Judge Salary: What You’ll Earn

A Career as a Judge in the Criminal Justice System Can Offer You Lucrative Earning Opportunities

Judges preside over trials and hearings, resolving legal disputes by issuing legal decisions, instructing juries, and making sentencing decisions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the annual median salary for judges exceeds $117,000, and the salary for federal judges is even higher.

Like virtually all jobs, salaries vary depending on a judge’s level of experience, industry, and location. Overall, judges earn among the highest salaries of any criminal justice professionals. This page provides judge salary information, including median judge salaries by industry, projected growth in judicial positions, and judge salaries compared to other criminal justice professionals.

How Much Do Judges Earn?

Judges perform a critical service for the legal system, ensuring the court system functions smoothly. Judges at all levels of the judicial system earn above-average salaries. A judge’s salary is influenced by several variables. For example, as judges gain professional experience, their earning potential increases.

Similarly, industry influences judicial salaries. While all judges work for the government, salaries vary depending upon which level of government employs a judge. For example, judges who work for the federal government earn a higher salary than those working for state or local governments. While judges employed by state or local governments earn around $80,000 a year, federal judges earn nearly $130,000.

Location also affects judge salaries, with judges in cities and higher cost-of-living areas often making higher salaries.

What’s My Earning Potential as a Judge?

The BLS reported that the median wage for all judges, magistrate judges, and magistrates in May 2018 was nearly $134,000. Additionally, according to the BLS, the demand for judges is projected to grow by 5% between 2016 and 2026. As judges gain professional experience, their salaries tend to increase.

How Do Judge Careers Compare to Other Criminal Justice Careers?

Judge salaries rank among the highest in the criminal justice field, with a median annual salary of over $117,000. The BLS reports that judges earn more than most other criminal justice professionals, including arbitrators, paralegals, and law enforcement officers. Attorneys earn a slightly higher salary than judges, taking home around $120,000 per year.

Multiple factors influence a judge’s salary, including their professional experience, job title, and location. Judges are paid by federal, state, and local governments, and their earnings vary depending on the location and the type of court. The following table contains information about the median annual salaries and projected growth for several criminal justice career paths.

PositionMedian Annual SalaryProjected Growth Rate
Judges and Hearing Officers$117,1905%
Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators$62,27010%
Paralegals and Legal Assistants$50,94015%
Police and Detectives$62,9607%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Take the Next Step Today

Law enforcement officers, lawyers, and judges all contribute to the criminal justice system. To pursue these positions, professionals must meet educational and professional experience requirements. Learn more about the degrees that lead to careers in law enforcement or as a judge.