Assistant District Attorney Careers

NUMBER OF JOBS

570,950

JOB OPENINGS

0.7%

JOB GROWTH

0.7%

AVG. SALARY

$130,490 /yr

$62.72 /hr

All Stats from BLS.gov

The District Attorney is the people’s lawyer. A district attorney brings criminal charges against those accused of committing crimes, on behalf of the state in which they work. It is typically an elected position, and the District Attorney often works closely with the police department.

The Assistant District Attorney works for the District Attorney’s office in prosecuting crimes. The job description involves negotiating plea deals, performing legal research, interviewing witnesses, and representing the government in court.

How to Become an Assistant District Attorney

Earn a Bachelor’s degree. Before you can go to law school, you’ll need a Bachelor’s degree. You can earn your degree in any field; while some colleges offer pre-law study programs, it’s also possible to get into law school with a degree in English, history, political science, the arts, or any other subject. However, your GPA is important—so whatever subject you study, be sure to get good grades.

Earn a Juris Doctor. Once you’ve earned your Bachelor’s degree, you’ll need to gain acceptance into law school. Law school usually takes three years to finish if you’re going to school full-time. Be sure your school is accredited by the American Bar Association—as you will not be able to sit for the bar if it is not.

Pass the Bar exam. You’ll need to pass the Bar to become a practicing lawyer. Most law school graduates take the Bar in their final semester before graduating law school. Even registration is onerous, and requires filling out an extensive application disclosing past addresses, employment, and criminal history—including past traffic tickets. While the Bar exam varies from state to state, it is usually a two-day exam with one day dedicated to multi-state law and the other covering topics specific to the state in which you are taking the exam.

Get licensed. Once you pass the Bar, you’ll need to get licensed to practice law in your state. These steps vary depending on your state, but usually involve taking an oath and paying Bar Association dues in your state.

Acceptance of Online Degrees in the Legal Field

The legal field is one of the least accepting of online degrees. While this is changing—several schools have begun offering online Master of Laws degrees, for example—the field is not yet wide open to online education. One of the reasons is that the American Bar Association only allows those with ABA-accredited law degrees to sit for the Bar exam, and it does not accredit online schools.

There are a few exceptions. For example, you can sit for the Bar in California after having attended an online school. However, you are limited to working as a lawyer only in that state—and you will not only have to pass the Bar again, but earn an entirely new J.D. degree, in order to practice somewhere else.

If you want to attend an online Bachelor degree program, you may have a better chance. Law schools may be less willing to accept Bachelor’s degrees from fully-online or for-profit schools, but you may have a better chance with an online or partially-online degree from a known traditional school. If in doubt, contact the law school you’d ideally like to attend to find out their policy.

Assistant District Attorney Salary 

According to SimplyHired.com, the average salary for this job is $55,000. Assistant District Attorney jobs typically do not pay extremely well; some positions in smaller counties can pay as little as $35,000 per year or less.

However, it’s also important to point out that this is a public service position. As such, there are government tuition repayment programs that can reimburse you for some or all of your law school debt—such as the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. In addition, many law schools also offer tuition forgiveness programs for those who go into public service.

Pros and Cons of Becoming an Assistant District Attorney 

This job requires considerable investment in education—law school can sometimes cost up to $50,000 per year, in addition to the cost of a Bachelor’s degree. However, this job does not offer a high salary, especially in smaller and less wealthy districts. As such, this job can be a difficult financial proposition—although tuition forgiveness programs for public service employees can help.

However, the job also offers an opportunity to use your law school education for the benefit of society—representing the interests of the public in prosecuting criminal cases. For those passionate about public service, this can outweigh the drawbacks—and make the job worth it.

Additional Research:

Occupational Outlook Handbook: Lawyers
Federal Student Aid: Public Service Loan Forgiveness
American Bar Association

Where to Look for Assistant District Attorney Jobs:

Indeed.com
SimplyHired.com
Glassdoor.com