How to Become a Judge

Judge Careers & Degrees
Salary$128,550/year
$61.8/hour
Education4+ Years
Outlook5.6%

Judges hold one of the most prestigious professions in the nation.

This may because Judges are highly experienced in law and are responsible for managing the legal process in court.

Judges may specialize in different areas of the law from presiding over trials and hearings to overseeing the management of traffic offenses.

Individuals who want to become a Judge may already know that it will take several years of education and experience in order to enter this profession.

However, all the hard work put into entering this profession will assure an individual will be a part of one of the most respected professions.

Education Requirements to Become a Judge

Individuals who want to become a Judge will need to complete several years of postsecondary education as well as several years of experience in order to enter this profession.

Individuals must first complete a bachelor’s degree, attend law school, become licensed and gain experience practicing law as an attorney before being selected or voted into this profession.

There is no specific undergraduate degree an individual needs to focus on in order to become a judge.

However, there are some recommended courses an individual is suggested to take in order to improve their communication and public speaking skills.

Some suggested courses include: mathematics, history, economics, English, public speaking and government.

After attaining an undergraduate degree, an individual must then take the entrance exam into law school.

Individuals may visit LSAC to learn more information about the entrance exam.

The majority of law school programs typically last 3 years to complete.

The typical program will include courses concentrating on: legal writing, property law, civil procedure, constitutional law and contracts.

After completing a law degree, individuals must then take the licensing exam, most commonly referred to “the bar” in order to practice as an attorney.

This requirements to take the licensing exam will depend on the state an individual resides in.

Individuals can visit NCBE for more information on the requirements and testing details.

Individuals who want to become a Judge will need experience practicing as an attorney in order to gain the skills and knowledge needed to serve as a judge.

Because judges are appointed or voted into this position, individuals must also gain the necessary reputation to be elected into this position.

Judge Job Description

Judges are responsible for presiding over a court room and applying the law.

These professionals may work at the local, state or federal courts.

The most important aspect to succeeding in this profession is to interpret the law and assure that the legal process is fair for all parties and sides involved.

In addition to presiding over a courtroom, Judges will also complete thorough legal research, read and assess a variety of documentation including: records, claim applications and motions.

They will supervise hearing and gather information from arguments presented by opposing parties.

Judges will determine if any testimony supports the charges, disputes or claims which will also be used to resolve any disputes or charges.

Judges will use laws to determine a judgment or sentence.

Judge Salary and Career Path

In 2012, the median annual salary for Judges and Hearing Officers was approximately $115,760 per year.

Exact wages will depend on a variety of factors including the specialization and area a Judge works in.

For example, Hearing Officers, Adjudicators and Administrative Law Judges can expect to earn a median salary of $87,240 per year.

The job outlook for Judges and Hearing Officers is expected to increase job opportunities by 1 to 2 percent through the year 2022.

This rate is considered little to no growth and is attributed to the process needed to authorize and approve a new position through legislation.

This growth will also be assisted by the fact that many judges may leave their positions due to pursuing teaching opportunities, the end of their elected term is approaching or because they are leaving the occupation due to retirement.

The road to become a Judge can be a long and arduous one, but once an individual does so, they can be assured they are a member of a very prestigious and respected profession.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$128,550
$39K
$77K
$128K
$165K
$204K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$58,330
Alaska- NA -
Arizona$118,640
Arkansas- NA -
California$184,340
Colorado$156,460
Connecticut$161,720
Delaware$143,660
Florida$171,450
Georgia$108,100
Idaho$124,600
Illinois$190,450
Indiana$125,160
Iowa- NA -
Kansas$97,310
Kentucky$129,610
Maine$113,770
Maryland$140,360
Michigan- NA -
Minnesota$140,640
Mississippi$48,990
Missouri$130,880
Montana$82,120
Nevada$156,250
New Jersey$134,250
New Mexico$83,510
New York$184,090
North Dakota$135,240
Ohio$97,370
Oklahoma$74,400
Oregon$141,550
Pennsylvania$60,310
Rhode Island- NA -
South Carolina$60,560
South Dakota$84,220
Tennessee$117,870
Texas$98,700
Utah$93,020
Vermont$125,170
Washington$125,130
West Virginia$78,280
Wisconsin$111,270

The top earning state in the field is Illinois, where the average salary is $190,450.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Illinois - $190,450
California - $184,340
New York - $184,090
Florida - $171,450
Connecticut - $161,720
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Judges, Magistrate Judges, and Magistrates, OCC Code 23-1023, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat does a judge do?

A judge is someone who oversees the legal process in court and applies the law to court cases.

It is one of the most prestigious professions in the country.

There is a wide range of types of judges – probate, bankruptcy, trial, magistrate, presiding, family law, district court, superior court, chef, hanging, court of appeals, county, administrative law judges, and so on.

The typical responsibilities of a judge usually include researching legal issues; presiding over hearings and listening to or reading arguments by opposing parties; reading and evaluating information from various documents; deciding if the procedure is being conducted according to the rules and law, etc.

Most of the work of a judge is done either in an office or in a courtroom.

QuestionHow much do judges make?

On average, a judge can make a little less than $134.000 per year in the United States.

In case you decide to choose this career path, you can expect to earn anywhere between $35.000 and $193.000 annually.

The salary would certainly depend on a variety of factors – your education and experience level, the location and so on.

Judges that work in Nevada, Connecticut, and California, for example, have the highest average salaries.

An entry-level judge can earn around $17.00 per hour, while a top-level professional with plenty of experience can make $93.00 and more per hour.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a judge?

You would certainly need a bachelor’s degree, in order to become a judge (in any major).

A year in a university can cost you anywhere between $8.000 and $45.000 (and more); the cost depends on a variety of factors (the books, supplies, and accommodation expenses are not included).

Aspiring defense attorneys would then be required to take an entrance exam (Law Schools Admission Test); it will cost you over $180, however, you might want to invest in study guides and practice tests.

You should then apply to a law school (around $26.000-$43.000) and earn a Juris Doctor degree.

After graduating, future judges take the bar exam (about $6.700) and become lawyers.

Experienced lawyers apply for judgeships if they wish to follow this career path.

QuestionWhat is the demand for judges?

Between 2016 and 2026, the judge job market is expected to grow by 5.6%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That is a little slower than the average for all occupations in the United States.

The competition in the field is extremely high; the number of opportunities for judges is limited by state and federal budgets.

The industry is mainly concentrated in New York, Ohio, and Texas.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a judge?

It will take you 4 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree.

It is recommended that students spend 150-300 hours on the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test) prep.

If your scores are high enough, you will be accepted to law school; be prepared to spend at least 3 years as a full-time student.

The bar prep course can take you around 2 months.

The rules governing the selection of judges vary by state.

Still wondering which career path is right for you? take this free career interests test to find out.

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