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Army JAG Officer: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Army JAG officers require a significant amount of formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and requirements to find out if this is the career for you.

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The Uniform Code of Military Justice is the governing document for legal matters in the military and is a bit different than the civilian code. JAG officers serve as military lawyers, but only the most highly educated, intelligent and dedicated individuals make the cut.

Essential Information

Officers in the Army Judge Advocate General's Corps (JAGC) are practicing attorneys who handle military legal matters. JAG Corps attorneys enter the Army as officers after graduation from law school, and the Army trains them in military law and procedures.

Required Education Juris Doctor (J.D.) from an American Bar Association-accredited law school
Licensure/Certification Admittance to the American Bar Association for state licensure
Additional Requirements U.S. citizen age 42 or younger meeting Army physical standards and passing a security clearance, successful completion of 3 phases of military training to become a direct commission Army officer
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) Steady employment predicted for all armed services*
Average Salary (2016) $41,094 for first lieutenants with less than 2 years experience, $47,563.20 for captain with less than 2 years experience**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **GoArmy.com

Job Description

JAG Corps officers oversee the legal affairs of the Army. They serve in the United States and at Army installations overseas. Judge advocates, the official title of JAG Corps officers, hold jobs similar to civilian attorneys, such as prosecuting attorney, counsel for the defense or civil litigator. As their careers progress, judge advocates are promoted. Higher positions can include judge, chief of justice or instructor at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Job Duties

Jobs for a JAG Corps officer cover a wide range of legal duties. Many JAG Corps attorneys specialize in criminal law, working as either the prosecuting or defense attorney at courts martial and other disciplinary proceedings. Some JAG Corps attorneys work in international law, helping clarify international agreements and interpret foreign law. Helping soldiers and their families with legal matters is the job of the JAG Corps officers in legal assistance. JAG Corps attorneys may advise commanders on legal matters and review proposed Army actions.

In addition to being an Army attorney, a judge advocate is also a military officer who must possess sound leadership skills. The JAG Corps officer should be in excellent physical and mental condition. The JAG Corps officer must exercise good judgment and assume responsibility for decisions.

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Requirements

JAG Corps attorneys must have a Juris Doctor (J.D.) or Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) degree from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association. They must be members of the bar of a federal court or the highest court in any state. Third-year law school students may also apply to the JAG Corps.

Army Requirements and Training

JAG Corps officers are direct commissioned as first lieutenants. They must be U.S. citizens under the age of 42, pass a security clearance and meet Army physical standards, including height, weight and fitness. They must complete a 3-phase training session after joining the Army. In the first phase, they learn about the Army, purchase uniforms and complete paperwork. A 10.5-week second phase consists of instruction concerning the practice of law in the U.S. Army. New JAG officers then spend six weeks at the Direct Commissioned Officer Course, where they prepare mentally and physically for military service through training in marksmanship, leadership and combat tactics. JAG officers are typically promoted to captain within 6-12 months of commissioning.

Salary and Employment Outlook

The U.S. Army pay system takes into account a person's rank, the number of years of military service a person has and her or his tasks and responsibilities. The basic pay for a first lieutenant with less than two years of military experience was $41,094 in 2016. JAG officers promoted to captain in the first year received $47,563.20 in base pay in 2016. These figures do not include bonuses, allowances or other benefits.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that employment within all of the U.S. Armed Forces branches would remain steady from 2014 until 2024.

After graduating from an ABA-accredited law school, passing the state and/or federal bar examination, and meeting the army's physical and mental standards, individuals under the age of 42 may qualify to apply to the JAG Corps. Advancement and further education opportunities are available for JAG officers, and while their duties are multi-faceted, they may specialize in areas like criminal law, international law, or legal assistance.

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