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How Do I Become a Public Prosecutor?

By Maggie Worth
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Public prosecutors are attorneys who prosecute court cases on behalf of a public entity, most often a governmental jurisdiction. To become a public prosecutor, you must generally obtain a law degree, become approved to practice law in your jurisdiction and find and apply for an opening. In some cases, you also must meet experience requirements and may have to undergo criminal background or other investigations. Specific requirements vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, so you should carefully investigate those of the jurisdiction for which you wish to work.

To become a public prosecutor, you must first obtain an education. You will need an undergraduate degree and a graduate degree in law. Some law programs require that your undergraduate major be in pre-professional law, while others allow business degrees. Still others accept any accredited undergraduate degree.

Your choice of law school may affect your ability to obtain a position in high-profile jurisdictions, so you may want to think about where you might want to practice in advance. You also will want to choose your program and coursework carefully, because there are many areas of legal practice. If you want to get a job as a public prosecutor, you may want to choose a program with a criminal or trial track.

Once you have obtained a law degree, most governments require that you pass a certification exam and become registered to practice law. In the U.S., this is referred to as the bar exam and admittance to the bar is by state. Other countries have similar processes and, if you wish to prosecute international cases, you might need to be certified in more than one jurisdiction.

As with any job, you will need to find and apply for openings to become a public prosecutor. This means you will need a professional resume that showcases your abilities and will need to pass a series of interviews. In many jurisdictions, you also will be required to pass investigations. These might include a criminal background check, a past employment review and a credit check.

Some jurisdictions also require you to have a significant amount of experience before you can become a public prosecutor. This may mean you will need first to work as a law clerk, junior prosecutor or other assistant trial attorney. This experience often can be obtained through internships during law school. You also may find that you need to work as a public prosecutor in a small jurisdiction early in your career to obtain the experience required by larger districts.

PracticalAdultInsights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By Markerrag — On Apr 18, 2014

Keep in mind, too, that working full time as a prosecutor is very desirable in at least one way -- it provides a solid, reliable paycheck. A lot of attorneys who go out on their own learn the hard way that attracting clients is tough because of intense competition in the legal field and income fluctuates wildly (at least in the early days).

You don't have those problems if you are working as a prosecutor. You know exactly how much you make and no one is competing with you for clients.

The downside, of course, is that you won't hit that big case that will make you risk if you are a full time prosecutor. Still, you can make a good living and don't have to pin your hopes on that lucrative case showing up in your office.

By Logicfest — On Apr 17, 2014

Here's a tip for attorneys and law students in the United States wanting to become prosecutors in courts on almost any level -- learn Spanish. I have a friend who wound up as a city prosecutor after he beat out several attorneys who had more experience. The difference in his case is that he knows Spanish and that saved the court money because it didn't have to pay for a translator.

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