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How to Become a Bailiff: Steps to Take and Career Outlook

October 16, 2023
3 min read


Reviewed by:

David Merson

Former Head of Pre-Law Office, Northeastern University, & Admissions Officer, Brown University

Reviewed: 10/16/23

If you’d like to spend your career in a courtroom without going to law school, one option to consider is becoming a bailiff. To learn more about this career, read on.


Judges, lawyers, and juries are all responsible for ensuring justice is upheld in the courtroom. As tensions get high, plaintiffs get anxious, and defendants get upset, it’s essential to maintain order and peace in the courtroom, so these legal professionals can do their job safely and effectively.

Bailiffs are responsible for just this—they ensure the courtroom is a safe environment for everyone. This guide will discuss more about how to become a bailiff, what their day-to-day tasks are, and how much they make.

Steps to Becoming a Bailiff

Unlike other legal professions, there aren’t specific education requirements to become a bailiff. A large majority of bailiffs only have a high school diploma. However, having more advanced education can open more doors for you and lead to higher pay potential. 

Here are the steps you should take to have the most opportunity in this career:

Step One: Consider an Undergraduate Degree

While you don’t need to obtain an undergrad, a large majority of bailiffs pursue majors in criminal justice, international relations, or other law-related degrees. While you won’t necessarily be required to recite any laws, understanding courtroom proceedings can be helpful and make you a more competitive applicant. 

Step Two: Research the Age Requirements in Your State

Certain states have age restrictions on when you can become a bailiff. The minimum age to be a bailiff is typically 18 years, but some states require you to be 21. If you’ve decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree, you should be able to join the field soon after graduation! Otherwise, focus on step three until you reach the minimum age for service.

Step Three: Gain Useful Experience

The majority of bailiff jobs will require you to have at least some experience protecting the peace or working in the legal field. This may be as a security guard, as a legal secretary, or providing support, assistance, or supervision in a correctional or legal setting. 

Build a solid resume using this experience to stand out as an applicant and prove you’ve already begun honing the skills necessary to ensure the courtroom’s safety!

Step Four: Apply to Jobs Through Your Government Website

A great way to find bailiff job openings is through your local government’s website. This website will provide the most updated options for you to choose from. Federal jobs also typically offer the most job security, benefits, and pay.

If you apply to a federal job, you’ll have to submit a federal resume. Federal resumes are different from standard ones because they require more depth and detail—often over 40 specific data elements!

While typical applicants are encouraged to only submit one-page resumes for private-sector jobs, federal employers expect entry-level resumes to be three to five pages long!

Your resume must be tailored to the specific jobs you’re applying to and include all of your relevant experience, education, and accomplishments.

Step Five: Pass the Civil Service Exam

Around the time you begin your job search, you may need to write the Civil Service Exam. Depending on the jobs you’re interested in, this exam may be mandatory, although most bailiff jobs consider your candidacy based solely on your education, experience, and background.

If you do have to write the Civil Service Exam, don’t overthink it! There are adequate resources available online to help you pass it on your first try. Use practice tests to guide your studies and ensure you understand what you’ll be assessed on.

Step Six: Attend a Training Academy

Depending on your state, you may have to complete training at a specialized academy or police academy to ensure you have the knowledge, physical ability, and skills to enforce the law and protect others.

Male student studying for civic service exam

What Does a Bailiff Do?

The general description of a bailiff’s job is protecting the peace. But, what does protecting the peace actually involve? 

Here’s are the tasks bailiffs perform on a day-to-day basis:

  • Interacting with defendants
  • Announcing the judge's entrance in the courtroom
  • Helping transport defendants to and from court
  • Restraining, stopping, or removing defendants that go against courtroom procedure
  • Delivering documents in courts
  • Enforcing court decorum
  • Escorting jury members and witnesses
  • Guiding court proceedings and telling the court when to rise

Bailiffs can work in local, state, and federal courts.  

Bailiff Salary and Career Outlook

The average bailiff salary is $52,430 a year, but their pay potential can increase depending on where they work. Bailiffs employed by state governments make $65,540 a year whereas those employed by local governments make $44,860 a year. 

Additionally, Massachusetts is the highest paying state for these professionals, where the average annual salary is $70,380. 

There are limited job openings in this profession, meaning applicants must have strong resumes and considerable experience to be considered competitive. While every courtroom needs a bailiff, there will only be a 1.5% increase in job openings and demand in this profession over the next decade. 

Opportunities at the state level are even more limited, with less than 6,000 job openings a year as opposed to more than 10,000 at the local level. 

FAQs: Becoming a Bailiff

We’ve gone over the necessary information about how to become a bailiff, their responsibilities, and career projection. For any remaining questions about this profession, read on to find your answers.

1. Is Being a Bailiff a Good Job?

Bailiffs are integral parts of the justice system. Without them, court proceedings would not run smoothly or safely. While this profession comes with some risk, as you’ll be responsible for handling aggravated court members, bailiffs are highly valued and appreciated!

2. What Skills Do You Need to Be a Bailiff?

There are several skills you’ll need to be the most effective bailiff possible:

  • Physical ability: to enforce the law and control upset prisoners, witnesses, or members of the public gallery
  • Quick thinking: to react to violations of court proceedings in a punctual manner to ensure it doesn’t disrupt the trial
  • Communication: to guide the courtroom and deliver messages to and from various court members
  • Attention to detail: to ensure the courtroom follows specific and strict court regulations 
  • Interpersonal skills: to work with a large legal team and jury members with little legal knowledge

Bailiffs must also always be on alert! Disruptions can occur in any type of case, especially those involving criminal charges, and bailiffs must be able to quickly control it to ensure the protection of the courtroom. 

3. How Do You Become a Bailiff in New Jersey?

You should follow the above steps to become a bailiff in New Jersey. The majority of bailiffs in New Jersey hold bachelor’s degrees. This state also requires prospective bailiffs to complete Peace Operations Specialized Training (POST) to qualify for this profession.

4. Where Do Bailiffs Get Paid the Most?

Bailiffs get paid the most if they’re employed by state governments. Bailiffs in Massachusetts and New York are also paid the most, with average salaries of $70,380 and $67,180 respectively.

5. Are Bailiffs in Demand?

While bailiffs are required in courtrooms, there hasn’t been a drastic increase in their demand. There are limited openings for these professionals each year, and there is only expected to be a 1.5% increase within the next decade.

As such, applicants must stand out to secure jobs in this field. Obtaining a bachelor’s degree, gaining valuable legal and security experience, and attending a specialized academy can differentiate your application.

6. Do Bailiffs Go to Law School?

No, bailiffs do not need to go to law school. A large percentage of bailiffs only have a high school diploma and do not pursue any further education.

Final Thoughts

The legal system is vast and intricate. It involves various professionals aside from lawyers that are all dedicated to the same goal - ensuring justice is served fairly and safely. 

Bailiffs contribute the most to the latter goal and are necessary parts of all court proceedings. After learning how to become a bailiff, you’re sure to have an exciting and fulfilling career!

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