographical data. Data on the educational attainment of U.S. adults overall comes from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Our analysis reflects the 534 voting members of Congress as of Feb. 2, 2023, not including one vacant seat in the House following the death of Democratic Virginia Rep. Donald McEachin. Independent members of Congress are counted with the party they caucus with.
Those with at least a bachelor’s degree include a small number of members who do not hold a bachelor’s degree but have an advanced degree in a field that does not require one. For example, Republican Rep. Diana Harshbarger of Tennessee completed some undergraduate coursework at East Tennessee State University before going on to receive a doctorate in pharmacy from Mercer University.
In total counts of 118th Congress’ most-attended universities, lawmakers with multiple graduate degrees are counted once with each of the schools they have a graduate degree from; medical residencies are not included.
In the House, nearly two-thirds of representatives (64%) have a graduate degree. Five representatives (1%) have an associate degree but no bachelor’s. Another 22 members (5%) do not have a degree. This group includes one member who has a professional certification: Democrat Cori Bush of Missouri has a registered nursing diploma.
Among the 100 current senators, 78 have at least one graduate degree. Republican Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma is the lone senator without at least a bachelor’s degree. He holds an associate degree from Oklahoma State University of Technology. Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, earned a doctorate in medicine from Duke University Medical School but does not hold a bachelor’s.
The educational attainment of the current Congress far outpaces that of the overall U.S. population. In 2021, around four-in-ten American adults ages 25 and older (38%) had a bachelor’s degree or more education, including 14% who had a graduate degree, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Another 10% held an associate degree, while the largest share (52%) did not have a college or associate degree.
The educational attainment of members of Congress differs somewhat by political party, at least in the House. While 95% of Democrats and 93% of Republicans in the House hold at least a bachelor’s degree, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to have completed a graduate degree (73% vs. 55%). Fourteen of the 22 representatives without a college degree are Republicans. In the Senate, similar shares in both parties have undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Some universities are especially well represented in Congress. For example, about three dozen members of the House (9%) have at least one degree from Harvard University. In the Senate, 13% of senators have at least one degree from Harvard, while 9% have a degree from Yale University and 7% have at least one degree from Georgetown University.
House members are more likely than senators to have completed a degree at a college or university in the state they represent. About two-thirds of representatives (64%) have at least one such degree, and 21% received both an undergraduate and a graduate degree from an institution in their state. Among senators, nearly half (48 of 100) have at least one degree from a school in the state they represent, including 20 senators who have both a bachelor’s and an advanced degree from a school in the state they currently represent.