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How to Become A Judge


The courts are an important factor in keeping fabric of society intact. Judges exercise considerable power in the judicial processes of the country and are held in high esteem in the public’s eye. However, since their role demands a lot of responsibility complex decision making, there are a number of academic and professional stages that you will have to go through in order to increase your prospects of becoming a judge.

What are the roles and responsibilities of a judge?

Judges oversee the legal process in courts. They play a critical role in implementing the law, resolving disputes and fundamentally serve as the stewards of the legal process. Some of their responsibilities include:

  • Researching legal issues
  • Reading and evaluating information from claim applications, and records
  • Presiding over hearings
  • Resolving disputes between parties
  • Determining if the information presented supports the charge, claim, or dispute
  • Applying laws or precedents to reach judgments
  • Writing opinions, decisions, and instructions regarding cases, disputes and claims

As a judge, you may use different forms of technology, such as electronic databases and software, to manage cases and to prepare for trials. You will listen to arguments and determine whether the evidence presented deserves a trial. In criminal cases, you may decide that people charged with crimes should be held in jail until the trial, or set conditions for their release. Besides, you will have the authority to approve search and arrest warrants.

Before you pursue this line of work, you must know that it’s not as easy as it sounds. You must know that any example of poor personal judgment going forward will quite likely be discovered and discussed in the press and within communities.

Suitability of this Career

This profession can be suitable for you if you:

  • Want to make decisions that affect people’s lives
  • Have a passion for public service
  • Want to embark upon a new personal and professional challenge
  • Wish to gain new legal skills
How to Become a Judge

Get a Law Degree

Aspiring judges typically need a law degree. Besides, they also need to pass a competitive exam from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. A law degree can be compared in about 7 years after high school – 4 years of undergraduate study and 3 years of law school. The coursework in law degree programs may include instruction in the following topics:

  • Property law
  • Constitutional law
  • Contracts
  • Civil procedure
  • Legal writing

Some judges are appointed or elected into judge positions while others are appointed to serve on contract basis. Judicial nominating commissions screen applicants for judgeships in a number of states and for some federal positions as well.

Gain Work Experience

Before you may be elected or appointed as a judge, you must learn the necessary skills through years of experience as practicing lawyers. Though few states allow those who are not lawyers to hold limited-jurisdiction judgeships; opportunities are better for those who have experience as lawyers.

Get the Training

Judges must go through training before they are elected or appointed to serve as a judge. Judicial education and training for judges is offered by The Federal Judicial Center, American Bar Association, and the National Center for State Courts. In these programs, you will get a chance to participate in court trials, review legal publications and complete exercises. Once you go through these trainings successfully, you will be ready to serve as a judge.

Get a License

As most Judges are lawyers before they get to this position, they already hold a license to practice law.

Skills for Judges

Aspiring judges should have a variety of skills that are critical to this line of work. Some of the skills essential for judges include:

  • Decision-Making Skills. Judges must be able to evaluate the facts, and make the right  decisions.

  • Critical-Thinking Skills. Critical thinking skills are also essential for judges as they are required to apply rules of law.

  • Listening Skills. Judges must pay close attention to what is being said so that they may evaluate information in an effective manner.

  • Reading and Writing Skills. Reading skills are critical to this line of work since judges need to evaluate and distinguish important facts from large amounts of sometimes complex information.  Besides, aspiring judges should have strong writing skills so that they may make the right recommendations and decisions on appeals and disputes in a clear and effective way.

Judges should also be able to manage stress as this work can be quite challenging at times.

Challenges of Being a Judge 

Being a judge does not mean enjoying prestige and power alone. You must also be prepared for:

  • Criticism in Media
  • Headline-grabbing cases
  • Frustration with certain kinds of cases

The most difficult challenge is the public life that you may lead.

What are the Job Prospects for Judges?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were about 43,200 judges in 2012, all employed by federal, state, and local government.

Most job openings are due to judges leaving the occupation as a result of retirement. Though competition is strong, you if have the right skill set and experience, you may be able  to qualify for this occupation.

How is the Work Environment?

As a judge you will have to mostly work in offices and courtrooms. Sometimes you may have to travel to different counties and courthouses. You may have to sit for long periods which can be physically demanding at times.

What are the Wages and Benefits?

The median annual pay for judges in 2012 was $115,760 (BLS). In addition to basic compensation, judges may enjoy a number of benefits such as:

  • Retirement pay
  • Reduced or waived bar association dues
  • Invitations to judges' nights, banquets, and the like

Did You Know?

Many people avoid court trials as they can be costly and opt for arbitrators, mediators, or conciliators. These professionals play a role to some extent similar to judges and reach decisions that may be binding, requiring applicants to hold up their end of the bargain.

The Bottom-Line

Becoming a judge is an opportunity to serve the community, a chance to deliver justice. Though, this is very selective position, but for those with the education, drive, experience and commitment, becoming a judge offers a respectable position with suitable pay and perks.

How to become a judge in Texas?

The process of becoming a judge in Texas varies according to the level you intend to apply for. You can become a judge in Justice Courts, Municipal Courts, County-Level Courts, District Courts, Court of Appeals, Court of Criminal Appeals and the Supreme Court. For instance, if you are looking to become a judge at a County-Level court, such as the Statutory County Courts in Texas, you will need to fulfill certain requirements. These include being a US citizen of at least 25 years of age and being a resident of the said county for at least two years. In addition to that, you will need to be a licensed attorney who has practiced law or has served as a judge for at least four years. Selection is done through county-wide partisan elections and vacancies in-between elections are filled by county commissioners.

How to become a judge in California?

To become a judge in California, you will first need to attend an undergraduate school. Though no major is specified at this stage, law students are encouraged to take courses in history, business, political science and economics. Following this, you will need to earn a law degree called the Juris Doctor (J.D.) Degree, which requires three years to complete. Once you get your JD degree, you will need to pass the California Bar Exam through the State Bar of California and begin working as an attorney. You will need at least 10 years of experience working as an attorney to qualify for the position of a judge at the Superior Court level. The appointment of judges is done through elections.

Frequently Asked Question(s)

Q:Is becoming a judge easy or hard? How much work experience do I need?

A:Is becoming a judge easy or hard? How much work experience do I need? ANS- Whether a career is easy or hard will depend upon your willingness to work hard and provide input. Judges are usually appointed by a committee. Therefore, individuals must prove their reliability and potential by gaining plenty of work experience as a lawyer. You can choose to specialize in various law fields such as corporate law, family law, and more.

Q:What are the educational requirements to become a judge?

A:To be a judge, you first need a undergraduate degree which usually takes 4 years to complete, followed by law school, which usually takes around 3-4 years to complete. The course work includes topics like torts, property law, legal writing, constitutional law and criminal law. In addition to this, judges are required to pass an exam from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management before starting their training in the field. (Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Q:How long does it take to become a judge?

A:It can take you 7 to 9 years to become a judge in the United States after you complete your high school diploma. You must complete a 4 year undergraduate degree and then earn a law degree from an accredited law school which may take another 3-4 years. After you complete your law degree, you must pass an exam administered by the U.S. Office of Personal Management before being appointed or elected to a position of a judge. (Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Q:Why become a judge?

A:Many people choose to pursue a career as a judge for a number of reasons. The role of a judge is often associated with a high professional status. The nature of work can be challenging in many ways as judges are required to resolve disputes and keep in mind their responsibility to the society. Apart from the work challenges, judges also make a reasonable income. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for judges was $102,980 in 2012. (Sources: US Bureau of Labor Statistics and Illinois State Bar Association)

Q:What do judge do?

A:The main task of a judge is to preside over legal cases in a court of law. In addition to this, judges conduct research on legal issues, apply precedents and constitutional laws to make judgments, write their opinions, instructions and decisions regarding a case, and analyze and decide if the information being given has legal standing or supports the charge. (Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Q:What are the requirements to become a judge?

A:To become a judge, you must successfully complete an undergraduate degree and a law degree. Getting professional work experience as a lawyer can help you advance to the position of a judge. You must also pass a challenging exam administered by the United States Office of Personal Management. The requirements may vary from state to state. (Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

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