District Attorney: Job Description, Education & Job Requirements

Explore the career path of a being a district attorney. Learn about the duties, education, and job requirements of a district attorney and find out if this is the profession for you. Schools offering Juris Doctor degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

A district attorney is a lawyer that legally represents the state to charge/prosecute criminal offenders within a specific area or jurisdiction. In many instances, district attorneys lead a team of associates in coordinating duties essential for preparing and presenting cases in the courtroom. Check out the table below and see if becoming a district attorney is a sentence you should serve.

Degree Required Law degree and successful completion of the bar exam
Educational Required Professional degree (Juris Doctor)
Licensure Required Successful completion of the bar exam and admittance to the state bar
Key Skills Analytical, problem-solving, communication, interpersonal
Median Annual Salary (2018) $120,910 (all lawyers)*
Job Growth (2016-2026) 8% (all lawyers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What is a District Attorney?

District attorneys, sometimes called county attorneys, state attorneys, or prosecutors, are responsible for representing the government against criminal offenders in court. In many places, a district attorney must be elected into the position. At the federal level, a district attorney's title is called a U.S. Attorney. Typically, a district attorney will have a team of associates - both assistant district attorneys and deputy district attorneys - that he or she supervises to manage tasks associated with cases. This team approach is critical in large jurisdictions and areas of high crime. A district attorney may also be responsible for office-related tasks such as hiring, managing staff schedules, and budgeting.

What are Typical Duties of a District Attorney?

A district attorney routinely reviews police reports, assesses whether to bring criminal charges against perpetrators, prosecutes criminal cases in the courtroom, and communicates with victims, law enforcement, judges, and criminals. The work schedule of a district attorney can be hectic. They must manage other associates, organize and assess materials for hearings, and abide by area rules and regulations. The ultimate goal of a district attorney is to provide enough evidence in the courtroom against the criminal(s) to convince the jury and judge of their guilt so they can be appropriately punished for their offense.

What Education do I Need to Become a District Attorney?

It takes approximately seven years to become a lawyer or district attorney. Four years consists of undergraduate studies and the remaining three years are spent in law school. Most states require potential lawyers to be a graduate of an American Bar Association (ABA) accredited school to qualify for admission to the bar. Coursework related to criminal prosecution and procedures can be helpful. Internships in prosecutor offices may help build valuable experience. Once graduated, the student must successfully pass the bar exam and be inducted into the bar association.

Do You Have to Have Licensure to Practice as a District Attorney?

Required licensure for a district attorney is the successful completion of one or more bar exams and admission into his or her state's bar association. The lawyer can then provide services within the state where he or she is approved. Circumstances that may prevent a student from admittance into a bar association are academic concerns, substance abuse, and legal offenses. A lawyer is also typically obligated to fulfill continuing education requirements to maintain active licensure and remain current in his or her area of expertise.

What Other Areas Can Lawyers Specialize In?

A lawyer can work in a variety of settings and specialize in many different areas. For example, a lawyer can specialize in family law and concentrate their practice in adoption, child support, and divorce. Some specialize in public-interest law, fighting with, or for, non-profit organizations and disadvantaged people. Other lawyers may choose environmental law, joining forces with government programs, advocacy groups, and waste-management facilities to defend nature and uphold laws designed to protect the planet.

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