Presidency of the United States

Qualifications for the U.S. President

According to Article 2 of the Constitution, a person must be a natural-born citizen of the United States, at least 35 years old, and a resident of the U.S. for 14 years to become president. Practically speaking, a major party candidate needs strong name recognition and the abilities to raise large amounts of money and win votes.

The framers of the Constitution were very specific about who could and could not become president of the United States. The requirements are described in Article 2, Section 1, of the U.S. Constitution. To be eligible for the office of president, a person must be:

  • either a natural-born citizen or a citizen of the United States at the time of the adoption of the Constitution
  • at least 35 years old
  • a resident of the United States for at least 14 years

A natural-born citizen is a person who is a United States citizen at birth. This includes individuals born in the United States, born on U.S. soil, which includes U.S. possessions, or born outside of the United States to one or both parents who are U.S. citizens.

While there are few actual requirements to become president of the United States, there are many informal ones. Presidential elections have become grueling and extremely expensive endeavors. Candidates who secure a major party nomination are typically individuals with name recognition. Rarely has a person unknown to a large share of the electorate made it very far in the election process. Since a presidential campaign can cost several hundred million dollars—or even a billion or more dollars—a candidate must have the ability to raise money for the campaign. In addition a candidate must appeal to a broad audience of voters. This is easiest if the candidate fits easily within the Democratic and Republican party structures, as these parties control the nominating process and their nomination contests garner the major share of media coverage.

Effective presidents have many qualities in common. Nearly all presidents have had experience in government or the military before becoming president. Effective presidents have excellent communication and organizational skills, the ability to manage crises, and integrity. An effective president also has a vision for the future of the country.