Assistant District Attorney Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Get the truth about an assistant district attorney's salary, licensure requirements and career prospects. Read the job description and see the pros and cons of becoming an assistant district attorney.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as an Assistant District Attorney

An assistant district attorney, sometimes called a deputy district attorney, works for a county government under the guidance of the elected district attorney. Read on to learn about the pros and cons of a career in this field.

Pros of a Career as an Assistant District Attorney
Better than average salary ($133,470 in May 2014)*
Hiring of lawyers is expected to grow 10% between 2012 and 2022*
Satisfaction of protecting the public from crime*
No work experience is required for entry-level positions*

Cons of a Career as an Assistant District Attorney
Extensive study required (three years beyond a bachelor's degree)*
High-stress career*
May have to work with dangerous criminals*
May not have a choice in what kind of cases assigned*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Essential Career Information

Job Description

An assistant district attorney may prosecute any level of cases, from traffic violations to felonies, often advancing to more serious cases over time. These professionals may, with experience, lead prosecution teams. They work with crime victims and law enforcement officials to prepare cases to take to judges. Many work long hours and cover a variety of cases. Much of their time is spent analyzing reports and evidence in preparation for arguing their case. This may include researching previous trails and court decisions. They also negotiate with defense attorneys to resolve cases without going to trial.

Salary Information and Career Outlook

In June 2015, Payscale.com, reported that most assistant district attorneys earned between $39,642 and $89,666 annually. Pay may vary with experience and the size of the municipality that an assistant district attorney works in. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that employment opportunities for all lawyers, including assistant district attorneys, were expected to increase 10% from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov).

Career Requirements

Education Requirements

Multiple levels of education are necessary to practice law. First, you'll need a bachelor's degree and the BLS notes that programs in history, government or economics are useful. The next step is to take the Law School Admission Test and enter a law school that is either state-accredited or approved by the American Bar Association. It typically takes three years to earn the Juris Doctorate (JD). You'll have some choice regarding your specific program of study, although as an aspiring assistant district attorney, you may want to consider criminal or public law. In addition to your specific area of study, you'll take courses in tort law, civil procedure, contracts and constitutional law. You may have an opportunity to complete internships and study abroad as well.

Licensing Requirements

All lawyers must take the bar exam, which is the licensing exam administered by the American Bar Association. States have their own requirements and standards for the bar exam, but some use the Uniform Bar Examination. Additionally, the BLS indicates that you must be found to have good character by an admitting board.

What Are Employers Looking For?

Employers seek candidates for these positions who are licensed to practice law in their specific states. They often seek lawyers with experience. The following job listings were posted in May 2012:

  • An Alaska county seeks two full-time assistant district attorneys with trial experience and strong oral communication skills. These individuals must be licensed to work in Alaska or be able to get their licenses within a year. Travel within the state may be required.
  • A Kansas county seeks a senior assistant district attorney to prosecute non-drug felony cases, work with various law enforcement agencies and to implement office policies. This person will provide training for law enforcement professionals as requested.
  • A Wisconsin county seeks a half-time assistant district attorney. Candidates must have a Wisconsin law license.

Standing Out From The Crowd

Having experience may set you apart from other candidates. You can gain that experience through internships, often as part of your academic studies. These internships typically lasts between 8-16 weeks and offer students a chance to work with assistant district attorneys and other staff members on a variety of projects.

Alternative Careers to Consider

If the extensive education requirement makes you think twice about a career as an assistant district attorney, you could consider a career as a mediator. These professionals may help parties settle disputes outside of court in private hearings. Many employers seek mediators who have earned bachelor's degrees and undergraduate certificates in mediation. In May 2011, the BLS reported that mediators, arbitrators and conciliators earned more than $60,000 annually. The BLS also indicated that employment for these professionals is expected to increase 15% from 2010-2020.

Another option is to consider a career as an administrative law judge. Similar to a mediator, these judges are involved in dispute resolution regarding many issues. They may be elected or appointed and usually work for a government agency. Many times, they are experienced lawyers. In May 2011, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for administrative law judges, adjudicators and hearing officers was about $85,000.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Purdue University Global

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      • Bachelor: Criminal Justice
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      • Postbaccalaureate Certificate - Pathway to Paralegal
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    2. Regent University

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    3. Grand Canyon University

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      • MS in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies
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      • MS - Organizational Leadership: Criminal Justice
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      • BS in Criminal Justice
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    10. Indiana Wesleyan University

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      • Master of Public Administration - Criminal Justice
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      • A.S. Criminal Justice
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Featured Schools

Purdue University Global

  • Master: Legal Studies
  • Bachelor: Criminal Justice
  • AAS in Legal Support and Services
  • Postbaccalaureate Certificate - Pathway to Paralegal

Which subject are you interested in?

Regent University

  • Master of Laws (LL.M.) - American Legal Studies
  • M.A. in Law - Human Rights & Rule of Law
  • Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies
  • Bachelor of Arts in Government - Pre-Law

What is your highest level of education completed?

Grand Canyon University

  • MS in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies

What is your highest level of education?

Saint Leo University

  • BA: Criminal Justice
  • BA: Criminal Justice - Criminalistics
  • AA: Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education completed?

Northcentral University

  • MS - Organizational Leadership: Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education?

American InterContinental University

  • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Corrections and Case Management
  • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Generalist
  • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice

Are you a US citizen?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor - Management - Criminal Justice
  • M.S. - Criminal Justice
  • BS - Criminal Justice

Are you a US citizen?

Colorado Christian University

  • Criminal Justice, M.S.
  • Criminal Justice, B.S.
  • Criminal Justice, A.S.

What is your highest level of education completed?