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Becoming a Bailiff

A bailiff is a title and position so old that its name has existed unchanged since before the Norman Conquest of England in 1066.

Modern day bailiffs in the United States serve as peace officers of the court. They are responsible for maintaining courtroom order while providing security to jurors, counselors, judges and others present. A bailiff must also help facilitate court procedure, such as announcing the arrival of the presiding judge.

In practice, the responsibility and main job title of a courtroom bailiff can vary considerably depending on the courthouse in which they serve. Many provide administrative support, helping deliver documents, oversee custody of accused defendants, stock courtroom supplies and aid with jury proceedings. Others may be tasked with peace officer duties, supervising the courthouses in which they serve or placing offending parties under arrest should they commit a crime on the property.

Additionally, “bailiff” might not denote a full-time position in some courtrooms, especially rural-based ones. Sheriff’s deputies, constables, marshals, corrections officers or other individuals may serve as temporary bailiffs depending on the duties needed that day.

For anyone pursuing a career as a full-time courtroom bailiff, there are still many court jurisdictions in which they can serve. By taking the following steps, they can learn how to become a bailiff and begin serving as one once they are qualified:

Step 1 - Meet the Minimum Requirements

Qualification requirements for becoming a bailiff vary by states, court systems and even potentially from court to court within a court system. Generally speaking, a bailiff candidate must at minimum:

  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Be at least 21 years of age (18 for some positions)
  • Pass a background check, drug screening and physical endurance test
  • Have some knowledge, familiarity or training in criminal justice or law enforcement

Step 2 - Pursue a Degree or Specialized Training

While not every job will require it, you may benefit greatly and become more competitive by pursuing a degree or certification in criminal justice. A Bachelor’s of criminal justice, for example, would make one appear more qualified and knowledgeable, thus a more competitive job candidate for bailiff.

In some jurisdictions, law enforcement training is required. Some bailiffs may even need to graduate from the police academy before attaining a full-time position. Bailiffs may also be expected to have the following skills:

  • Firearms training
  • Non-lethal defense training with equipment like pepper sprays or police batons
  • Self-defense techniques
  • Threat neutralization training
  • First aid and CPR training
  • Strong communication abilities
  • Excellent observation
  • Behavioral studies that would aid in assessing and predicting threats

Step 3 - Get the Needed Field Experience

As expressed before, the eligibility requirements for each open position may vary. Some openings may require you to have field officer experience, courtroom administration experience, corrections officer experience, supervised bailiff training or something similar. Pursue entry-level positions that satisfy these requirements. Many bailiff positions will also take on “trainee” bailiffs and provide them with the needed training and supervised work hours to advance to a full bailiff position.

Even if such experience is not an explicit requirement for job eligibility, strongly consider pursuing entry-level positions that can make you more competitive in order to increase your chances of successfully securing a bailiff job opening.

Step 4 - Begin Working as a Bailiff and Seek Opportunities for Advancement

Meeting the eligibility requirements, even the minimum ones, can present you with the chance at securing a full-time bailiff position with enough effort. You may be content with this position, but realize that there are similar roles to be filled in higher courts throughout the country.

While openings for these positions may be rare, a court bailiff is a respected individual whose quality of service can greatly benefit the criminal justice administrators under which they serve. If you find it difficult to land a position as court bailiff due to position scarcity, consider some of the other criminal justice careers available to individuals with your qualifications.

Bailiff Salary Information

Bailiff Salaries by State

United States$20,630$28,390$38,150$56,120$70,970
New Hampshire$19,910$20,690$21,990$23,290$24,080
New Jersey$19,130$28,690$34,550$39,530$48,400
New York$33,400$52,220$66,090$73,410$77,810
North Carolina$25,180$28,830$33,240$36,910$40,830
North Dakota$20,080$21,140$22,900$24,400$67,920
South Carolina$16,100$17,160$18,910$23,390$30,500
South Dakota$19,970$20,880$22,400$23,910$31,850
West Virginia$19,930$22,670$26,920$30,830$37,620
Puerto Rico$20,310$23,040$30,250$35,640$38,720

Table data taken from 2014 BLS (