Prosecuting Attorney: Job Description, Salary, and Education
A prosecutor is an attorney that represents the federal government in court proceedings. Prosecutors represent the United States and its citizens, so it is important that they are fair and just. Prosecutors work toward keeping the country safe by proving that a person or business has committed a crime.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), lawyers are projected to see a 10% increase in employment from 2010 to 2020. Though prosecutors will still be needed during this time, the job increase in this field depends on the budget constraints within the government.
The pay rate for prosecutors is contingent on their location, years of experience and career advancement. According to the 2012 Public Sector and Public Interest Attorney Salary Report by the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), the median salary for entry-level local prosecuting attorneys in 2012 was $50,000.
Job Skills for Prosecutors
Prosecutors have to be skilled at research and problem-solving. Research helps prosecutors get the information they need for a case and problem-solving helps them analyze the information and use it to their advantage in a case.
Communication is another attribute that prosecutors must possess. They have to be able to speak and write very well in order to successfully win their cases. Since they have to speak to judges, juries, press, opposing counsel and witnesses, prosecutors have to be able to adjust their communication approach depending on who they are talking to.
Prosecutors that are interested in becoming a federal prosecutor usually need 3 to 5 years of success as an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) to be considered. U.S. Attorneys are appointed by the president and approved by Congress. AUSAs need to fully understand the Federal Rules of Evidence, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
Work Environment for Prosecutors
Prosecutors work mostly out of offices, though they may need to travel for meetings, court appearances or to gather evidence. They may have to visit difficult or emotionally-charged locations like hospitals or prisons.
Working as a prosecutor can be potentially stressful. There is a lot of pressure throughout a trial. Some cases, especially those regarding violent crime, might be distressing. In order to prosecute, these lawyers must be able to handle even the most disturbing information and evidence. Prosecutors work very long hours and have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders.
Education Requirements for Prosecutors
Becoming a prosecutor (or any type of lawyer) requires an undergraduate degree followed by law school. To get into a law school, applicants might have to pass the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Depending on the state, future lawyers may have to earn a juris doctor (J.D.) degree from an institution that is accredited by the American Bar Association. These schools, especially the highest ranked ones, can be difficult to get into, so admission s highly competitive.
Prosecutors have to pass a bar exam in order to become licensed. The licensing for lawyers can vary by state, so a prosecutor has to pass the bar in any state he or she intends to practice in. Some states also have additional training that lawyers have to do, either each year or every three years.