Requirements to Become a Prosecuting Lawyer

Prosecutors must possess a wide variety of knowledge.
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Prosecutors must possess a wide variety of knowledge.

If your favorite justice-avenging crime show has got you wanting to be a prosecutor, consider that the profession might not be a glamorous as it appears. Prosecutors are required to complete 7 years of post-secondary education, followed by long working hours and strenuous caseloads that can be taxing both mentally and emotionally. If you've still got your sights on locking up the bad guys, keep in mind that being a prosecutor takes more than a law education and experience. You've also got to be able to relate to people, and understand their motivators and stressors.

Bachelor's Degree

Before they can start putting away the bad guys, aspiring prosecutors have to earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Students are free to major in whatever subject they like, but should complete coursework in history, public speaking, English, economics, mathematics and government in order to to get admitted to a law school. Other law school requirements include good grades, a high score on the LSAT, or Law School Admission Test, letters of recommendation and involvement in extracurricular activities. Students should diversify as much as possible, since law schools prefer students with a variety of talents and interests.

Law School

Future prosecutors must attend a law school accredited by the ABA, or American Bar Association, which takes about three years to complete. Typical subjects include contracts, civil procedure, constitutional law, criminal law, property law, torts, legal writing and contracts, as well as the researching, writing and speaking skills necessary to become a powerful attorney. Participation in interactive activities is also a big part of law school, such as moot court competitions, legal clinics, practice trials, and researching and writing for your school’s legal journal. These give students a chance to put legal theories into solid practice. Students also gain valuable experiences through law-related jobs and internships. The JD, or Juris Doctorate degree, is awarded upon graduation.

Professional Responsibility Exam

In all states except Puerto Rico, Wisconsin and Maryland, law school graduates are required to sit for the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination, or MPRE, before being permitted to sit for their state’s Bar exam. The MPRE tests lawyers’ knowledge of the ethics and professional conduct required by the American Bar Association. Passing scores for the MPRE are determined by individual state Bar associations.

Bar Exam

Prosecuting attorneys must pass the Bar exam in each state where they intend to practice law. The Bar exam spans 12 hours over two days, and covers national and local laws. Upon passing, lawyers are granted a state-specific law license.

2016 Salary Information for Lawyers

Lawyers earned a median annual salary of $118,160 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, lawyers earned a 25th percentile salary of $77,580, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $176,580, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 792,500 people were employed in the U.S. as lawyers.

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