Court Clerk Job Description: What You'll Do

While courts do not always require clerks to hold an undergraduate degree, students looking to work as court clerks should still consider earning a degree in criminal justice or legal studies. By earning one of these degrees, students can gain background knowledge of legal procedures and the U.S. judicial system. Court clerks do not usually require a deep understanding of legal theory or criminal justice topics; however, this knowledge can help set them apart from their peers.

Through this guide, students can learn about court clerk careers, along with relevant educational requirements and employment opportunities.

What Does a Court Clerk Do?

Court clerks work in courtrooms at the local, state, and federal levels. They enjoy a variety of job titles, including court specialist, circuit court clerk, deputy clerk, and law clerk.

These legal professionals complete a variety of clerical and administrative tasks that help a court run smoothly. They generally keep track of information, manage the court's schedule, and issue documents; however, the specific responsibilities of a court clerk vary depending on where they work. Many different types of courts operate in the United States.

For example, U.S. district courts deal with both criminal and civil trials at the federal level. Bankruptcy courts -- also housed within the federal judicial system -- instruct people on how to liquidate their assets or pay their creditors. Courts of appeals, which are sometimes called appellate courts, hear challenges to previous court decisions, while family courts consider cases involving adoptions, guardianship, and custody. Municipal courts, which operate at the city level, deal with minor infractions like misdemeanors and traffic violations. Court clerks may take on slightly different daily duties, depending on what type of court they work for.

Court clerks work in courtrooms at the local, state, and federal levels. They enjoy a variety of job titles, including court specialist, circuit court clerk, deputy clerk, and law clerk.

Positions in higher-level courts may require considerable education and work experience, as compared with local courts.

You may be wondering: What do court clerks do? Much of their work revolves around court documents, and they manage and store the court's electronic and paper records. Court clerks complete much of their work using word processing software, databases, and spreadsheet tools.

They also produce and send out court orders like summonses, probation documents, release orders, and sentencing information. In addition, court clerks review documents submitted to the court and make sure they follow court protocol and the law. They also forward documents to the appropriate parties.

Court clerk job duties also include managing the court's calendar, which is commonly referred to as the docket. They write up the docket and tell lawyers, witnesses, and other parties when to appear in court. In addition, court clerks obtain relevant information for judges when needed.

What Are the Qualities a Court Clerk Should Have?

Organizational Skills

Court clerks need excellent organizational skills because they keep track of important documents and schedules. Clerks also must quickly and efficiently process and retrieve information.

Written Communication

Because they may need to draft legal documents, court clerks must be able to write clearly. They also need to be able to understand documents to appropriately file or forward them.

Oral Communication

To accurately pass on information to judges, attorneys, and others, court clerks require excellent verbal skills.

Time Management

Court clerks manage their own time and schedule events for the entire court, meaning they need an exceptional sense for how long certain tasks and proceedings take.

Technology Skills

Because they complete much of their work on the computer, court clerks must possess strong technological abilities. They enter data, file documents, and write orders using software.

What Education Is Required to Become a Court Clerk?

Court clerks come from many backgrounds and do not necessarily need a degree related to criminal justice. However, earning an associate degree in legal studies or criminal justice can be beneficial for aspiring court clerks. The degrees described below can provide foundational knowledge on the criminal justice system and legal field.

Associate Degree in Criminal Justice

While entry-level clerk positions often only require a high school diploma, an associate degree in criminal justice can help you be more competitive on the job market. Earning a criminal justice degree demonstrates an interest in the field and teaches you the basics of the U.S. justice system. In addition, associate degree holders may find it easier to enter more advanced positions.

Students pursuing an associate in criminal justice generally complete 60 credits of general education courses and major-related classes. Curricula often explore the history and development of criminal law in the United States. Courses may also compare the U.S. legal system to practices in other countries. Other common topics include law enforcement and the juvenile justice system.

Students can earn an associate degree in roughly two years at many community colleges and four-year universities. Some institutions offer accelerated programs and credit for prior work experience, which can shorten the time it takes to earn a degree.

Associate Degree in Legal Studies

Associate degrees in legal studies prepare students for administrative positions at law firms, corporate legal departments, and other law-related workplaces. These degrees typically target students looking to work as paralegals and legal assistants. However, graduates of associate programs in legal studies can also apply many of the skills they learn to a career as a court clerk.

For example, classes in legal research and writing teach students to prepare legal documents like briefs and memos. Courses also explore the organization and foundations of the U.S. legal system. In addition to law-related courses, associate programs include general education classes in subjects like English composition, math, and social sciences.

Associate in legal studies programs take around two years to complete. After earning an associate degree at a university or community college, graduates can look for a job right away or pursue a bachelor's degree by completing two additional years of study.

Explore more degrees in criminal justice and legal studies

Where are Court Clerks Employed?

Court, municipal, and license clerk jobs are projected to grow by 6.4% between 2016 and 2026, according to Projections Central. The table below shows the states with the highest number of people employed in this job, along with the number of individuals working in this occupation as of May 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Top States for Court Clerk Careers
State Number Employed
California 11,490
Texas 9,470
Ohio 9,320
Florida 7,450
New York 7,420
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2018
Top Cities and Metropolitan Areas for Court Clerk Careers
Metropolitan Area Number Employed
New York-Jersey City-White Plains, NY-NJ Metropolitan Division 7,300
Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, IL Metropolitan Division 3,600
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX 2,920
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 2,800
St. Louis, MO-IL 2,380
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA 2,360
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL 2,300
Boston-Cambridge-Nashua, MA-NH 2,160
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI 2,100
Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO 2,090
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2018

Want to Learn More about Court Clerk Jobs?

Explore Court Clerk Salary Information

According to government data, the 90th-percentile salary for court clerks is over $60,000 per year. Follow the link below to explore court clerk salaries in more detail.

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Explore More Careers in Criminal Justice

If you are passionate about criminal justice but do not think that being a court clerk is the ideal career for you, consider earning one of the degrees listed below.

Explore paralegal associate programs Explore paralegal bachelor’s programs Explore associate in legal studies Explore bachelor’s in legal studies