Your Career as a Court Clerk

A court clerk, which is also know as “clerk of the court,” is an officer of the court who performs a variety of administrative tasks for judges, for lawyers, and for the court. Virtually every level of court, municipal, state, and federal, utilize a virtual army of court clerks to keep their legal proceedings running smoothly. Read on to learn more about becoming a court clerk.

What Does a Court Clerk Do?

There are two types of court clerks:

  1. Those who work on the front lines, taking in court filings, keeping records, setting the court’s calendars, and issuing summonses, licenses, and processing legal paperwork. These are the court employees who work behind the counters where citizens bring their complaints, their requests, and their questions; and behind the scenes, certifying documents and filings, maintaining the court’s hectic calendar, and managing records.
  2. Those who work at the courtroom level, assisting the judges throughout legal proceedings. These clerks of the court generally have offices, or desk areas where they process paperwork, ensure the judge to whom they’re assigned has all of the information and documents he or she requires, answers phone calls, and generally directs legal traffic. These clerks also sit in the courtroom during legal proceedings, in order to perform similar tasks, ensuring things run smoothly.

Because this is an administrative position, dealing with huge volumes of paperwork, it might be easy to believe the job would become tedious. The truth is it can be very interesting – and very demanding.

A court clerk deals in important issues of everyday people’s lives. Things like being sued, going through a divorce, being charged with a crime – can all be very interesting, and the court clerks that touch these people’s cases have an influence on their lives.

It is important to understand that a court clerk is quite different from a judicial law clerk, who is generally an attorney who assists the judge in research, and in making judicial determinations.

Professional Requirements to Become a Court Clerk

The specific requirements to become a clerk of the court vary by jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions don’t require applicants to have a college degree, but hire heavily based on experience as a legal secretary or paralegal. Having an associate or bachelor’s degree in the field of criminal justice and business administration will prepare an applicant for a career as a court clerk.

Additional Education and Experience

In addition to learning about the legal system, there are a number of skills that are crucial for a court clerk. These include:

  • Computer literacy
  • Good writing skills
  • Excellent grammar skills
  • Understanding of legal vocabulary
  • Top-notch communication and phone skills
  • Ability to maintain a strict calendar
  • Good organizational skills

Many states have a certification program for court clerks, generally offered by the state’s association of court clerks. Such associations also offer continuing education.

Where Can You Work as a Court Clerk

You can work as a court clerk any place there is a court of law. Truly, this is a field with many opportunities, as our legal system in the U.S. is burgeoning. Beginning as an assistant court clerk may be an option for those with little to no experience in the legal administrative field, with opportunities for advancement into positions with more and more responsibility.

Court Clerk Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (“BLS”) Occupational Employment and Wages, published May 2017, the mean wage for court clerks $44,740 annually ($21.51/hr). This wage does not distinguish between types of court clerk. On the higher end of the salary spectrum – for those with greater experience, expertise, and seniority – the annual wage approaches the $56,000 mark.

According to BLS statistics, the states of Texas and California offer the highest level of employment of court clerks. However, they are not the highest paying states, the top five of which include:

  1. New York
  2. New Jersey
  3. Connecticut
  4. Alaska
  5. Rhode Island

Employment Outlook for Court Clerk

According to the BLS, employment of court clerks is projected to grow at a rate of about 4.5%, between 2014 and 2024.

Essential Information

Educational Requirements High school diploma; Associates or bachelor’s degree may be required
Degree Field(s) Criminal justice; business administration
License/Certification Certification is available in many states
Key Skills Creative problem-solving, critical thinking, verbal and written communication, ability to work in a fast-paced environment, excellent organizational skills
Number of Jobs (2016) 1,516,800
Job Outlook
(2016-2026)
3% growth rate (slower than average growth rate)
Median Salary (2017) $33,680*
On the Job Training Moderate term of on-the-job training

(*Source: the BLS)

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