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How Much Does a District Attorney Make?

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Law Enforcement in a Well-Cut Suit

When you think about a career in law enforcement, a police officer with a badge and pistol may immediately come to mind. But if that kind of risk doesn't appeal to you as a mother of minor kids, you might consider working in law enforcement in a courtroom as a district attorney. A district attorney is an attorney but also a criminal prosecutor. She takes the evidence amassed by the cops and makes the case against a defendant in criminal court. The job isn't easy, but the risk to life and limb is significantly less than for police officers. Plus, the mean salary is a hefty $73,213.

Job Description

District attorneys prosecute state crimes that happen within their counties' borders. Often called the DA, the district attorney is in charge of the prosecutor's office, which may include criminal investigators, paralegals and also assistant district attorneys who work the cases.

While the police are in charge of heading to the crime scene and gathering evidence, it's the district attorney's office that determines whether to file criminal charges. The DA has the final say in every case as to whether charges should be filed. This usually depends on whether the DA thinks the evidence will support a conviction. District attorneys, along with their staff lawyers, negotiate with criminal defense attorneys. If negotiation fails, they take the criminal cases to court before judges and juries.

Education Requirements

District attorneys are, first and foremost lawyers. To aim for this career, you'll need to get a bachelor's degree with grades good enough to help you gain admission to law school. Law school means three additional years of study after college. After that, you'll have to study for and pass the attorney licensing exam in your state, called the bar exam.

Once you are admitted as an attorney in your state, the next step is to get a job in a district attorney's office. The entry-level legal position is usually called assistant district attorney. Assistant district attorneys help district attorneys in prosecuting people accused of crimes. The job can require long hours and may involve a lot of stress as you prepare for trial. Overtime on evenings, weekends and holidays isn't unusual. When you gather sufficient experience, you can consider moving up to district attorney. Note that DAs are generally elected by county residents, but, in some cases, they are appointed.

The median salary for a district attorney is $73,213. Since every DA must have a law degree, you don't earn extra salary for additional education.

Industry Involved

All district attorneys work for municipal, county or state governments.

Years of Experience

As an assistant district attorney, you can expect to earn from $43,394–$89,736, with an average salary of $57,882.

When you move up to district attorney, the average salary rises to $73,213, with a salary range of $50,830–$142,767. Both career length and the particular city affect salary, with experience having the largest influence. Entry-level DAs earn some 7 percent less than average. After a few more years of experience, a DA may earn only 3 percent less than average. Experienced DAs earn 22 percent more, while at the end of your career, you may get 32 percent more.

Job Growth Trend

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not maintain data specific to district attorneys for job growth. The agency does predict that jobs for lawyers will increase 6 percent over the next decade, which is about as fast as average for other jobs during this period.