Adjudications Officer: Job Description, Duties and Requirements
Adjudications officers, also known as administrative law judges, hearing officers or simply adjudicators, are legal professionals who work for government agencies, including the U.S. departments of State, Homeland Security and Agriculture. Adjudicators may also work for other levels of government, including state and local agencies.
Adjudications officers make decisions regarding a government agency's policies or eligibility requirements. They determine qualification for benefit programs or assess compliance with government regulations. Decisions may include accepting or denying program applications, assigning liability, approving benefit claims or determining penalties and sanctions.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for adjudications officers are expected to increase by eight percent between 2008 and 2018 (www.bls.gov). In May 2008, state governments employed the highest number of adjudicators, followed by federal and local agencies.
The BLS also reported that the median pay in May 2010 for adjudicators was $89,740 annually. Adjudicators who work for federal government agencies averaged $126,370 per year during this period, while those employed by state and local governments earned $77,750 per year and $77,020 per year, respectively.
Duties vary by agency, but generally adjudicators make decisions and recommendations based on existing regulations and policies. They must be familiar with various laws and regulations, and be able to determine whether applications for citizenship or benefit programs are acceptable. They must also be able to identify when governmental regulations or policies have been violated.
For example, adjudicators who work for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) are responsible for determining whether applications from immigrants entering the U.S. include authentic supporting materials such as employee records and birth or death certificates. This adjudicator researches applicable laws and regulations, and performs background checks and interviews to further analyze an application's eligibility.
Federal adjudicators must be licensed as practicing lawyers in a U.S. state or territory. They must have at least seven years of experience in trial or hearing participation that involves negotiating settlements or conducting mediation to resolve indictments or complaints.
Adjudicators must be U.S. citizens or U.S nationals. All federal government adjudicators must pass an examination given to assess their skills and abilities given by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Some adjudicators must meet more specific requirements, depending on the agency. Those working for U.S. Department of State might be required to know a foreign language.
All adjudicators must complete training specific to their position. A background check, drug screen and proof of Selective Service registration are usually required as well.
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