Virtually every city in the United States has prosecutors dedicated to upholding the Constitution, protecting the public, and punishing criminal behavior.
District Attorneys are usually at the state level with offices organized by county and the jobs filled by election. Large cities may have a significant number of special units that hire prosecutors to focus on specific crimes such as domestic violence, homicides, or appellate work. In smaller offices, new lawyers can gain experience in a wide variety of criminal activities.
Perhaps the greatest appeal of beginning a career in the office of a District Attorney is the trial experience that is often gained very quickly. New attorneys joining established law firms begin by doing backup work and progress to prosecuting misdemeanor cases. It can be years before a new associate in a law firm gains the court experience of an attorney working in the office of a district attorney.
Cases with statewide impact are usually prosecuted by the State Attorney General Offices. Prosecuting attorneys at the state level coordinate with local district attorney offices. Almost all states have a State Attorney General’s office charged with representing the state’s interests in court.
Federal prosecutors work for the Department of Justice with many offices throughout the U.S. Each of the over 90 U.S. Attorneys managing federal prosecutions report to the Attorney General.
A bachelor’s degree that provides a varied education is required to enter law school. Completion of law school at an institutions accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) is a three year course of study that follows the undergraduate degree.
Prosecutor Education and Training
Competition for admission to ABA accredited law schools is intense. Students with a diverse undergraduate education and a good undergraduate record can also increase their chances of admission to the law school of their choice by work done or volunteer work in a legal or public service area during their undergraduate years.
Many of the ABA accredited law schools provide evening courses and part-time educational opportunities for those working on a law degree while also working. There are some state schools that grant law degrees without ABA accreditation but in some cases the graduate of a non-accredited law school may only be able to obtain licensing in the state where they obtained the degree.
ABA accredited schools offer carefully structured courses that provide the wide range of knowledge needed to research, analyze, and manage a case during prosecution. Courses in courtroom procedure are combined with specialty courses in criminal law, civil law, and ethics; these become more specialized as the student moves through the legal training.
The accreditation and the reputation of the law school, as well as the student’s demonstrated abilities are critical to obtaining a position as a practicing attorney.
During the years of law school, students often look for summer work as interns where they can build practical experience and enhance their resume.
Following graduation from law school, aspiring attorneys must pass the bar exam for the state in which they plan to practice.
Prosecutor Career Salary
Salaries range from $25,000 to $55,000 for new attorneys just beginning their career. Experienced prosecutors can earn more than $100,000. Although salaries are lower than for those who join private firms, most prosecuting attorneys say the satisfaction of working in area that protects the public is an important component of their career.
Prosecutor Career Opportunities
For the new attorney determined to become a Prosecutor there is an excellent possibility of securing a position. There are many thousands of prosecutor positions throughout the country. Although prior trial experience is often required, entry level positions may also be available to new attorneys who have volunteered their services or gained experience through work as an intern while attending law school.
Prosecutors with experience at the state level may aspire to move into prosecution at the federal level. Other possible career paths are joining a private law firm, working for a corporation, or seeking a judgeship.
Take a look at other great Criminal Justice Careers.