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Judges and Hearing Officers

Summary

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Video transcript available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=je1rWe2TpvY.
Quick Facts: Judges and Hearing Officers
2023 Median Pay $132,950 per year
$63.92 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Doctoral or professional degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation 5 years or more
On-the-job Training Short-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2022 42,800
Job Outlook, 2022-32 2% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2022-32 800

What Judges and Hearing Officers Do

Judges and hearing officers oversee legal matters in court or administrative proceedings.

Work Environment

Judges and hearing officers are employed by the federal government or by local and state governments. Most judges and hearing officers work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week.

How to Become a Judge or Hearing Officer

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

Pay

The median annual wage for administrative law judges, adjudicators, and hearing officers was $111,090 in May 2023.

The median annual wage for judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates was $148,910 in May 2023.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of judges and hearing officers is projected to grow 2 percent from 2022 to 2032, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 1,700 openings for judges and hearing officers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for judges and hearing officers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of judges and hearing officers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about judges and hearing officers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Judges and Hearing Officers Do About this section

Judges, mediators, and hearing officers
Judges preside over hearings and listen to the arguments of opposing parties.

Judges and hearing officers oversee legal matters in court or administrative proceedings. They may conduct pretrial hearings, facilitate negotiations between opposing parties, and issue legal decisions.

Duties

Judges and hearing officers typically do the following:

  • Research legal issues
  • Read and evaluate information from documents, such as motions, claim applications, and legal briefs
  • Preside over hearings and listen to and read arguments by opposing parties
  • Determine whether information presented supports a charge, claim, or dispute
  • Decide whether procedures are being conducted according to the rules and the law
  • Apply law or precedent 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 offenses to corporate disputes. Judges listen to arguments and determine whether there is sufficient evidence for 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 warrants, such as for searches or arrests.

Judges interpret the law to determine how a trial or hearing will proceed. They ensure fairness so that the parties’ legal rights are protected. In trials where juries are selected to decide the case, judges instruct jurors on applicable laws and direct them to consider the facts arising from the evidence. In nonjury (bench) trials, judges decide the outcome. Judges also determine or oversee the final disposition of a case, such as imposing a jail sentence in a criminal trial or the awarding of compensation for damages in a civil lawsuit.

Hearing officers act in a quasi-judicial capacity. They interpret and apply administrative law to resolve disputes and settle claims involving government agencies or executive departments.

In many states, judges or hearing officers oversee proceedings in courts of specialized jurisdiction. These courts consider cases only in a specific area of law, such as land use, family law, or housing law.

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

Judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates preside over trials and hearings. They typically work in local, state, and federal courts.

In local courts, they may have titles such as municipal court judge, county court judge, or justice of the peace. In federal and state court systems, district court judges and general trial court judges have authority over any case in their system.

Appellate court judges rule on a limited number of cases by reviewing decisions of the lower courts to ensure that the proceedings were fair and that the proper law was applied.

Administrative law judges, adjudicators, and hearing officers usually work for local, state, and federal government agencies. They decide many issues, such as whether a person is eligible for workers’ compensation benefits or whether employment discrimination occurred.

Work Environment About this section

Judges, mediators, and hearing officers
Judges do some of their work in courtrooms.

Administrative law judges, adjudicators, and hearing officers held about 13,200 jobs in 2022. The largest employers of administrative law judges, adjudicators, and hearing officers were as follows:

State government, excluding education and hospitals 58%
Federal government 25
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 17

Judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates held about 29,600 jobs in 2022. The largest employers of judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates were as follows:

State government, excluding education and hospitals 57%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 43

Judges and hearing officers work mostly in offices and courtrooms. Their jobs can be demanding, because they must sit in the same position in the court or hearing room for long periods and give undivided attention to the process.

Some judges and hearing officers may be required to travel to different counties and courthouses throughout their state.

The work may be stressful, as judges and hearing officers sometimes work with difficult or confrontational individuals.

Work Schedules

Most judges and hearing officers work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week. Some courthouses have evening and weekend hours. In addition, judges may have to be on call during nights or weekends to issue emergency orders, such as search warrants or restraining orders.

How to Become a Judge or Hearing Officer About this section

Judges, mediators, and hearing officers
Judges must pay attention in order to analyze information and issue rulings.

Judges and hearing officers typically need a law degree and work experience as a lawyer. However, specific requirements may vary.

Most judges and magistrates must be appointed or elected to their positions, a process that often requires political support. Many local and state judges are appointed to serve fixed, renewable terms that may have mandatory retirement ages ranging from 65 to 75. Federal and some state judges are appointed for life. Judicial nominating commissions screen candidates for judgeships in many states and for some federal judgeships.

Education

A Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree is typically required for jobs as a local, state, or federal judge or hearing officer.

Earning a law degree usually takes 7 years of full-time study after high school: 4 years of undergraduate study in any field, followed by 3 years of law school. Law degree programs include courses such as constitutional law, contracts, property law, civil procedure, and legal writing.

Although a J.D. is typical, requirements for these positions may vary. Hearing officers, magistrates, and even judges in some jurisdictions are not required to have a law degree.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

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

In addition to earning a law degree, federal administrative law judges typically need 7 years of experience as a licensed attorney. They also must pass a competitive exam from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Some law school graduates who are interested in becoming a judge pursue a judicial clerkship prior to working as a lawyer. Clerkships are typically a specified length of time, such as 1- or 2-year terms, and help law school graduates develop skills required for a legal career. Clerks may need to have passed the bar exam prior to hiring, but they may work without a law license because they have limited duties and are not yet practicing lawyers.

Training

Newly elected or appointed judges and hearing officers sometimes have training requirements. This training may include mock trial sessions, mentorship from experienced judges or hearing officers, and courses on topics such as judicial ethics or relations with news media.

Judges and hearing officers also may be required to take continuing legal education courses throughout their careers.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Judges typically must maintain a law license and good standing with their state bar association.

Advancement

Advancement for some judicial workers means moving to courts with broader jurisdiction, such as from lower court to appellate court. Advancement for various hearing officers includes taking on more complex cases, practicing law, and becoming district court judges.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Judges and hearing officers must be able to analyze large amounts of information, determine relevant facts, and make decisions or issue rulings.

Attention to detail. Judges and hearing officers must pay close attention to what is presented and distinguish important facts from complex information.

Communication skills. Judges and hearing officers need to convey information both orally and in writing. They must be able to explain their rulings and write decisions in ways that are both clear and comprehensive.

Critical-thinking skills. Judges and hearing officers must objectively evaluate the facts of a case when applying the rules of law.

Decision-making skills. Judges and hearing officers must be able to conclusively make decisions and issue rulings.

Pay About this section

Judges and Hearing Officers

Median annual wages, May 2023

Judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates

$148,910

Judges and hearing officers

$132,950

Administrative law judges, adjudicators, and hearing officers

$111,090

Legal occupations

$99,220

Total, all occupations

$48,060

 

The median annual wage for administrative law judges, adjudicators, and hearing officers was $111,090 in May 2023. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $53,140, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $195,000.

The median annual wage for judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates was $148,910 in May 2023. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $45,950, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $210,890.

In May 2023, the median annual wages for administrative law judges, adjudicators, and hearing officers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Federal government $134,280
State government, excluding education and hospitals 93,930
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 93,690

In May 2023, the median annual wages for judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

State government, excluding education and hospitals $164,820
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 99,460

Most judges and hearing officers work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week. Some courthouses have evening and weekend hours. In addition, judges have to be on call during nights or weekends to issue emergency orders, such as search warrants and restraining orders.

Job Outlook About this section

Judges and Hearing Officers

Percent change in employment, projected 2022-32

Legal occupations

6%

Total, all occupations

3%

Judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates

2%

Judges and hearing officers

2%

Administrative law judges, adjudicators, and hearing officers

1%

 

Overall employment of judges and hearing officers is projected to grow 2 percent from 2022 to 2032, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 1,700 openings for judges and hearing officers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

These workers play an essential role in the legal system, and their services will continue to be needed into the future. However, budgetary constraints in federal, state, and local governments may limit the ability of these governments to fill vacant judge and hearing officer positions or authorize new ones. If there are governmental budget concerns, this could limit the employment growth opportunities of hearing officers and administrative law judges working for local, state, and federal government agencies, despite the continued need for these workers to settle disputes.

Employment projections data for judges and hearing officers, 2022-32
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2022 Projected Employment, 2032 Change, 2022-32 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Judges and hearing officers

42,800 43,600 2 800

Administrative law judges, adjudicators, and hearing officers

23-1021 13,200 13,400 1 100 Get data

Judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates

23-1023 29,600 30,200 2 700 Get data

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OEWS data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.org. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of judges and hearing officers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help on Entry-Level Education 2023 MEDIAN PAY Help on Median Pay
arbitrators mediators and conciliators image Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators

Arbitrators, mediators, and conciliators facilitate negotiation and dialogue between disputing parties to help resolve conflicts outside of the court system.

Bachelor's degree $71,540
Lawyers Lawyers

Lawyers advise and represent clients on legal proceedings or transactions.

Doctoral or professional degree $145,760
Paralegals and legal assistants Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Paralegals and legal assistants support lawyers by performing a variety of tasks, such as maintaining and organizing files, conducting legal research, and drafting documents. 

Associate's degree $60,970
Private detectives and investigators Private Detectives and Investigators

Private detectives and investigators gather, analyze, and report information to clients regarding legal or personal matters.

High school diploma or equivalent $49,540

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about state courts and judgeships, visit

National Center for State Courts

For more information about federal judges, visit

United States Courts

U.S. Office of Personnel Management

For more information about judicial education and training for judges and other judicial branch personnel, visit

American Bar Association

Federal Judicial Center

The National Judicial College

O*NET

Administrative Law Judges, Adjudicators, and Hearing Officers

Judges, Magistrate Judges, and Magistrates

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Judges and Hearing Officers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/judges-and-hearing-officers.htm (visited July 09, 2024).

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, April 17, 2024

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2023 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2023, the median annual wage for all workers was $48,060.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2022

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2022, which is the base year of the 2022-32 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2022-32

The projected percent change in employment from 2022 to 2032. The average growth rate for all occupations is 3 percent.

Employment Change, 2022-32

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2022-32

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2022 to 2032.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

2023 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2023, the median annual wage for all workers was $48,060.