Magistrate: Job Description and Requirements for Becoming a Magistrate

You can expect to complete requirements for a law degree (J.D.) and pass the bar exam before being selected to serve as a U.S. district court magistrate. Additional experience in serving as an attorney or a law clerk is helpful in gaining an appointment. Read on to learn more details about this competitive profession.

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Career Definition

In the United States, a magistrate is appointed by the U.S. district court judge to serve an eight-year term if full-time or a four-year term if part-time. A magistrate can be reappointed. The magistrate conducts a variety of judicial tasks with the purpose of expediting the completion of proceedings in U.S. district courts.

How to Become a Magistrate

Required Education

A bachelor's degree and experience in legal matters is the minimum requirement for a magistrate position. In practice, the magistrate will have completed a law degree (Juris Doctor) program. A J.D. degree program typically requires completion of two to three years of law school beyond the bachelor's degree plus successfully passing the state bar exam.

Skills Required

A magistrate position requires utilization of advanced communication and organizational skills. The person who is skilled in active listening, time management, critical thinking, reading, and writing is likely to be successful as a magistrate.

Career and Economic Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary among judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates was $115,760 in May 2012. The same source predicted that the employment of magistrates (along with judges and magistrate judges) will grow by only about 2% between 2012 and 2022. Competition for the jobs that open is stiff, since there is a great deal of prestige in sitting on the bench.

Alternate Career Options

Arbitrator, Mediator and Conciliator

These positions normally require at least a bachelor's degree along with relevant work experience, although some require a master's degree or a law degree. These professionals work outside of the court system to attempt resolution of conflicts between parties. They could expect average employment growth of 10% during the 2012-2022 decade, and these positions paid an annual median salary of $61,280 in 2012, according to the BLS.

Paralegal and Legal Assistant

Paralegals and legal assistants normally earn an associate's degree in paralegal studies; those who already hold a bachelor's degree in another field may earn a postsecondary certificate in paralegal studies. While assisting lawyers, these professionals organize and maintain files, write documents and perform legal research. They earned an annual median wage of $46,990 in 2012 and could anticipate faster than average increases in available positions, with 17% growth through 2022, the BLS said in 2012.

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