How to Become a Judge

Woman judge working a case

When you go to college, it is good to know what career you want to go into. You might want to be a judge, but you do not know how to become a judge.

Your college major does not always determine what you will be or what you might go into for a career.

I got a degree in sociology but worked for many years being an IT project manager. IT has nothing to do with sociology.

The opportunity to go to graduate school also shows that there is a vast variety of paths you can end up taking.

You need to figure out your career path, this will determine how much money you can make in life. Money is not everything but it is better to have more than not enough.

Many people who are interested in law, politics, and government will tend to go into a career related to these areas.

What is a judge?

A judge is a person who presides over court proceedings. A judge can be either alone or a panel of judges.

Many things about judges will differ depending on what jurisdiction they’re working in, including their power functions, discipline, training, and method of appointment.

The entire job of a judge is to conduct a trial impartially in an open court. A judge is different than a jurist, lawyer, prosecutor, and magistrate.

There are many different levels of judges. There are the US District Court judge, Court of Appeals judge, US Supreme Court judge, and judges within counties and states.

What is the process to become a judge?

It is not a quick and easy path to becoming a judge, but it is definitely worth it. If this is what you want to do, you are going to dedicate a good portion of your life in order to get there.

The first thing that you must do is attend undergraduate school. You must get a four-year degree before you can move on.

There are many different majors that you can have an undergraduate school if you are interested in being a judge.

The most popular majors include:

  • Criminal justice
  • Criminology
  • Forensic science
  • Legal studies
  • Political science
  • Public policy
  • Paralegal studies

Bachelor degree needed

The next thing that you must do is earn a degree. There are many steps to getting into law school.

As I have previously said, you can have whatever major that you want in your undergraduate school, but you must have top grades.

This means that you need to have a higher GPA and show a lot of involvement in your undergraduate career.

The average undergraduate GPA to get into law school is somewhere around a 3.6. This means that you are going to have to work hard academically while you are in your undergraduate school.


In order to get into law school, you also must prepare, study, and pass the LSAT which is the exam that you must take in order to get into law school.

The LSAT is graded on a scale from 120 to 180. The average score is somewhere around 150 and to get into the top law schools you’re going to need somewhere around 160.

After you get your law degree, you’re going to have to pass the bar exam.

The bar exam is going to let you practice as a lawyer or attorney. You cannot be a practicing lawyer or attorney unless you get a passing score on the bar exam. After you pass the bar exam and you are a lawyer, you are going to be required to work as an attorney or lawyer for a while.

After you have some career experience, you’re able to obtain a judgeship and complete training.

Then you can look to be appointed as a judge or elected per the requirements below.

Federal judges are appointed by the president of the United States and then confirmed by the senate.

How state court judges are selected varies by state. States choose judges in any of the following ways:

  • Appointment: The state’s governor or legislature will choose their judges.
  • Merit Selection: Judges are chosen by a legislative committee based on each potential judge’s past performance. Some states hold “retention elections” to determine if the judge should continue to serve.
  • Partisan Elections: Judges selected through partisan elections are voted in by the electorate, and often run as part of a political party’s slate of candidates.
  • Non-Partisan Elections: Potential judges that run for a judicial position in states with non-partisan elections put their names on the ballot, but do not list their party affiliates. Terms for judges in non-partisan elections can range between 6 and 10 years.

Resource above:

Is it easy to become a judge?

Becoming a judge is not going to be easy. It is very doable, and many people have successfully chosen this path. This career takes a lot of time, hard work, and dedication.

First, most people that are judges, have gone to at least seven years of schooling. This is assuming that it did not take them any extra time in their undergraduate career.

Most people do take an extra semester (or more) in their undergraduate career. There are only 36% of students who graduate from college in four years.

With all this schooling you still must study, pay, and pass the test to get into law school and to be a lawyer. All of this is a lot of hard work.

Along with that, you will have to work in the field as a lawyer for a a certain timeframe. This is something that you must do, so if you have no interest in doing this and this might not be the path for you.

Most judges are glad that they had the opportunity to work in the field as a lawyer for a small-time. It really puts things into perspective, and it helps them overall as a judge.

You also must become appointed or elected into the court and complete judgeship training.

Many people that are dead set on this path have done everything in her life to get to this point, so they have no problem with it.

But there’s always a chance that it may not work out for you and that you would end up having to stay as a lawyer.

This is a chance that you’re going to have to be willing to take, and you’re going to need to understand that it is an option.

Being a judge is not the easiest career path, but it is still not as long as going to medical school and having fellowships.

Many things will still take a lot longer and in the end, this is definitely a rewarding job.

Can a person become a judge without being a lawyer?

Most judges do you have a law degree, however, it is not technically mentioned anywhere that you are required to possess a law degree.

Federal judges are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

If they appoint someone without a law degree and the Senate approves it, then they can successfully become a federal judge.

There are some other bodies of law that do not require a degree to be a judge, however, state courts are created by state law.

What this means is that each state comes up with its own laws regarding lawyers and judges.

Some states will not let you become a judge unless you have been a lawyer.

The Supreme Court of the United States does not have a requirement the judges must have a law degree.

How much money does a judge make?

The salary that you make us a judge is going to depend on what kind of judge you were trying to become.

The average salary for any judge in the United States is around $90,000 per year.


  • Federal district judge makes around $200,000 a year
  • Circuit judge makes around $220,000 a year
  • Supreme court judge makes somewhere on $250,000 a year

They are also allowed to earn a maximum of an additional $20,000 per year for teaching.

This just goes to show you how much of a difference it can make depending on what type of judge you are.

The supreme court judges make almost $200,000 more a year than the average judge.

Any type of Municipal Court, Common Pleas Court, or Court of Appeals judges will make around $120,000-$140,000 a year.

This is still an amazing amount of money that proves hard work pays off.

It is a salary that shows that you are very successful and should let you live a happy life.

Depending on what salary you and your family needs, you can decide what kind of judge you want to be.

But you also want to make sure that you are choosing something that you’re passionate about and that you can fulfill.

Does a judge get paid more than a lawyer?

The average salary of a lawyer in the United States is currently around $119,000 per year. A judge’s current average salary is around $90,000 per year.

Statistics can only capture so much and that still means that over 50% make up of these salaries.

I just named several types of judges that make a lot more than the median salary for a lawyer.

There is also a lot of different salaries depending on what type of lawyers they are and if they are corporate or not.

Either way, they both make a lot of money. If you end up becoming a higher court judge you will be making more money than a lawyer.

Judges also have the opportunity to teach on the side. You can also do this if you are a lawyer, but it is more common when you were a judge.

What is the age limit to become a judge?

Some different types of judgeships are going to require more experience than others. As I said earlier, each state makes its own rules and may be different.

The federal court system has an entirely different set of rules. For example, if you are trying to work in a county criminal court in Texas you must be at least 25 years old and have four years of experience under your belt.

However, a criminal appeals court judge must be at least 35 years old with 10 years of experience as a lawyer or judge.

It just depends on what location you’re in, and what kind of judge you are trying to be.

This is a great opportunity for you to look more into the different kinds of judges that you were interested in and see what the requirements are going to be.

Judges also have a mandatory retirement age that can differ in each state. In Ohio, the mandatory retirement age is seventy years old.

This means they have no other choice and to finish their final term during which they turn 70.

However, other states like Oklahoma have no retirement age.

Oregon and Pennsylvania at have the age set at 75. The average age of judges always appears to be somewhere around 50 years old.

This means that more than likely they had a lot of experience being a lawyer.

There are still some judges that are 25 years old and back in 2015, a young girl at 25 years old was sworn in as a judge in South Carolina. To qualify for a federal judge, you must be at least 65 years of age.


Overall, becoming a judge can be a great career choice. You have so much time in your life to figure out if this is what you want.

You can end up going to law school and going so many different parts from there.

It is just a smart idea to keep this in the back of your mind. The average age of judges is around 50. This means that you may have a lot more time to decide if this is what you want to do.

You could always talk to people that are currently in this field and see if there are any opportunities for shadowing.

Either way, if you are planning on going to law school, this opportunity will always be open for you.

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