Judges and Hearing Officers: Salary, career path, job outlook, education and more

Education Required
Although there may be a few positions available for those with a bachelors degree, a law degree is typically required for most jobs as a local, state, or federal judge or hearing officer.
Training Required
All states have some type of orientation and training requirements for newly elected or appointed judges. The Federal Judicial Center, American Bar Association, National Judicial College, and National Center for State Courts provide judicial education and training for judges and other judicial branch personnel.
Job Outlook
The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026: 5% (As fast as average)
(The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.)
Advancement for some judicial workers means moving to courts with a broader jurisdiction. Advancement for various hearing officers includes taking on more complex cases, practicing law, and becoming district court judges.
Most judges and hearing officers are required to have a law license. In addition, they typically must maintain their law license and good standing with their state bar association while working as a judge or hearing officer.
Median pay: How much do Judges and Hearing Officers make?
$109,940 Annual Salary
$52.86 per hour

Judges and hearing officers apply the law by overseeing the legal process in courts. They also conduct pretrial hearings, resolve administrative disputes, facilitate negotiations between opposing parties, and issue legal decisions.

What do Judges and Hearing Officers do?

Judges and hearing officers typically do the following:

  • Research legal issues
  • Read and evaluate information from documents, such as motions, claim applications, and records
  • Preside over hearings and listen to and read arguments by opposing parties
  • Determine if the information presented supports the charge, claim, or dispute
  • Decide if the procedure is being conducted according to the rules and law
  • Apply laws or precedents to reach judgments and to resolve disputes between parties
  • Write opinions, decisions, and instructions regarding cases, claims, and disputes

Judges commonly preside over trials and hearings of cases regarding nearly every aspect of society, from individual traffic offenses to issues concerning the rights of large corporations. Judges listen to arguments and determine if the evidence presented deserves a trial. In criminal cases, judges may decide that people charged with crimes should be held in jail until the trial, or they may set conditions for their release. They also approve search warrants and arrest warrants.

Judges interpret the law to determine how a trial will proceed, which is particularly important when unusual circumstances arise for which standard procedures have not been established. They ensure that hearings and trials are conducted fairly and that the legal rights of all involved parties are protected.

In trials in which juries are selected to decide the case, judges instruct jurors on applicable laws and direct them to consider the facts from the evidence. For other trials, judges decide the case. A judge who determines guilt in criminal cases may impose a sentence or penalty on the guilty party. In civil cases, the judge may award relief, such as compensation for damages, to the parties who win lawsuits.

Judges use various forms of technology, such as electronic databases and software, to manage cases and to prepare for trials. In some cases, a judge may manage the courts administrative and clerical staff.

The following are examples of types of judges and hearing officers:

Careers for Judges and Hearing Officers

  • Administrative court justices
  • Administrative law judges
  • Appeals examiners
  • Appeals referees
  • Appellate conferees
  • Circuit court judges
  • County court judges
  • Criminal court judges
  • District court judges
  • Hearing examiners
  • Hearing officers
  • Judges
  • Judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates
  • Jurists
  • Justices
  • Justices of the peace
  • Probate judges
  • Traffic court referees
  • Trial court judges
  • Tribal judges

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