What is a Judge

Judges primarily officiate court proceedings. They are also responsible for signing restraining orders, subpoenas, and other legal documents. Federal judges in the United States have to be appointed or elected to their positions. People who aspire to become a Judge must run for their local elections, garner their state governor's approval, or be directly appointed by the United States President.

Most states require their Judges to have a college diploma, at least. We found that Judges commonly hold specialized degrees in Law, Criminal Justice, Legal Research, and Advanced Professional Studies. Because this is such a high-skill job, many candidates take more time to establish their expertise by pursuing a Master's degree or Doctorate in those fields.

On average, Judges in the United States earn a yearly salary of roughly $196,000. That's more or less $94 an hour. However, top earners can make as much as $265,000 a year.

What Does a Judge Do

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.

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How To Become a Judge

Judges and hearing officers typically must have a law degree and work experience as a lawyer.

Education

Although there may be a few positions available for those with a bachelor’s degree, a law degree typically is required for most jobs as a local, state, or federal judge or hearing officer.

In addition to earning a law degree, federal administrative law judges must pass a competitive exam from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Earning a law degree usually takes 7 years of full-time study after high school: 4 years of undergraduate study, followed by 3 years of law school. Law degree programs include courses such as constitutional law, contracts, property law, civil procedure, and legal writing. For more information on how to become a lawyer, see the profile on lawyers.

Most judges and magistrates must be appointed or elected into their positions, a procedure that often takes political support. Many local and state judges are appointed to serve fixed renewable terms, ranging from 4 to 14 years. A few judges, such as appellate court judges, are appointed for life. Judicial nominating commissions screen candidates for judgeships in many states and for some federal judgeships. Some local and state judges are elected to a specific term in an election process.

For specific state information, including information on the number of judgeships by state, term lengths, and requirements for qualification, visit the National Center for State Courts.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Most judges and hearing officers learn their skills through years of experience as practicing lawyers. Some states allow those who are not lawyers to hold limited-jurisdiction judgeships, but opportunities are better for those with law experience.

Training

All states have some type of orientation 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.

More than half of all states, as well as Puerto Rico, require judges to take continuing education courses while serving on the bench. General and continuing education courses usually last from a few days to 3 weeks.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

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.

Advancement

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.

Important Qualities

Critical-thinking skills. Judges and hearing officers must apply rules of law. They cannot let their own personal assumptions interfere with the proceedings. For example, they must base their decisions on specific meanings of the law when evaluating and deciding whether a person is a threat to others and must be sent to jail.

Decisionmaking skills. Judges and hearing officers must be able to weigh the facts, to apply the law and rules, and to make a decision relatively quickly.

Listening skills. Judges and hearing officers evaluate information, so they must pay close attention to what is being said.

Reading skills. Judges and hearing officers must be able to distinguish important facts from large amounts of sometimes complex information and then evaluate the facts objectively.

Writing skills. Judges and hearing officers write recommendations and decisions on appeals and disputes. They must be able to write their decisions clearly so that all sides understand the decision.

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Average Salary
$50,732
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
3%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
1,947
Job Openings
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Average Salary for a Judge

Judges in America make an average salary of $50,732 per year or $24 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $53,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $48,000 per year.
Average Salary
$50,732
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Judge Resumes

Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming a Judge. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.

Learn How To Write a Judge Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless Judge resumes and compiled some information about how to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

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Judge Demographics

Judge Gender Statistics

male

47.3 %

female

47.0 %

unknown

5.6 %

Judge Ethnicity Statistics

White

80.3 %

Hispanic or Latino

6.9 %

Asian

5.4 %

Judge Foreign Languages Spoken Statistics

Spanish

42.4 %

French

14.4 %

Chinese

5.0 %
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Judge Education

Judge Majors

23.6 %
10.7 %

Judge Degrees

Bachelors

58.9 %

Doctorate

17.2 %

Masters

10.1 %

Top Colleges for Judges

1. Stanford University

Stanford, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$51,354
Enrollment
7,083

2. Harvard University

Cambridge, MA • Private

In-State Tuition
$50,420
Enrollment
7,582

3. Duke University

Durham, NC • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,695
Enrollment
6,596

4. University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,584
Enrollment
10,764

5. Yale University

New Haven, CT • Private

In-State Tuition
$53,430
Enrollment
5,963

6. Cornell University

Ithaca, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,188
Enrollment
15,105

7. Georgetown University

Washington, DC • Private

In-State Tuition
$54,104
Enrollment
7,089

8. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, MI • Private

In-State Tuition
$15,262
Enrollment
30,079

9. Northwestern University

Evanston, IL • Private

In-State Tuition
$54,568
Enrollment
8,451

10. University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame, IN • Private

In-State Tuition
$53,391
Enrollment
8,568
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About this Course This four-week course titled AI and Law explores the way in which the increasing use of artificially intelligent technologies (AI) affects the practice and administration of law defined in a broad sense. Subject matters discussed include the connection be between AI and Law in the context of legal responsibility, law-making, law-enforcing, criminal law, the medical sector and intellectual property law. The course aims to equip members of the general public with an elementary ab...

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Top Skills For a Judge

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 35.3% of judges listed legal advice on their resume, but soft skills such as listening skills and writing skills are important as well.

  • Legal Advice, 35.3%
  • Civil Litigation, 14.2%
  • International Law, 12.8%
  • Defense Counsel, 11.2%
  • Counsel, 4.3%
  • Other Skills, 22.2%
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12 Judge RESUME EXAMPLES

Best States For a Judge

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a judge. The best states for people in this position are West Virginia, Missouri, Mississippi, and Nebraska. Judges make the most in West Virginia with an average salary of $70,339. Whereas in Missouri and Mississippi, they would average $65,858 and $64,833, respectively. While judges would only make an average of $64,038 in Nebraska, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Missouri

Total Judge Jobs:
16
Highest 10% Earn:
$138,000
Location Quotient:
1.18
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. West Virginia

Total Judge Jobs:
0
Highest 10% Earn:
$147,000
Location Quotient:
0
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Pennsylvania

Total Judge Jobs:
16
Highest 10% Earn:
$126,000
Location Quotient:
0.59
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
Full List Of Best States For Judges

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Updated August 18, 2021