Court administrators need a firm understanding of how legal and justice systems work, in addition to skills for running court business and operations. As such, individuals in these positions typically hold a bachelor's or master's degree in criminal justice or legal administration. Bachelor's degree programs give students a background in the workings of the legal and justice systems, as well as the day-to-day operations of court business. Students should have a high school diploma to apply for admission.
Master's degree programs offer an in-depth look at the court systems and allow students to choose an area in which to specialize their studies and research. These programs require students to have a bachelor's degree.
In many states, court administrators must be licensed or certified. In many jurisdictions, the court clerk is an elected position. There are professional certifications available for this occupation.
Bachelor's Degree in Court Administration
Many universities offer bachelor's degree programs that prepare students for court administration careers. These four-year programs include majors in criminal justice, public administration and justice administration. Typical curricula include legal ethics, criminal and civil procedures, court administration and leadership strategies. Students can often choose to specialize in such areas as computer forensics, management or homeland security. Several schools offer students opportunities to participate in organized volunteer projects, fundraisers, intern programs and other community events related to law enforcement and criminal justice. Students could apply their classroom learning in an intern position at state and local courts, government agencies and law enforcement departments. Standard coursework includes:
- Criminology and law enforcement
- Family and juvenile court policies
- Political science
- Business administration
Master's Degree in Court Administration
Master's degree programs in court administration are often offered as legal or public administration, administration of justice or justice management degrees. Some graduate programs offer concentrations in court administration, homeland security or executive leadership. Usually a bachelor's degree is required for admission, though some schools offer joint bachelor's and master's degrees in a consolidated 5-year program.
Graduate students of legal administration study the inner workings of court operations and the business of managing a court. Depending on a student's concentration, they can research the impact of international court trends, family and juvenile court procedures, management of correctional facilities or political influences on the courts system. Online coursework is typically offered at several schools, and graduate students can participate in practicums at a number of affiliated courts, agencies or legal firms. Some core and elective course topics can include:
- Case flow and project management
- Justice system technologies
- Accounting and finance
- Human resources and leadership
- Communications and media relations
- Emergency preparedness and crisis management
Popular Career Options
Court administration professionals with bachelor's degrees can work in a variety of settings, from managing city or county courthouses to overseeing special jurisdictions, such as juvenile or domestic courts. Duties and responsibilities can also vary, ranging from individual case management to human resources to information technology. Some possible job titles include the following:
- Court administrator or manager
- Court recorder
- Clerk or record keeper
- Case administrator
- Court researcher
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) listed average salaries for court, municipal and license clerks in May 2018, reporting that those who worked at local levels earned average salaries of $40,370, while state clerks made $44,550 (www.bls.gov). The BLS indicated that location was also a determining factor in wages, claiming those employed in New York made average annual wages of $56,890, while those in California averaged $51,550 per year. The BLS projected a 4% job growth for these professionals during the 2018-2028 time period.
While some states require specific certification for court administrators, criteria can include courtroom or law enforcement experience, a high school diploma or earning a bachelor's degree and obtaining continued professional development. Court administrators can also become certified as Court Managers through the National Center for State Courts. The organization's Institute for Court Management offers the optional Court Management Program for mid-level administrators and the Court Executive Development Program for high-level court leaders and administrators.
The combination of social science and business coursework comprising bachelor's and master's degree programs in fields like criminal justice or public administration can help students land jobs as court researchers, court administrators and record keepers, just to name a few options.