Rukeyser was born in New York City. He graduated in 1954 from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, the same year as Donald Rumsfeld.He spent the next eleven years as a political and foreign correspondent for the Baltimore Sun newspapers.
He then moved to ABC television as economics correspondent and commentator. He left ABC in 1973.
In 1970, he started the popular PBS series, "Wall $treet Week with Louis Rukeyser", which ran for 32 years before Rukeyser left in a dispute with Maryland Public Television executives over their plans to demote him and use younger hosts.
Shortly thereafter, he began a new program, "Louis Rukeyser's Wall Street" (named after one of his newsletters) on the cable channel CNBC. Highly unusual for a cable network, advertising on the show was limited to before-and-after "underwriting" announcements similar to those on non-commercial broadcast stations. This was done at Rukeyser's insistence, so that Garden City, New York public station WLIW could offer the program to PBS members who wanted to carry it on a second-run basis. "Louis Rukeyser's Wall Street" ended its run on December 31, 2004 at Rukeyser's request after health problems kept him off the show for more than a year