Approximately 45,300 judges are employed in the United States. There are 15,400 administrative law judges, adjudicators, and hearing offices, of which more than 80 percent work for the state and federal government, and about 20 percent work for local government. Approximately 29,900 judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates are employed in state and local government.
Most judges begin their careers as lawyers. So the first steps for starting in this career include graduating from an approved law school and passing a state bar examination. Beginning lawyers usually work as assistants to experienced lawyers, conducting research and going routine work. Many get their first law jobs through internships or clerkships in law offices and judges' offices. They may start out at an established law firm or enter into partnership with another lawyer. Positions are also available with banks, business corporations, insurance companies, private utilities, and with a number of government agencies at different levels. With years of experience in practicing law, they may seek a seat as a local, state, or federal judge.
Judges usually advance from lower courts to higher courts either in terms of the matters that are decided or in terms of the level—local, state, or federal. They advance by moving to courts with broader jurisdiction. They also advance by continuing their education while serving on the bench.
Tips for Entry
Use the NALP Directory of Legal Employers (https://www.nalpdirectory.com) to search for employers by location, employer type, practice area, and other criteria.
Read publications such as The Judges' Journal (https://www.americanbar.org/groups/judicial/publications/judges_journal) to learn more about the field.
Visit the National Judicial College's Web site for career resources, articles and reports about justice issues and court operations, and other helpful information: https://www.judges.org/resources.
Begin the first steps toward a future careers as a judge by working as an intern or law clerk in a judge's office.