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What does a judge do?  

Judges work for our court system. Judges are in charge of trials to make sure that they are fair. They deal with a wide variety of cases from minor traffic violations to more serious crimes like stealing and murder. They resolve differences between opposing lawyers during trial.

Judges often hold pretrial hearings for cases. They may decide whether a case merits a trial.

Judges also tell juries about the law. They research legal issues. Sometimes lawyers or law clerks do research for judges. Judges also write opinions on the law.

In criminal cases, judges decide how long someone will go to prison. In civil cases that may involve money but no crime, judges decide how much money one person must pay another.

Judges' duties vary. Some judges deal with cases involving serious crimes. Other judges decide cases about traffic rules, families, and small amounts of money. Some oversee cases dealing with Social Security benefits, the environment, and many other issues.

Judges need to know the law very well. Good judgment and patience are important assets.

Judges do most of their work in offices, law libraries, and courtrooms. Sitting in the same position in the courtroom for long periods can be tiring. Most judges wear robes when they are in a courtroom. Judges often work a 40-hour week. However, many work more than 50 hours a week.

How do you get ready?  

A college degree and work experience is the minimum requirement to be a judge. A number of lawyers become judges. In fact, most judges have first been lawyers. Federal and State judges usually are required to be lawyers.

Some judges are appointed for lifetime. Others have terms ranging form 4 to 14 years. All States have some type of training for new judges. Judges take continuing education courses. These courses last from a couple of days to 3 weeks.

How much does this job pay?  

The middle half of all judges earned between $44,970 and $120,390. The Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court earned $198,600.

How many jobs are there?  

There were 27,000 judges in 2002. Most worked in State and local government.

What about the future?  

Employment of judges is expected to grow more slowly than the average for all occupations through 2012. Federal, State, and local governments are trying to save money and will not hire very many new judges. Judges will face a lot of competition for jobs. Many lawyers and others want to become judges because judges are highly respected.

Are there other jobs like this?  

  • Counselors
  • Law clerks
  • Lawyers
  • Paralegals
  • Police and detectives
  • Title examiners, abstractors, and searchers

    Source: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics

Where can you find more information?  

More information about judges, magistrates, and other judicial workers can be found in the Careers Database.

Questions or Comments?
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