How to Become a Judge
By Eric Hammer
First of all, when we say that you can become a judge, we
mean a judge in a regular court of law. If you wanted to become
someone like Judge Judy or you wanted to be a judge on a show
like American Idol, you have come to the wrong place. Now, that
said, there are three basic ways to become a judge:
Get Elected - A small number of judges are elected
to their posts. This means that you run a campaign much like
a campaign for mayor or congress and must attract enough votes
to land the job of judge. In these cases, judges often express
harsher opinions than those who got their jobs through other
means since they want to appear tough on crime for the voters.
In most cases, elected judges work for small county courts as
opposed to state or federal courts. Large cities usually do not
elect judges either.
Get Appointed - The vast majority of judges
in the United States are directly appointed by a politician.
This means that if you wanted a job as a federal judge, you'd
be appointed by the President of the United States. If you wanted
a job as a state judge, you'd likely be appointed by the governor
and as a city judge, you'd be appointed by the mayor.
Pass a Civil Service Exam - On occasion, some
low level jobs as a judge are given out on the basis of civil
service exams along with appropriate qualifications (i.e. that
you have a law degree). In this case, while you may become a
lower level judge through a civil service program, to move up
the ladder, you'd likely need to get appointed.
How Much Can You Make?
The average salary for a judge was a little over $100,000
per year in 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Of course, this amount can vary greatly depending on where you
work. Small county judges typically make significantly less.
On the other hand, if you are able to become a judge on the Supreme
Court, your salary would exceed $220,000 per year.
Ways to Make More | Related Opportunities
One of the great things about appointed judges as opposed
to those who become a judge through elections is that it is very
difficult to get fired from your job. That's because the laws
are designed to make sure that judges can do their work largely
free of political considerations. Therefore, a Supreme Court
justice is for example appointed for life and the only way to
remove him or her early would be to impeach him or her in the
United States Congress. For judges in other areas, removal generally
requires being brought up on charges before a disciplinary board,
though this step is never taken lightly.
In the vast majority of cases, to become a judge, you must
first obtain a law degree and work as an attorney for a few years.
While some states do allow you to become a judge if the governor
appoints you to the job even without a law degree, very few governors
would risk appointing a judge who doesn't have a degree in law
and at least some experience in the courtroom.
Qualifications / Requirements
In most cases, you'll need to have a law degree to become
a judge. Many states also require that you have a certain number
of years of experience as an attorney before you can become a
Start by going to law school and learning all about the law.
Get a job as a lawyer and then contact the governor's office
or any other agency which appoints judges and let them know that
you are interested in being considered to become a judge.
Check out these helpful resources to learn more about how
to become a judge:
Bureau of Labor
Statistics - Use their search box to get to a good description
of what it takes to become a judge, along with other information.
Association of the Bar of the City of New York:
Become a Judge - This is a much more comprehensive explanation
of what it takes to become a judge; and while it's written specifically
for the New York City court system, it does include a great deal
of information which will be useful to anyone wishing to become