how to become a president of the united states

Last Updated on August 28, 2023

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how to become a president of the united states

Becoming the President of the United States is not an easy task, and it requires an incredible amount of hard work, dedication, and luck. However, if you manage to accomplish such an incredible feat, you’ll earn a spot in the history books and gain the opportunity to help millions of American citizens in ways that nobody else can. By starting early and thinking ahead about your career, you can make a real difference in your community and your nation.

Part1Meeting the Eligibility Requirements

  1. 1Turn 35 years old. When the original writers of the constitution were thinking of requirements, they wanted a president who would be wise and mature. The age requirement for the President of the United States is higher than any other political office, and it encourages people who have experience in government to apply.[1] [2]
    • The average age of a sitting President is 55 years old.
  2. 2Live in the United States for at least 14 consecutive years. This means that you have to have lived on US soil for the past 14 years of your life, or longer. You can prove that you’ve lived in an area by showing your current passport or your birth certificate.[3][4]
    • This is again to avoid foreign influence and to ensure that you’re up to date with politics in America.
  3. 3Prove you are a natural born American Citizen. Your birth certificate shows when and where you were born, so you’ll need that to get the process started. This is a requirement to avoid foreign influence, no matter how small it is. If you were born overseas, you can be counted as an American citizen if one or both of your parents was American at the time of your birth.[5][6]
    • If you can’t find your birth certificate or you need a new one, you can request it from your state’s Vital Records office.
    • As long as you’re a natural born American citizen, your gender, religion, and culture have no bearing on whether or not you can be the President.

Part2Becoming a Suitable Candidate

  1. 1Get plenty of education. While there are no educational requirements or experience necessary per se, most presidents have had advanced degrees and studied Law or Business before entering Politics. You’re best off taking classes in History, Sociology, Law, Economics, and International Relations.[7]
    • 31 presidents have had some sort of military experience, but that number is highly skewed to the past—it’s not as common as it once used to be.[8] So while joining the military is an option, it’s not a necessity.
  2. 2Pick a political party. Every president runs on the platform of their political party, and you’ll need to take a hard stance on which one you support through your work and career. While you do have the option to switch up your party at any time, you should start researching policies and deciding which ones seem the best to you as soon as possible. When you register to vote, put down your political party to show your support for it.[9]
    • The main 2 parties are Democrat and Republican, but there are also smaller parties, like the Libertarian Party and the Green Party that are smaller and more specific.
  3. 3Seek out a politically-related career. Though this isn’t written in the books, generally presidential hopefuls start in the political arena on a much smaller scale. So get involved in your community! Run for mayor, governor, senator, or some other representative of your state. It’s the best way to get your name out there.[10]
    • You don’t have to do this. You could be some type of community organizer, lawyer, or activist, too. It’s just that getting your name in the ring, getting to know people, and getting people to know you is the simplest way to getting your name on the big ticket at the end of it all.
  4. 4Volunteer within your community. Just like starting a career is good for getting your name out there, putting in your time and effort for free is a great way to show your dedication and sacrifice. You can volunteer for political parties and candidates to help out causes you believe in and get your face out there as a thriving member of society.[11]
    • If you’re still in college, look around for internships nearby to get your foot in the door.
    • Volunteer experience can also lead to career opportunities down the line.

Part3Becoming a Candidate for President

  1. 1Think about why you’d like to become the president. Becoming the President of the United States isn’t easy, and doing the actual job is pretty tough too. Before you continue down the path towards your goal, do a little soul-searching to see why exactly you’d like to become the president and whether you can handle the pressure and hardships it may come with.[12]
    • There is also a large chance that you won’t become the president, so you should come to terms with that, too.
  2. 2Talk to your family and friends. Becoming president includes a grueling campaign where every bit of your personal and professional life will be picked apart by the media and your competitors. It’ll be tough on you, but it’ll also be tough on your family. You’ll be flitting to and from during your campaign with very little time for your spouse and children, so talk to your loved ones before you continue.[13]
    • There are also safety issues that come with running for president. You should talk to your family and friends about the extra security you all might need in the coming months.
  3. 3Talk to your political party about running. Find out what they’re looking for, who your competition is, and what you’d need to do to get their support. If you’re backed by your own political party, you’re much more likely to get ahead during campaign season.[14]
    • They can also help you find funding for your campaign.
  4. 4Appoint your campaign manager. When it’s time to get going on your campaign, you’ll need to hire someone to handle the logistics. Pick someone you know and trust who also has experience in politics, fundraising, and rallies so they can help you promote yourself.[15]
    • You can expect your campaign manager to handle your touring schedule, making posters, and coordinating volunteers.
  5. 5Raise money from donors. Political campaigns are expensive, and you’re going to need a lot of cash to get started. Call anyone you can think of who might back your campaign and ask them for a small, moderate, or large sum of money to help you promote yourself and your policies.[16]
    • You can contact local corporations, nonprofits, or just American citizens.
    • You can also ask your political party if they’ll help to fund your campaign.
  6. 6Form an exploratory committee. This committee can “test the waters,” or determine what your chances are. It’s the standard first step to starting out on the presidential path. Have your campaign manager gather a group of political professionals to figure out your chances of winning the presidency, then change your strategy from there.[17]
    • Utilize your exploratory committee to assess the level of visibility you have in the public (i.e, your chance at succeeding) and recommend campaign strategies, themes, and slogans. The committee should also recruit potential donors, endorsements, staff and volunteers, and write position papers and speeches. If it all goes well, they’ll start organizing in the key beginning states (Iowa, New Hampshire, etc.)
  7. 7Register with the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Once you begin receiving donations or spending money in excess of $5,000, you must register. While this doesn’t mean you’re officially running, the FEC basically assumes that you are.[18]
    • Be sure to file a Statement of Candidacy within 15 days of reaching the $5,000 threshold.
    • After that statement is filed, you have 10 days to file a Statement of Organization.
    • You must also report campaign income and expenditures to the FEC on a quarterly basis.
  8. 8Declare your candidacy publicly. This is an opportunity to hold a rally for supporters and voters. Pick a place in your hometown or an area where you have a lot of support, then host a rally with guest speakers and supporters. You can also use this as an opportunity to sell T-shirts, buttons, and bumper stickers with your name on them.[19]
    • Make sure you invite the media so you can televise your candidacy as well.

Part4Getting Elected President

  1. 1Appeal to average Americans. To become president, you will need to shake hands, attend small town events and visit factories, veterans, churches, farms and businesses. You’ll need to put away those diamond cufflinks of yours and roll up your khakis.[20]
    • Al Gore said he invented the Internet. John Edwards had an affair. Mitt Romney said half of US voters don’t pay taxes.[21] That’s just three things Americans don’t like. Wherever you are—whether you think you’re being recorded or not—be on your best behavior. The public doesn’t easily forget these things.
    • The presidency (or any position of power) is not as bright as it seems; the real challenge is to win key supporters that can help keep your campaign going, win the presidency, and stay in office.[22]
  2. 2Win primary elections, caucuses, and delegates. Each state has a different way of choosing a president: a caucus, a primary, or some combination of the two. Winning those grants you delegates that choose you to be on the presidential ticket, celebrated at the party’s national convention that year.[23]
    • Every state is a bit different, and the party themselves are different as well. Republicans have “pledged” and “un-pledged” delegates; Democrats have “pledged delegates” and “super delegates.” Some are a winner-take-all system, while others give you a percentage of delegates to match the percentage of votes you received.
  3. 3Attend your party’s convention. Once you emerge as the strongest candidate in your political party, your party will hold a convention where all the delegates will pledge their support for your candidacy. It used to be that the convention was actually where the delegates voted, but now there’s media coverage where everyone already knows who won, so it’s a bit more symbolic. Either way, it’s a party in your name.[24]
    • It’s one day where each party prefers to concentrate on how awesome they are instead of how terrible the other is. So enjoy the short-lived positivity!
    • This is also where you will declare your running mate. This is pretty big—if people don’t approve of your choice, you could lose votes, so think it through.
  4. 4Run in the general election. This is a narrow field that often pits two major candidates against each other, one from the Republican Party and one from the Democratic Party. Here, people across the country will have the option to vote for their candidate of choice.[25]
    • By this point, you’ll have advisors and admins doing most of the background work for you so you can focus on reaching out to citizens and getting votes.
    • Enter the race as a third party if you do not have the backing of a major party, but still want to be president. Other parties that support presidential candidates include the Green Party, Natural Law Party, and Libertarian Party. Presidential candidates have also run as Independents.

Part5Getting to the White House

  1. 1Stick to your views and your promises. Keep being your charismatic self, and make sure your speechwriters are on top of their game. Get the word out there about what you believe in and what you want to do for the country, and then stick to it. Keep your image as consistent and clean as possible.[26]
    • Not only will it be your word, but it’ll be your image everywhere—commercials that you’ve endorsed (including attack ads), YouTube videos, pictures from your past, etc. No matter what gets thrown at you, you have to take it in stride.
  2. 2Do well in presidential debates. Not only do you have to know your views, you must know your opponent’s views, too. Speak in a way that is convincing to the general public, simultaneously beefing up your own campaign and deflating the other. Do some research beforehand on what is polling well in the general public and stay on-brand for your campaign.[27]
    • When John F. Kennedy stared right into the camera with his tan, young self, sweaty, coming-out-of-the-flu Nixon didn’t stand a chance. Charisma will get you a long way here, so play it up to the 3Win the presidential election. You will need to do more than win the popular vote, which is the tally of all votes in your favor. You will also need to win the electoral college. 270 votes and you’ve got it! As the votes roll in on that first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, try not to bite your nails off or pull out your hair. You can sleep when all is said and done.[28]
    • Each state has a certain number of electors based on its size and population. To become president, one candidate must have more electoral votes than the other. In the event of a tie, the House of Representatives will decide who wins the election.
  3. 4Get inaugurated on January 20th. Once all the votes are counted, you’ll have a few months to prepare before you head into the office. On January 20th, you’ll be inaugurated in front of the whole country and officially start your term as the President of the United States.[29]
    • The old president will symbolically hand their position over to you so you can start your term.

presidential election process steps

The Election Process of the US President: Made Simple

How to become the President of the United States of America (USA)? What is the election process of the US President?

To learn about the US Presidential election process, you need to know about the caucuses and primaries, the national conventions, and the electoral college.

Read to know more about the Election Process of US President.

US Presidential Election: The Election Process
AIR 6 Meera K about ClearIAS Prelims Online Test Series

Who can become the President of the United States of America (USA)?

The U.S. Constitution’s Requirements for a Presidential Candidate are:

  1. A natural-born citizen of the United States.
  2. A resident of the United States for 14 years.
  3. At least 35 years old.

Note: A Natural Born Citizen is someone born with U.S. citizenship. This includes any child born “in” the United States, the children of United States citizens born abroad, and those born abroad of one citizen parent.

The Election Process of the US President

The Election Process of US President

The US President and Vice President are not elected directly by the people. Instead, they are chosen by “electors” through a process called the “Electoral College”.

The election process of US President can be consolidated into five steps – Step 1: Primaries and Caucuses, Step 2: National Conventions, Step 3: Election Campaigning, Step 4: General Election, and Step 5: Electoral College.

Step 1: Primaries and Caucuses (Party level elections in States)

Primaries and Caucuses

There may be many people who want to be the president of the United States of America. Each of these people may have their own ideas about how the US government should work. People with similar ideas usually align behind the same political party. But they need to win the favour of their party members first.

Candidates from each political party campaign throughout the country to win the favour of their party members.

  • Primaries and caucuses are methods that political parties use to select candidates for a general election.
  • Primary: A primary is a state-level election where party members vote for the best candidate that will represent them in the general election. Party candidates selected in a primary then run against each other in a general election. 34 U.S. states conduct primary elections.
  • There are several types of primaries in the U.S. system like Closed primary, Semi-closed primary, Open primary and Semi-open primary.
  • Caucus: A caucus is a local meeting where registered members of a political party in a city, town or county gather to vote for their preferred party candidate and conduct other party business. A caucus is a substitute for a primary election to select delegates to the national party convention. 16 states hold caucuses to determine political party candidates.

Step 2: National Conventions of Each Party

National Convention

Practice. Practice. Practice.

ClearIAS Prelims Online Mock Exams.

Once the primaries and caucuses are completed in each state, a national convention is held in which a party’s nomination for president is formally announced to the public. During the convention, the elected delegates cast their vote for a party candidate and the candidate with the most delegates gets the party’s nomination. The end of the convention marks the beginning of the general election process.

Each party holds a national convention to finalize the selection of one presidential nominee. At each convention, the presidential candidate chooses a running-mate (vice-presidential candidate).

Step 3: General Election Campaigning

Hilary Clinton

General election campaigning begins after a single nominee is chosen from each political party, via primaries, caucuses, and national conventions.

These candidates travel the country, explaining their views and plans to the general population and trying to win the support of potential voters. Rallies, debates, and advertising are a big part of general election campaigning.

Popular Vote in US
  • Usually in November.
  • Many modern voters might be surprised to learn that when they step into a ballot box to select their candidate for president, they actually are casting a vote for fellow Americans called electors.
  • People in every state across the country vote for one president and one vice president. When people cast their vote, they are actually voting for a group of people known as electors.
  • The voters of each state, and the District of Columbia, vote for electors to be the authorized constitutional members in a presidential election. These voters form the electoral college.
  • An elector is a member of the electoral college. These electors, appointed by the states, are pledged to support the presidential candidate the voters have supported.
  • Even though the majority of people of the USA vote for a candidate, that does not mean that he/she will win the Presidential election. There are instances where a candidate who won the popular vote lost the election.
  • To win the election, a candidate needs to secure more than 270 electoral votes.

Step 5: Electoral College (Electors vote for the US President)

USA electoral college
  • Usually in December.
  • The US the president is elected by the institution called the Electoral College.
  • The Constitution only states that the candidate who receives a majority of votes in the Electoral College becomes president. It says nothing about the popular vote.
  • The intent of the framers was to filter public opinion through a body composed of wiser, more experienced people; the framers did not want the president to be chosen directly by the people.
  • Each state gets a certain number of electors. This is based on each state’s total representation in Congress.
  • Each of the 50 US states and the capital Washington DC (a district which does not belong to any state) have a set number of electors which reflects their size. California is the most populated (over 38 million people) and has 55 electoral votes – more than any other. On the other hand, a state such as Montana, which is geographically large but has a relatively small population (just over one million people) – only has three electors.
  • Aside from Maine and Nebraska, if a candidate gets the most votes within a state they receive that state’s full quota of electoral college votes.
  • Each elector casts one electoral vote following the general election.
  • There are a total of 538 electoral votes.
  • The candidate that gets more than half (270) wins the election.

What happened in the 2016 elections?

Trump vs Clinton

In 2016, Donald J. Trump won the Electoral College with 304 votes compared to 227 votes for Hillary Clinton. However, seven electors voted for someone other than their party’s candidate.

Even though it doesn’t matter, it was Hillary Clinton who won the popular vote in 2016.

Though uncommon, it is possible to win the Electoral College, but lose the popular vote. That means that a candidate can win a combination of states and reach the 270 electors mark without winning the majority of votes across the country.

This has happened five times in American elections – most recently in 2000 and 2016.

United States Electoral College
Popular Vote vs Electoral Vote

US President and US Vice President

Electoral Vote of the Vice President of the US

Why does the U.S. have an Electoral College?

The short answer is the framers of the Constitution didn’t trust direct democracy and provided an extra layer to ensure, as James Madison put it, that “factions” of citizens with a common interest don’t harm the nation as a whole. However, the Electoral College has become a mere formality.

The Constitution doesn’t require electors to vote according to the popular vote of the people they represent. But it’s rare for an elector not to follow the people’s and their party’s choice. Although the actual vote of the Electoral College takes place in each state between mid-November and mid-December, in most cases, a projected winner can be announced on election night.

What Happens if No Candidate Gets 270 Electoral Votes?

In the rare event that no candidate gets the needed 270 electoral votes, the decision would go to the House of Representatives, who would vote to elect the new President from among the top three candidates. A similar process would take place in the Senate to elect the Vice President from among the top two candidates. The only time this has happened was during the 1824 election when John Quincy Adams received the most votes in the House of Representatives after no candidate won a majority of the Electoral College.

US Presidential Election Disputes and Supreme Court

In 2000, for the first time in 112 years, the eventual winner of the election, Republican George W. Bush (47.87% of voters), failed to win the popular vote lagging behind the Democratic nominee Al Gore who won over 48.38 % of voters (edging out Bush nationwide by about 550,000 votes).

The outcome of that election came down to Florida, which at the time had 25 electoral college votes and gave Bush a narrow electoral college win with 271 electors over Gore’s 266.

However, the contest was so close in the sunshine state that a mandatory recount was triggered. And with legal challenges being launched in several Florida counties the case was eventually decided by the Supreme court who handed the state, and therefore the Presidency, to Bush with a ruling 5-4 in favour of the Republican on December 12 of that year.

Ok. Elections are over. What’s next?

The president-elect and vice president-elect take the oath of office and are inaugurated in January.

The Election Process of US President: Infographic

Go through the below infographic to know the steps in the election process of US President.

How to become the President of the United States of America (USA)?


US President and Vice President are not directly elected by voters.

It is the ‘electors’ from each state who elect the US President and Vice President.

The Electoral College consists of 538 electoral votes (from 50 states and District of Columbia).

The elections results are largely influenced by the voter behaviour in large swing states.

To win the election the candidate needs to secure 270 electoral votes.

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