Historically, there has been no requirement to have an academic background in economics or commerce in order to serve as the Minister of Finance in India. In fact, so far less than one-third of the over 30 who held this position have had the relevant qualification.
John Mathai, the first finance minister who presented two budgets (in 1946 and 1950) was an economics graduate from the University of Madras and also served as the head of the same university between 1922 and 1925. He went on to become the first chairman of SBI and the founding president of the governing body of the NCAER (National Council of Applied Economic Research) which was India's first independent economic policy think-tank.
T. T. Krishnamachari, another founding member of the NCAER, also graduated in economics from Madras Christian College and served as the finance minister for two terms. The other finance ministers with relevant education were R. Venkataraman (masters degree in economics from Loyola College, Chennai), I.K Gujral (commerce degree from Hailey College, Lahore), Manmohan Singh (studied economics at Cambridge and D.Phil from Oxford University), P. Chidambaram (degree in statistics from Presidency College, Chennai and an MBA from Harvard) and Arun Jaitley (honours degree in commerce from Sri Ram College College of Commerce, New Delhi and LLB from Delhi University).
Presently appointed as the interim minister of finance and corporate affairs, Piyush Goyal also held a strong academic record as the all-India second rank holder Chartered Accountant and second rank holder in Law in Mumbai University.
However, many of our finance ministers do not come from related academic backgrounds. Pranab Mukherjee earned an MA degree in Political Science and History, as well as an LLB from the University of Calcutta. He worked as a political science lecturer and a journalist before entering politics.
This, however, did not prove disadvantageous in handling the position responsible for planning the Nation's budget. For example, C.D. Deshmukh, the first governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) graduated with a degree in Natural Sciences Tripos from Jesus College, Cambridge. He also topped the Indian Civil Service Examination that used to be held in London back in 1918. He held various civil positions before serving as the minister of finance.
Becoming a member of a five-member delegation representing India at the Bretton Woods Conference that established the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD). Issues of poverty and development were bought by the delegation into the agenda of the IBRD by the delegation. It is said that John Maynard Keynes was so impressed by the "dignity, ability and reasonableness" of Deshmukh that he recommended Deshmukh to head the IMF as its first managing director a suggestion which was then rejected by the United States.