Judges have many responsibilities that include interpreting the law, managing multiple legal cases, hearing motions and deciding verdicts. Judges decide important legal questions and work at the federal, state and local level. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 51,200 people were employed as judges, magistrates and other judicial workers in 2008.
Virtually all judges start as lawyer. To become a lawyer, you must attend and graduate from law school after earning your undergraduate degree. Then you must pass the bar exam in the state or states in which you plan to practice.
Types of Courts
Judges work at various levels of government. The top court in the United States is the Supreme Court, and many states also have a supreme court. There are also federal courts, state courts, local and municipal courts. Different courts hear different kinds of cases, but all employ judges.
At the federal level, the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court earned $217,400 in 2008, according to the BLS. Associate justices averaged $208,100, and federal court of appeals judges made an average of $179,500 a year. Bankruptcy judges had average salaries of $155,756.
In 2008, salaries of chief justices of a state's highest court averaged $150,850 while intermediate appellate court judges averaged $141,253. State judges of general jurisdiction trial courts averaged $130,533, according to the BLS.
At the local level, judges who worked for cities and counties had a median annual wage of $110,220 in May, 2008, according to the BLS. Administrative law judges earned less, with a median wage of $76,940.
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