How to Become a Court Clerk – In 5 Steps + Salary Guide

Court clerks have the advantage of being right in the middle of courtroom proceedings of every type.

They perform the important duties that keeping the records clear and for future reference.

Court Clerk

They have to make sure everything goes smoothly from administering oaths to making sure paperwork is filed properly.

This is an exciting career that can lead to future positions in the legal system.

Let’s explore the position further.

What Does a Court Clerk Do?

The main duties of a court clerk are to make sure files, dockets, and other legal files are in perfect order and readily accessible for future needs.

This is only the tip of the iceberg, as court clerks aren’t merely file keepers but have a wide variety of other duties.

These duties include:

  • Maintaining trial dockets
  • Keeping track of case files
  • Maintains an appearance docket that summarizes each court case
  • Collects court fees, fines, and other owed monies
  • Maintains the petty cash of a court
  • Issues subpoenas, summons, orders, processes, and writs
  • Issues marriage licenses
  • Issues liquor licenses
  • Keeps records of all jurors and witnesses
  • Prepares process warrants
  • Conduct necessary research

How Much Does a Court Clerk Make?

The salary of a court clerk is based on factors such as what state you work in, your level of education and experience, and how many responsibilities you have.

The national average for court clerks is $48,760 a year.

Mississippi salaries are the lowest.

Court clerks in Mississippi average $38,520 annually, or $18.52 an hour.

On the high end, 12 states pay above the average rate.

Court clerks in New York make an average of $28.89 an hour.

This adds up to a yearly earnings of $60,080.

Salary Information by State

State Employed Avg. Annual Salary Avg. Hourly Pay Top 10% Annual Salary Bottom 10% Annual Salary
New Hampshire500$44,210$21.25$61,910$30,900
New Jersey6,190$54,120$26.02$74,190$38,370
New Mexico770$42,710$20.54$52,770$33,430
New York10,060$60,080$28.89$97,180$37,610
North Carolina4,030$40,450$19.45$50,460$30,830
North Dakota540$51,090$24.56$71,720$36,570
Rhode Island780$54,090$26.00$67,180$43,740
South Carolina1,620$41,430$19.92$58,670$29,600
South Dakota780$39,160$18.83$51,360$29,530
West Virginia1,070$38,300$18.41$50,240$27,830

Annual Average Salary: Top 10 States

The top earning state in the field is New York, where the average salary is $60,080.

These are the top 10 earning states in the field:

  • New York - $60,080
  • Washington - $57,960
  • Massachusetts - $56,670
  • California - $56,670
  • Connecticut - $55,280
  • New Jersey - $54,120
  • Rhode Island - $54,090
  • Minnesota - $52,400
  • Hawaii - $51,760
  • Oregon - $51,290
* Salary information based on the May 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Court, Municipal, and License Clerks, OCC Code 43-4031, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

How To Become a Court Clerk – Step-by-Step

The steps to becoming a court clerk vary, depending on how high a position you want to achieve, along with the number of specialized duties you are eligible to perform.

The more education you receive, the higher your pay is likely to be.

1. Finish High School

There are a few positions in smaller courtrooms that allow you to take a position with only your high school diploma or GED.

This is a minimum requirement for any position as a court clerk.

While in high school, it wouldn’t hurt to take classes in basic office skills such as computers, English, and any foreign language you can learn.

All of these will be helpful in the future.

2. Get a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice

You may want to start with a two-year Associate’s degree program, but more advanced positions will require a Bachelor’s degree.

Criminal Justice will allow you to gain a greater understanding of the legal system in general, as well as the legal terminology that you will need.

Other programs that can help you with a court clerk position include Business Management or Business Administration.

3. Obtain Certification

While this may not be necessary, it will give you an edge over other candidates for the job and allow you to ask for greater pay.

Each state has its requirements to meet the requirements for certification, so you will need to do some research into what is necessary in your state.

One place that is highly recognized is certification through the International Institute of Municipal Courts (IIMC).

This organization has several certifications that are based on education and experience level.

Two of the most popular are Certified Municipal Clerk (CMC) and Master Municipal Clerk (MMC).

4. Complete a Specialized Training Program

Specialized training programs exist that focus entirely on the skills you will need as a court clerk.

Most of these programs can be completed within one semester and prepare students for certification.

5. Find an Open Position

You are now ready to start networking and pursuing job boards in search of the perfect position.

What Education Does a Court Clerk Need?

A few positions allow entry into a clerk position with only a high school diploma or GED.

These positions are rare, however, and may only be available in very small districts with very little court activity.

In most cases, you will need to go further with your education.

Associate’s and Bachelor’s degrees are the norm.

Focusing on Criminal Justice or Business Administration are your surest paths.

You can expect to take courses in municipal law, government, electronic filing systems, clerk ethics, legal terminology, and bookkeeping skills.

You can also expect to cover communication skills and other basic office skills.

It doesn’t hurt to also become fluent in at least one other language.

Once you get your degree, taking a course specific to being a court clerk isn’t necessary but will help you gain valuable points toward certification and higher-paying positions.

These specialized training courses normally last one semester and can be accomplished in person and online.

In all, you are looking at anywhere from six months to five years of education, depending on the level of position you are aiming for.

Licensing and Certification

Every state has its own licensing and certification requirements, so you will need to do research in this area.

Many states, however, recognize certification through IIMC, so this is one of the best routes to consider.

You must first join IIMC and be a member for two years.

During that time, you will need to keep track of all your education and experience.

This organization also offers additional training opportunities to help you gain further credit.

Upon completion of your two years of membership, you can submit an application requesting certification.

While there is no test needed, you will be given points for both education and experience.

To be approved, you will need to be actively working as a court clerk, and show 60 education points and 50 experience points.

For every education experience, you will need to include proof of completion, program content, and number of hours completed.

The fee for your application is $125. As long as you remain a member of IIMC, your certification does not need to be renewed.

Job Outlook for Court Clerks

The job outlook for court clerks is a projected increase of two to four percent, which is average.

States with the highest number of court clerks are Texas, California, Florida, New York, and Ohio.

In these states, you can expect a slightly higher increase in positions over the coming years.

Should You Become a Court Clerk?

It is important to take into account several factors when considering whether or not to pursue any career.

Your final decision will be based on what you find most important.

Overall Satisfaction

A survey of court clerks rated their overall job satisfaction at three out of five.

This puts satisfaction at the bottom 31 percent of careers.

The rating was based on a combination of salary, whether the person felt they were using their abilities to the fullest, the work environment, and the meaningfulness of the job.

Lastly, they took into account whether or not their personality fit with the position.

Average Salary

This is not one of the higher-paying legal positions, but it is enough to make a living without having to supplement with additional jobs.

Out of 99 interviewed court clerks, only 33 percent felt they were adequately compensated for all they did.

The location of the position will have an impact on this, as twelve states pay above the national average.

Research into your particular state will give you an idea of whether the pay is worth the position.

Job Growth Outlook

The job growth outlook for court clerks is average for all positions in this country.

That means that there will continue to be positions available in nearly every state, with the larger states such as Texas, California, and New York seeing the greatest availability.

Currently, New York and Texas are the most active in hiring court clerks.

Education Duration

The amount of education necessary for this position is average.

You can expect to have anywhere from six months to five years of education, depending on the requirements of the department you want to work in and how far up the ladder you want to climb.

The requirements are also based on the location of the court clerk position and how many people are vying for the position.

For the greatest chance at the highest positions, you are looking at a four-year degree and a semester of specialized training.

Much of this education can be done online or through a hybrid study program, allowing you to pursue your education while still working.

Personal Skills Needed

As with any position, your job satisfaction will depend somewhat on whether or not the position fits with your personality and personal strengths.

The more traits you can check off on the following list, the greater satisfaction you will have in the position of court clerk.

The position of court clerk best suits someone who:

  • Is organized
  • Can follow specific directions
  • Can think quickly and analyze situations logically
  • Can communicate accurately and clearly
  • Understands written and oral communication
  • Can manage time and regulate emotions
  • Be able to deal with a variety of other personalities
  • Can perform efficiently within time restraints
  • Wants to help others

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do you have to go to school to become a court clerk?

You can get a basic position with a minimum of a high school diploma or GED, but you are more likely to find a better position with at least a two-year degree.

Most positions will require a four-year degree and a six-month specialized skill course.

Ongoing education isn’t necessary and your certification doesn’t expire, but it can help you advance to higher-paying positions if you continue to stay updated on both the law and new computer systems.

How much money does a court clerk make a year?

The average court clerk makes $42,679 a year.

Twelve states exceed this average, with Alaska topping the list at $49,013 a year and Florida being the lowest-paying at $30,886 a year.

The amount of money you make will depend on the location, size of the court, education, and experience.

Some places also take into account the number of responsibilities you will have.

You will be able to ask for higher amounts if you are certified by a nationally recognized organization.

What skills do you need to have to be a court clerk?

Court clerks are responsible for the basic records of all court proceedings so the position requires that you have an accurate filing system, excellent communication skills, and the ability to think quickly and solve problems that may arise without needing to ask for help.

Court clerks need to be proficient in computer skills, including electronic filing systems and research procedures.

They also need to have an above-average knowledge of the law and legal terminology.

People skills are also important as court clerks are often in contact with the public and face a variety of personalities throughout the day.

Conflict resolution abilities may also come in handy.

Are court clerks in high demand?

Court clerks are on average with other positions in this country.

The average yearly increase in positions is two to four percent, with the highest demand being in the larger populated areas.

There will always need to be a human component in court proceedings, so this is a position you can rely on to be available even with the advancement of technology.

What kind of education do you need to become a court clerk?

Two areas of skills that education for a court clerk focuses on are legal procedures and office skills.

You will need to learn about current laws, legal procedures, and legal terminology.

You will also need to be proficient in electronic filing, research, and business administration.

Good communication skills are also necessary, and knowing at least one additional language will give you a huge advantage as this country is becoming more and more diverse in the languages spoken.

Chelsea Wilson

About Chelsea Wilson

Chelsea Wilson is the Community Relations Manager for Washington University School of Law’s distance learning LLM degree program, which provides foreign trained attorneys with the opportunity to earn a Master of Laws degree from a top-tier American university from anywhere in the world.

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