Htin Kyaw graduated high school from English Methodist High School in 1962. He enrolled at the Rangoon Institute of Economics (then part of Rangoon Arts and Science University) and graduated with an M.Econ. in statistics in 1968. He started working as a Teacher while studying towards his master's degree. He then moved to the University Computer Centre as a programmer/system analyst in 1970.
Htin Kyaw pursued further studies on a scholarship to the Institute of Computer Science, University of London in 1971–1972 and attended computer studies in Asia Electronics Union, Tokyo in 1974. He completed his second master's degree in 1975. He attended a course at the Arthur D. Little School of Management in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1987.
Htin Kyaw has been married to Su Su Lwin since 1973; she is the incumbent House of Representatives MP for Thongwa Township and a Member of the International Relations Committee of the House of Representatives. The couple have no children.
His father was the famous Writer, poet and scholar Min Thu Wun, who won a seat in the 1990 election. His father-in-law, U Lwin, was a co-founder of the National League for Democracy. He also acted as the secretary of the party from 1995 to 2010.
He was arrested on 22 September 2000, and spent four months in Insein prison for assisting Aung San Suu Kyi's trip outside Yangon. From 2012, he worked as a senior executive for Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, founded by Aung San Suu Kyi and named after her mother Khin Kyi. Though not a veteran member of the NLD, Kyaw worked very closely with Aung San Suu Kyi at the Office of NLD Chairperson.
He was mentioned as a possible presidential pick after the NLD won a sweeping victory in the 2015 general election. Aung San Suu Kyi was constitutionally barred from the presidency, since her late husband and both of her children are British citizens; the constitution does not allow a President, his parents, his spouse, or his children to "owe allegiance to a foreign power." Upon his nomination, Aung San Suu Kyi said she had chosen him for his truthfulness, loyalty and respectable education.
On 30 March 2016, Htin Kyaw was sworn in as President of Myanmar, becoming the first President since U Nu's overthrow in 1962 to have no ties to the military. Despite Htin Kyaw being a nominally independent leader, Aung San Suu Kyi has said that she will in fact direct the actions of the President and lead the country through him. It was thought before the elections that Aung San Suu Kyi would "be above the president” and make all key decisions. Indeed, the post of State Counsellor–equivalent to a Prime Minister–was created for her.
He went to Bangkok in September 2017 to check up medical examinations and necessary treatment. There has been speculations about his ill health among people but they were denied by officials. He departed to Singapore on 23 January 2018 to do medical check-up.
Htin Kyaw writes under the pen name Dala Ban, a prominent title of ancient Mon commanders. He wrote a biographical book about his father Min Thu Wun: The Father’s Life: Glimpses of my Father (Aba Bawa Aba Akyaung Tase Tasaung). He also wrote various articles about his family life with his father in weekly journals.