What is a Hearing Officer?

Today’s hearing officer is truly the decider of futures for the many people seen before them. What exactly does this legal professional do, and where do they perform this work? Here’s the scoop on this important career in the American judicial system.

What’s in the Job?

Hearing officers spend their time split between a courtroom setting and an administrative set of “chamber duties.” In the courtroom, they are also referred to as a “judge” and oversee courtroom hearings and procedures as any typical judge would. In chamber, they often work behind the scenes handling important administrative matters and documents pertaining to legal cases and hearings.

This type of judge can also be seen working at all three judicial levels – local, state, and federal. They may oversee civil matters, or matters involving lawsuit, in addition to criminal trials and pretrials hearings. While they are not necessarily likely to oversee higher levels of casework such as that of repeated appeals, they are a sort of basic, all-purpose judge.

Getting There

So, how does one become one of the judicial system’s valuable hearing officers? Unfortunately, the answer is not universal and depends on the place in which the candidate lives and intends to practice. In some jurisdictions, this professional only needs to have a related bachelor’s degree or better. In other places, this is just the beginning of requirements that extend to prerequisite legal experience, a graduate-level law degree, and more.

In virtually all cases, it is important to note that the candidate must complete the US Office of Personnel Management examination for potential government workers. This exam essentially clears one to work in any number of important government roles. It does not guarantee a job in any position in and of itself.

Salary and Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, today’s hearing officer makes a median pay rate of around $52.86 per hour, or approximately $109,940 each year. Short-term, on-the-job training is also listed by the Bureau as a consistent part of a newly appointed hearing officer’s work. One drawback to this position, however, is a temporary decline in workers needed for the position nationally through 2024. This doesn’t mean you cannot get a job in this role, but it does mean that it may become increasingly challenging as competition and fewer roles abound over the coming years.

Similar Professions

For those genuinely interested in this particular area of work, it can often be helpful to also be aware of a few similar careers out there. These roles often cross paths with those of hearing officers or otherwise do similar or similarly-themed work. Professions to consider in close relation to this one include:

  • Arbitrators
  • Mediators
  • Magistrates
  • Investigators, Detectives
  • Law Enforcement Officers
  • Judges
  • Attorneys
  • Courthouse Administrators

Anyone considering a career in the judicial system or working with law should consider the position of hearing officers as well as some of the important and closely-related positions listed above. Society will always need the determination authority granted to judges and hearing officers alike. For even more, great information on all things related to the role of the hearing officer and other important figures in the judicial system today, The American Judges Association is a great option with which to direct further query.