Career Definition for a Hearing Officer
Hearing officers preside over legal procedures for local, state or federal offices or courtrooms. In general, their responsibilities can include approving or rejecting claims and determining the nature and amount of liability. Some officers may also oversee pretrial hearings. Hearing officers who function as administrative law judges may organize mediation agreements between two individuals or entities.
|Education||Doctoral degree in law|
|Job Skills||Communication, decision making, ethics, leadership|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$90,600 (all adjudicators, administrative law judges and hearing officers)|
|Job Growth (2014-2024)*||-4% (all adjudicators, administrative law judges and hearing officers)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Hearing officers usually have a degree in law, which can take approximately three years of post-graduate study to complete. Coursework may cover topics in constitutional, contract and property law, civil proceedings and writing for the legal profession. Judicial requirements also include a passing score on a U.S. Office of Personnel Management exam, experience in the field and a professional orientation. Hearing officers must also stay abreast of changes in regulations and statutes, such as those related to social security disability, worker's compensation benefits or employment discrimination.
Hearing officer must have a reputation for ethical behavior and be able to deal with the public in a responsible manner. They must also have the ability to gather information and determine its relevance in a particular setting. Critical-thinking and decision-making skills are key, as are high-level reading and writing abilities.
Career and Salary Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment is expected to decline by 4% for hearing officers and administrative law judges nationwide between 2014 and 2024. As reported by the BLS, all administrative law judges, adjudicators and hearing officers who were employed in May 2015 earned median annual salaries of $90,600 (www.bls.gov).
Alternate Career Options
Individuals seeking careers in the judicial process may consider professions in arbitration and private investigation.
Arbitrators, Mediators and Conciliators
Arbitrators, mediators and conciliators, which can include attorneys, business people or neutral third-parties, help people resolve legal disputes outside of the courts. They are usually employed by local and state governments, legal services or other professional organizations and services. Minimum educational requirements include a bachelor's degree and state-mandated training courses or experience; a Juris Doctor (JD) or Master of Business Administration (MBA) may be preferred. From 2014-2024, the BLS has projected a 9%, or fast-as-average, growth in jobs for arbitrators, mediators and conciliators, who earned median yearly salaries of $58,020 in May 2015 (www.bls.gov).
Private Detectives and Investigators
Private detectives and investigators collect and evaluate financial, legal and personal information for armored car, guard and investigative services, the government or law offices, among other entities. A high school diploma, in combination with significant investigative experience, is the minimum requirement for obtaining a job; graduates with an associate or bachelor's degree in criminal justice or police studies may be preferred. According to the BLS, private detectives and investigators can expect an 5%, or fast-as-average, increase in employment nationwide between 2014 and 2024. As of May 2015, individuals who worked in the field were paid median annual wages of $45,610 (www.bls.gov).