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Court Clerk: Career Guide

Court clerks perform administrative duties in the criminal and civil justice systems, assisting other officers of the court as well as judges and lawyers. A court clerk might work in a district court, a court of appeals, a bankruptcy court, or the Supreme Court. They maintain court records, administer oaths to witnesses and jurors, and authenticate copies of the court’s orders and judgments with the court’s seal. This guide provides further information on what court clerks do, how to become one, and the occupation’s salary and outlook. Opportunities for growth exist laterally by applying to work with state or federal agencies, or by taking supervisory responsibility. The largest employers of court clerks are municipalities but many court clerks are also employed at the state and federal levels.

Career Description, Duties, and Common Tasks

Court clerks are either appointed to each court by the judge of that court or elected at the county or district level. To be considered a “court of record,” a court must have a court clerk. The clerk is responsible for the court’s money and record keeping, acting as both the chief information officer (CIO) and the chief financial officer (CFO) of the court. Some court clerks also serve as jury commissioners or probate registrars. They typically work in courts or office buildings. Court clerks perform tasks similar to other administrative assistants, but do so on behalf of the legal system. A court clerk may:

  • Complete office tasks as necessary
  • Document the receipt of legal documents
  • Keep records of court appearances
  • Perform accounting and bookkeeping duties
  • Prepare meeting agendas
  • Record licensing requests of municipal, county, and other agencies
  • Prepare draft agendas or bylaws for town or city councils
  • Answer official correspondence
  • Issue licenses or permits
  • Collect fees
  • Prepare dockets of cases to be called by a court
  • Research and document information for judges

Court clerks manage budgets, analyze court financial data, and make projections based on available data. In addition to the administrative functions listed above, court clerks may also manage a staff in larger courts. Court clerks are experts in project management, human resources compliance, negotiation, diplomacy, probate law, financial compliance, information systems, court procedures, jury management, and business management.

Steps for Becoming a Court Clerk

Court clerks do not necessarily need a specific degree, especially in smaller court systems, but many aspiring court clerks benefit from a certificate or associate’s degree program in administrative assisting and/or the criminal justice system. Coursework to prepare for this career typically includes Introduction to the Criminal Justice System, Court Processes, Business Administration, and Archival Systems. Some courts require only a high school diploma for an entry-level court clerk position, but others require an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree in business management, criminal justice, or a similar degree. Federal courts tend to require law degrees or master’s degrees.

Prospective court clerks with legal experience, an accounting background, and customer service skills will stand out above others. Internships as court clerks (either in conjunction with attending school or otherwise) will help people gain on-the-job experience, which can provide a competitive advantage when applying for available positions. To become a court clerk, you should:

  1. Apply for an open position as a court clerk.
  2. Undergo a background check.
  3. Pass a drug test.
  4. Be interviewed.
  5. Get hired as a court clerk.
  6. Get trained once hired as a court clerk.

Court Clerk Job Training

Whether court clerks start with an internship or pursue a degree, they also get on-the-job training once they are hired, usually as deputy clerks. As deputy clerks, workers learn a variety of administrative duties essential to the clerk of court position. As they gain experience, they are typically given more responsibility and a higher pay rate, becoming court clerks, and eventually chief court clerks with enough experience. While it is possible to gain enough experience working as a court clerk to move into a higher pay range, those with a degree in public administration, business administration, or criminal justice are usually promoted more quickly than those without a degree.

Other Helpful Skills and Experience

For people interested in becoming a court clerk, it is helpful to have experience in customer service, bookkeeping, and legal procedure. Candidates should have excellent accounting, budgeting, business management, and word processing skills. Court clerks with experience in human resources, benefits management, and financial compliance will have an advantage over others.

Possible Job Titles for This Career

  • Clerk of the Court
  • Clerk of Court
  • Clerk of the Peace
  • Clerk of the Police Court
  • Circuit Court Clerk
  • Court Clerk

Court Clerk Salary and Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average annual salary for court clerks is approximately $35,850 as of 2015.1 Clerks in state government tend to earn higher salaries, with a national average salary of around $43,020.1 The profession is expected to grow relatively slowly through 2024, with a 4.5% rate of growth nationally.2 Court clerks may not have much job growth due to the fact that there are not many new judicial openings, but there will be openings for replacements due to people leaving positions for retirement or other reasons. In such a competitive work environment, court clerks with degrees and applicable experience will likely be the most hireable.

Related Careers

If you are interested in a career as a court clerk, you may also be interested in learning more about the related careers below.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What are the typical hours expected for a court clerk?

Answer: Court clerks typically work around 40 hours a week during court hours. Most courts are open between the hours of 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, Monday through Friday. Clerks might also work after hours to complete administrative tasks they did not complete during court hours.

Question: Is it worth it for me to pursue a degree in criminal justice or business administration if I want to be a court clerk?

Answer: Yes. While many clerk of court positions do not require a degree, having one makes you more marketable and hireable, especially in a tepid market with few court clerk jobs available overall.

Additional Resources

References:
1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics May 2015 Occupational Employment and Wages: Court, Municipal, and License Clerks: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes434031.htm
2. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com