Tedros was born in Asmara, which at that time was in Ethiopia—but is now the capital of Eritrea to Adhanom Gebreyesus and Melashu Weldegabir. The family originated from the Enderta awrajja of the province of Tigray. Tedros recalls that as a child he was very aware of the suffering and death caused by malaria.His younger brother died at the age of 3 or 4 years, possibly of a preventable disease like measles, which Tedros often discusses as a defining experience in regards to the need for global healthcare.
In 1986, Tedros received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the University of Asmara. He studied at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and was awarded Master of Science degree in Immunology of Infectious Diseases from University of London in 1992. In 2000, he earned a Doctor of Philosophy in community health from the University of Nottingham for research investigating the effects of dams on the transmission of malaria in the Tigray region of Ethiopia.
In 1986, after his first degree, Tedros joined the Ministry of Health of the Derg as a junior public health expert.
In 2001, Tedros was appointed head of the Tigray Regional Health Bureau. In late 2003, Tedros was appointed a State Minister (deputy minister) for Health, and served for just over a year.