Skip to content

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)

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

Recent Stories

Kim launches primary challenge after Menendez refuses to quit

Four spending bills readied for House floor amid stopgap uncertainty

Menendez rejects New Jersey Democrats’ calls to resign after indictment

Photos of the week ending September 22, 2023

Dressing down — Congressional Hits and Misses

Menendez indictment comes with Democrats playing 2024 defense