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Adjudications Officer: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Adjudications officers require a significant amount of formal education. Learn about the education, responsibilities, and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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Adjudications officers are employed by local, federal and state government agencies. Most positions require a law degree and law license, as well as seven years of participation in trials involving mediation and settlements. Adjudicators must also be U.S. citizens, pass a drug screening and background check, and meet all licensing requirements.

Essential Information

Adjudications officers, also known as administrative law judges, hearing officers or simply adjudicators, are legal professionals who work for government agencies, including the U.S. Departments of State, Homeland Security and Agriculture. Adjudicators may also work for other levels of government, including state and local agencies. Most adjudication positions require the completion of a law degree followed by licensure and experience as a lawyer.

Required Education Juris Doctor
Certification/Licensure Lawyer licensure required for most positions (mandatory for federal adjudicators) followed by passing of the exam required by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management
Additional Requirements Federal adjudicators must have at least 7 years of trial participation involving settlement and mediation and U.S. citizenship; some positions may require fluency in a foreign language, training specific to the position, drug screening, background check and proof of Selective Service registration
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* -4% for all administrative law judges, adjudicators, and hearing officers
Average Salary (2015)* $93,140 annually for all administrative law judges, adjudicators, and hearing officers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

Adjudications officers make decisions regarding a government agency's policies or eligibility requirements. They determine qualification for benefit programs or assess compliance with government regulations. Decisions may include accepting or denying program applications, assigning liability, approving benefit claims or determining penalties and sanctions.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for all administrative law judges, adjudicators, and hearing officers, including adjudications officers, were expected to decrease by four percent between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). Since adjudicators are employed by the government, the job outlook is based on government funding levels. In May 2015, the federal executive branch employed the highest number of adjudicators, hearing officers and administrative law judges followed by local and state government agencies.

The BLS also reported that the average pay in May 2015 for adjudicators was $93,140 annually. Adjudicators who work for federal government agencies averaged $126,560 per year during this period, while those employed by state and local governments earned $79,670 per year and $79,970 per year on average, respectively.

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Duties

Duties vary by agency, but generally adjudicators make decisions and recommendations based on existing regulations and policies. They must be familiar with various laws and regulations, and be able to determine whether applications for citizenship or benefit programs are acceptable. They must also be able to identify when governmental regulations or policies have been violated.

For example, adjudicators who work for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) are responsible for determining whether applications from immigrants entering the U.S. include authentic supporting materials such as employee records and birth or death certificates. This adjudicator researches applicable laws and regulations, and performs background checks and interviews to further analyze an applicant's eligibility.

Requirements

Federal adjudicators must be licensed as practicing lawyers in a U.S. state or territory. They must have at least seven years of experience in trial or hearing participation that involves negotiating settlements or conducting mediation to resolve indictments or complaints.

Adjudicators must be U.S. citizens or U.S. nationals. All federal government adjudicators must pass an examination given to assess their skills and abilities given by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Some adjudicators must meet more specific requirements, depending on the agency. Those working for the U.S. Department of State might be required to know a foreign language.

All adjudicators must complete training specific to their position. A background check, drug screen and proof of Selective Service registration are usually required as well.

Adjudicators work for all levels of government, and are involved in decision-making concerning government policies and regulations. They may be responsible for tasks as varied as approving an application for citizenship, or determining that government policies have been followed. Their specific responsibilities will vary based on whether they work for local, federal, or state government agencies, and which agency they're employed by.

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