Justice of the Peace: Job Duties, Occupational Outlook, and Education Prerequisites
Explore the career requirements for justices of the peace. Get the facts about job duties, career outlook, salary and other requirements to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Juris Doctor degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
Career Information At a Glance
In the few states where the position still exists, a justice of the peace has the authority to perform lower-level judicial functions. See the chart below for key information about becoming a justice of the peace.
|Degree Required||No specific degree required|
|Key Duties||Performing ceremonies, issuing subpoenas, taking depositions for state or local government|
|Other Requirements||State residency, registered voter, no criminal record|
|Job Growth (2012-2022)||2% for all judges and magistrates*|
|Average Salary (2013)||Traditionally unpaid|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
What Will I Do as a Justice of the Peace?
As a justice of the peace, you'll work for a state or local government. Your duties will depend on your jurisdiction and may include officiating secular marriage and civil union ceremonies, witnessing oaths and signatures, taking depositions, issuing subpoenas and taking acknowledgements. In some jurisdictions, you may serve as a judge on small claims court or misdemeanor offenses, aid in foreclosures, conduct inquests and provide mediation services. You may also hear local tax appeals. Your term as a justice of the peace will depend on your state.
What is the Occupational Outlook for this Career?
According to the Justice of the Peace Association, only five states still authorized justice of the peace positions as of 2015 (www.jpus.org). They were Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Vermont. In the rest of the states, these responsibilities have been incorporated into the duties of a state notary, judge or magistrate. Traditionally, justice of the peace positions are unpaid, but you may be able to charge fees based on your location and services.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for all judges and magistrates, including justices of the peace, were expected to increase by only two percent between 2012 and 2022, which is slower than average growth (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported in 2013 that judges and magistrates earned an average income of $105,380 per year.
What Prerequisites Must I Have?
There are no educational prerequisites to become a justice of the peace. Requirements generally include being a resident of the state where you're applying to become a justice of the peace, being a registered voter and not having a criminal record. You are either appointed to this position by the governor or elected by local voters, although there are only a few locations that still use an election process. Terms of up to six years are common.
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