One Foot in Congress, the Other in Grad School

Staffers starting your higher education, you’re in good company

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., received his law degree from Georgetown University. Here he is addressing the law center in 2012. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., received his law degree from Georgetown University. Here he is addressing the law center in 2012. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted July 25, 2018 at 5:00am

As orientation kicks off for graduate school programs, staffers who are going part time and keeping their Capitol Hill jobs begin the balancing act.

Those higher knowledge-seekers are not alone. It’s common for staffers to get degrees on top of work.

Claire Viall, a senior legislative assistant for California Democratic Rep. Mark Takano, said it’s not easy to juggle two loads, but it’s worth it. She graduated in May with a master’s in public policy from George Washington University.

“There were times I had to miss class due to late votes, but my professors were very understanding, because they themselves are longtime D.C. professionals,” she said. “Going part-time made graduate school much more affordable, and I was able to apply what I was learning in class directly to my job and vice versa.”

Cost is one reason to keep a foot in both worlds. Love of the job is another.

“I did not want to leave behind the experience I was getting from my job to get a graduate degree, so it was win-win for me to be able to continue to gain experience on the Hill and take advantage of an excellent part-time program,” Viall said.

While D.C. doesn’t boast an Ivy, some prominent alumni have come through its graduate schools — including dozens of members of Congress. 

A law degree from Georgetown is a popular congressional accessory. At least 15 sitting members of Congress have a Hoyas J.D.

Only one member can say he’s a Catholic University law school alum — Democratic Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, who graduated in 1988.

Check out some other members with advanced D.C. degrees from:


M.D.: Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., M.D. in 1978 

Ph.D.: Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., Ph.D. in 2015

Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., J.D. in 1986
Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., J.D. in 1986
Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., J.D. in 1988
Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., J.D. in 1969
Rep. John J. Faso, R-N.Y., J.D. in 1979
Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., J.D. in 1973
Sen. Mazie K. Hirono, D-Hawaii, J.D. in 1978
Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., J.D. in 1966
Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, D-N.H., J.D. in 1984
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., J.D. in 1964
Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., J.D. in 1994
Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Fla., J.D. in 1978
Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, J.D. in 1993
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., J.D. in 1990

Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., M.A. in 1998
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., M.P.P. in 1986
Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., M.A. in 2012 and 2013
Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, R-Ind., M.P.P. in 2014
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., M.P.P. in 1994
Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., M.S.F.S. in 2004
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, B.A. in 1980
Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, M.S.F.S. in 1993
Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Texas, B.A. in 1985
Rep. Peter J. Visclosky, D-Ind., L.L.M. in 1982

American University

Ph.D.: Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va., Ph.D. in 1995

J.D.: Del. Stacey Plaskett, D-V.I., J.D. in 1994

Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Calif., M.B.A. in 1979
Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., M.B.A. in 1987

M.P.A.: Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., M.P.A. in 1984

George Washington

M.D.: Rep. Neal Dunn, R-Fla., M.D. in 1979

Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., R-Tenn., J.D. in 1973
Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., J.D. in 2004

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., M.A. in 1992
Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, M.S.I.A. in 1974

Catholic University

J.D.: Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., J.D. in 1988

Howard University

J.D.: Rep. Gregory W. Meeks, D-N.Y., J.D. in 1978