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The Average Salary for an Assistant District Attorney

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An assistant district attorney, also called a prosecutor, represents the people of a jurisdiction against any individual accused of a crime. It's a high-stress career with long hours, but the experience and networking opportunities can be invaluable when you work in the legal field. The average annual salary nationwide is $59,000, which varies with geographic location.

Job Description

The district attorney (DA) is the chief law enforcement officer of a state or county. Depending on the population of the jurisdiction, the district attorney's office also employs any number of assistant district attorneys (ADAs). As an ADA, you'll interview victims and witnesses and evaluate criminal evidence. You'll write briefs, take part in decision-making processes, prepare reports and help monitor the budget of the office. You'll represent the people of the jurisdiction at trial. Many ADAs are on call 24 hours a day.

Education Requirements

To become an assistant district attorney (ADA), you'll need to be a licensed attorney in the state where you'll practice. Licensure requires a law degree (Juris Doctor, or JD) and successful completion of the state bar exam.

Law school is three years of full-time study after the bachelor's degree. Some law schools offer part-time programs, which typically require four years for earning the degree. Although some colleges and universities offer a specific prelaw program, there are no formal requirements for a major for admission to law school. Admissions committees recommend candidates choose a rigorous course of study in a subject matter they're passionate about and in which they can do well. The major should prepare you to get a good score on the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). Recent data from the Law Admissions Council show that the top majors of students accepted into law school were economics, linguistics and mathematics. Business and criminal justice ranked much lower. The median GPA of accepted applicants ranged from 3.2 to 3.57. Median means half the applicants had higher averages and half had lower. The average acceptable LSAT score ranged from 150 to 161. Admissions to the nation's top law schools are extremely competitive.

Work Environment

As an assistant district attorney, you'll divide your time between the office and the courtroom. Working under the supervision of the district attorney, you'll conduct interviews, review evidence and appear in court for civil and criminal cases. Positions in the district attorney's office are usually quite competitive. It can be an advantage to serve an internship during law school.

Salary and Job Outlook

An assistant district attorney salary is about $73,088 per year, or roughly $40 per hour. That's the median salary, meaning that half in the position earn more and half earn less. A New York ADA salary averages $65,552, which is 4 percent higher than the national average. Most have medical and dental insurance. Career length affects salary, but the most important factor is geographic location.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not make projections for government jobs. However, the outlook for lawyers as a whole is good. Job growth is expected to be about 8 percent a year through 2026, which is about average compared to all other jobs.


Denise Dayton is a a freelance writer who specializes in business, education and technology. She has written for, Library Journal, The Searcher, Bureau of Education and Research, and corporate clients.

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