How to Become a Judge

The U.S. legal system is a very important section of the government that ensures all people living in the country abide by all laws. Courts must have lead officials who are in charge of the court to make final decisions, supervise trials, and make sure there is always order. This is the job of judges.


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What does a judge do?

Judges ensure the law is being followed and oversee all court legal processes. They ensure order and see that hearings and trials are conducted fairly. They protect the legal rights of all involved parties. Judges present rulings based on evidence, testimony, and other aspects presented in the courtroom. They often settle disagreements between opposing lawyers and parties involved in the situation.

Judges hold pretrial hearings and listen to the claims to determine whether there is enough evidence for a trail. They decide if individuals should be held in jail during the trail and set release conditions. In jury trials, judges inform juries on the related laws, help them understand evidence facts, and listen to their concluding verdict. They also work outside the courtroom in private offices or chambers.

What kind of training does a judge need?

Judges need at least a bachelor degree, but most have law degrees and have previously practiced as lawyers. In Federal and State courts, judges are typically required to be lawyers. Judges at the Federal administrative law level must be lawyers and receive a passing score on a U.S. Office of Personnel Management competitive examination. All states require new judges to complete orientation. Judicial training and education is provides by the American Bar Association, National Center for State Courts, Federal Judicial Center, and National Judicial College. Most states require judges to complete continuing education courses while they are serving.

What are the prospects for a career as a judge?

Employment of judges is projected to grow slower than average for all professions, increasing 4% from 2006 to 2016 (1). Economic growth and the increase in court cases will drive job growth.

Job prospects are expected to be fair with keen competition. Most of the job openings will arise from the need to replace judges who retire or leave the field. There will also be openings when judges are promoted to higher judicial offices or when new judgeships are approved.

How much do judges make?

As of August 2009, the middle 50% of judges earned annual salaries between $140,456 and $160,247. The highest 10% earned annual salaries of more than $175,775 (2).

A career as a judge is an excellent choice for individuals with law experience and sufficient political support as many judges are elected or appointed. Judges must be able to make wise decisions and be very knowledgeable of all aspects of law. Integrity, patience, high professionalism, assertiveness, open-mindedness, and firmness are all essential characteristics. Judges must also have self-discipline, resistance to pressure, courtesy, and confidence.

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