Before people take on careers in politics, many hold jobs you might not expect. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for example, is famously known for being a bartender before making it to the U.S. Congress. And then for other people who embark on a political career, even if they do land a position in or near the White House, a lifetime career in politics isn’t guaranteed.
Some of these politicians made it high up in the political ranks but decided to make major career changes when their terms ended — sometimes by choice, and others not so much. And then some started out in other careers only to find politics calling their name. But many of these elected officials have gone on to make millions thanks to their time in office.
- Net worth: $14 million
Former FBI director James Comey was fired by former President Donald Trump in May 2017, but he recovered from the shakeup and served as a college professor at his alma mater. Comey co-taught a three-credit course on ethical leadership for the College of William and Mary during the fall 2018, spring 2019 and summer 2019 semesters. In January 2021, he began teaching a seminar entitled “Lawyers and Leaders” at Columbia Law School. He also published two books, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership” and “Saving Justice: Truth, Transparency and Trust.”
- Net worth: $1 million
Hope Hicks was one of former President Donald Trump’s closest aides and also served as the White House communications director until resigning in February 2018.
In 2019, she stepped into a new role as executive vice president and chief communications officer for Fox — a career move that didn’t last long. In 2020, Hicks returned to the White House as an aide to Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. She exited the role in January, prior to Trump leaving office, CNN reported.
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George W. Bush
- Net worth: $40 million
After leaving office in 2009, former President George W. Bush took up a new hobby: painting. He’s turned his passion project into a career of its own, with the release of a book, “Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors.” The book contains a collection of oil paintings and stories honoring America’s courageous military veterans.
In 2019, his portraits of wounded veterans were displayed as part of a six-week residency at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. And Bush has another book in the works, “Out of Many, One: Portraits of America’s Immigrants,” set to be published on April 20.
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- Net worth: $2.5 billion, according to Forbes
Former President Donald Trump came from a much different background than most who held that position, with no previous military or government experience. Prior to his presidency, Trump was best known as a billionaire businessman with a penchant for real estate developments and reality TV shows.
Trump has years of experience in the entertainment industry. He owned multiple beauty pageants, such as Miss Universe and Miss USA, from 1996-2015. He also hosted 14 combined seasons of the hit show “The Apprentice” and “Celebrity Apprentice,” frequently barking the now-iconic phrase, “You’re fired!” However, Trump makes the bulk of his money from his real estate holdings, Forbes reported.
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- Net worth: $200 million
Anthony Scaramucci, aka “The Mooch,” was only White House communications director for less than two weeks, but he made his mark thanks to an explosive interview with The New Yorker.
After leaving the Trump administration, Scaramucci launched his own publication, the Scaramucci Post. He also wrote a book titled “Trump, the Blue-Collar President.” Currently, he leads the investment firm SkyBridge.
- Net worth: $3.5 million
Omarosa Manigault went from reality TV villain to White House senior advisor. She served as director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison before stepping down from her role and returning to her reality TV roots with a stint on “Celebrity Big Brother.” Since then, she’s launched a new career as a book author and public speaker.
- Net worth: $70 million (combined net worth with his wife, Michelle Obama)
Former President Barack Obama has shifted his career from politics to entertainment. Obama and his wife, Michelle, signed a multi-year agreement to produce films and series with Netflix. The first one, “American Factory,” made its debut in 2019. The former president released his presidential memoir, “A Promised Land,” on Nov. 17, 2020.
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- Net worth: $6 million
Sean Spicer was the first press secretary to serve in Trump’s White House. Since leaving his position, he’s parlayed his experience speaking to the press into a speaking gig with the Worldwide Speaking Group, Time reported. He is also the host of the syndicated Newsmax show “Spicer & Co.” and is a partner at the marketing company Point 1.
He’s also added “author” to his resume with the release of his book, “The Briefing: Politics, The Press and The President.” His most recent book, “Leading America,” was released Oct. 13, 2020.
- Net worth: $100,000
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s incredible rise to Congress started with humble beginnings. After she graduated from Boston University in 2011, she moved back home to the Bronx to help support her widowed mother, supplementing her nonprofit work with gigs waiting tables and serving drinks.
In 2016, AOC was, once again, a bartender in New York, known to customers as “Sandy,” when she decided to make the trek to South Dakota to participate in the protest against the Dakota Access oil pipeline.
When Ocasio-Cortez returned to her bartending job, she received a call from Brand New Congress asking her to run for Congress in her home district against 10-term incumbent Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley. Reluctant at first, she decided to run after encouragement from friends and colleagues. AOC went on to defeat Crowley in the November 2018 general election and was sworn into Congress in January 2019 — alongside 127 other women.
- Net worth: Unknown
Former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara — who was asked by the Justice Department to resign in March 2017 and was subsequently fired — made a career change from politics to podcasting. He now hosts the weekly podcast “Stay Tuned with Preet,” which covers the themes of justice and fairness. He also joined the NYU School of Law as a distinguished scholar in residence.
- Net worth: Unknown
Sebastian Gorka was deputy assistant to former President Trump before leaving the White House in August 2017. The end of his political career simply meant his entry into several new ones, including roles as a consultant and lecturer at the Heritage Foundation, a nonresident scholar at the Institute of World Politics and a host of the radio show “America First.”
- Net worth: Unknown
Reince Priebus was former President Donald Trump’s first chief of staff; he resigned in July 2017. After his turn in the White House, Priebus returned to his former law firm, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, but in 2019, he was sworn in as an entry-level officer in the Navy.
Currently, he is president at Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, a political analyst on CBS News and a professional speaker.
- Net worth: Unknown
Like James Comey, the former acting attorney general with the Trump administration took the leap from politics to academia. Sally Yates served as a distinguished lecturer from government at Georgetown Law, USA Today reported. She currently practices law as a partner at King & Spalding.
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Cynthia Measom contributed to the reporting for this article.
All net worths are sourced from Celebrity Net Worth unless otherwise stated. Net worth figures are accurate as of Feb. 5, 2021.