Bailiffs play an important role in securing and maintaining an orderly court of law. These law enforcement professionals search for concealed weapons, escort prisoners to and from court, swear in witnesses, and maintain court supplies. For their work, bailiffs earn a median annual salary of $48,000, according to May 2020 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Federal, state, and local courts all employ bailiffs.
Like judges and court reporters, bailiffs serve as officers of the court and work with lawyers, defendants, and government employees. Most bailiffs hold criminal justice certification or training, and usually have attended police academy or earned law-related degrees.
An experienced bailiff may later choose to move into a career as a detective, sheriff's deputy, U.S. Marshal, or other law enforcement professional.
What Does a Bailiff Do?
A bailiff is a law enforcement officer charged with keeping order and maintaining safety in a courtroom. These security professionals also assist the judge in conducting an orderly trial.
A bailiff's responsibilities include both law enforcement and legal procedure. They screen people who enter the courtroom and may have to confiscate weapons or other contraband. Bailiffs also may replenish supplies, transport prisoners to and from court, secure the jury, post the daily schedule, and ensure that witnesses are properly signed in and out of court.
Bailiffs can serve in federal, state, or local courts.
Their work might also include preventing court participants from smoking, texting, or talking during the trial. Bailiffs can serve in federal, state, or local courts. Typically, they work during the day when court is in session. People who like leadership roles, enjoy making decisions, and can tolerate long hours on their feet can thrive as bailiffs.
Bailiff requirements are a distinctive mix of skills. Successful bailiffs must be detail-oriented, organized, and attentive. They need strong interpersonal skills and the ability to address unexpected situations.
Key Soft Skills
Physical Strength: On rare occasions, a bailiff may need to physically subdue an upset defendant, attorney, family member, or court attendee during the proceedings.
Verbal Communication: These professionals provide important information about court conduct and proceedings. They must speak loudly, clearly, and precisely.
Interpersonal Skills: Bailiffs need to present information authoritatively and effectively in one-on-one interactions and in small groups of lawyers, defendants, judges, and jurors.
Key Hard Skills
Knowledge of Court Proceedings: Because the bailiff helps facilitate court business, bailiff requirements include understanding courtroom rules and the order of the proceedings.
Proficiency with Security Equipment: Knowing how to operate tasers, firearms, metal detectors, and other security equipment is key to performing a bailiff's responsibilities.
CPR Qualifications: A bailiff may need to provide emergency medical intervention for a member of court until a qualified medical professional or a team of paramedics can arrive.
A Day in the Life of a Bailiff
A bailiff oversees the security and safety of everyone inside a courtroom. Bailiffs also help ensure an orderly legal proceeding. These professionals may patrol the courtroom, escort the judge in and out of the chamber, screen court participants, and assure that necessary supplies are on hand for judges and attorneys.
A typical day in the life of a bailiff might look like this:
- Pass through security.
- Stock the courtroom with water for the participants, dry erase markers for exhibits, and any technology required.
- Escort the jury into the courtroom.
- Escort the defendant into the courtroom.
- Call the court to order.
- Monitor the courtroom during the proceedings, searching for safety violations.
- Observe participants for unauthorized activity, such as a juror who's texting while in court.
- Escort out the defendant and the jury.
Areas of Specialization for Bailiffs
|Specialization||Description||Required Education||Licensure and Certification Requirements||Career Titles Within This Specialization|
|Adult Corrections||An adult corrections officer may guard prisoners, transport prisoners to and from court, and search inmates for contraband items.||High school diploma or above; federal prisons may require a bachelor's degree||Varies by state; private certifications available||Corrections officer, senior corrections officer|
|Juvenile Corrections||These professionals provide the same services as adult corrections officers for young offenders.||High school diploma or above||Varies by state; private certifications available||Juvenile corrections officer, senior juvenile detention officer|
|Sheriff's Deputy||Sheriff's deputies help safeguard public and private property, investigate crimes, and gather evidence to be used in court. Some law enforcement professionals may serve as FBI agents, transit police, or fish and game wardens.||High school diploma or above||Varies by state or local agency||Sergeant, lieutenant, captain|
|Security Guard||Security guards help protect private property from illegal activities or vandalism. Some security guards personally monitor physical locations, while others operate remote security technology.||High school diploma or above||Varies by state and employer||Security guard, gambling surveillance officer, security inspector|
|Court Security Officer||Though members of the U.S. Marshals Service, court security officers work for private firms. Currently, U.S. Marshals protect 94 federal court districts and contract with five security firms.||Law Enforcement Academy Graduate||Must be a certified law enforcement officer||Court security officer|
Bailiff Salary and Career Outlook
The BLS projects employment for bailiffs to decline by 7% from 2020-2030. Most of the openings in this field shall come from the need to replace current staff who transfer, change careers, or retire. While courtrooms continue to need bailiffs to maintain order and security, the number of cases brought to court will likely decline.
The annual median salary for bailiffs stands at $48,000 — more than average of all occupations but less than most law enforcement workers. As of May 2020, state governments paid bailiffs a median wage of $68,760, while local governments paid $42,100. Metro areas generally pay bailiffs higher salaries than non-metro regions.
Becoming a bailiff does not require extensive experience or education. Consequently, this career could provide easy entry into the law enforcement profession. Experienced bailiffs can often secure higher-paying positions as detectives, police officers, probation officers, or private security guards.
Annual Median Salary: $48,000
Next Steps on the Career Path
A seasoned bailiff can often proceed to another career in security or law enforcement. Former bailiffs may qualify for positions as transportation security officers, sheriff's deputies, private security agents, or state troopers. For most of these positions, a bailiff candidate needs to graduate from a police academy.
Where Can I Work as a Bailiff?
Bailiffs maintain order and safety in courtrooms. Unlike other correctional officers, who may work nights and weekends, bailiffs usually serve when court is in session. One exception is when a jury needs to be sequestered.
These professionals may be called upon to keep attorneys, defendants, or witnesses from attempting to influence the jury when court is in recess. Whether they work in federal, state, or local courts, bailiffs all perform essentially the same duties.
According to the BLS, 67% of bailiffs hold employment with state governments and 32% work for federal agencies. Highly populated states, such as Florida, Texas, and New York, employ more bailiffs than less densely populated states. The five states where bailiffs earn the highest salaries are California, New York, Maine, Nevada, and Washington.
How to Become a Bailiff
Depending on the location, becoming a bailiff may require 1-3 years of training and experience. Each applicant must possess a high school diploma or its equivalent and pass a background check. Some federal bailiff positions require a bachelor's degree. In many cases, a prospective bailiff also needs to complete a physical endurance test and a drug screening.
Aspiring bailiffs can follow these steps to find employment:
- Meet the minimum age requirements, usually 18 or 21 depending on the state.
- Earn a high school diploma or its equivalent.
- Complete any state-required higher education, police training, or law enforcement licensure.
- Satisfy the required years of experience.
- Apply for a bailiff's job, usually on the local government website.
- Pass the Civil Service Exam if required.
- Pass a criminal background check, drug screening, and physical exam if required by local or state authorities.
- Meet any other bailiff requirements set by state or local law.
Bailiff Requirements in Education
A bailiff must have earned a high school diploma or its equivalent. Advanced education in the field can help aspiring bailiffs to become more knowledgeable and qualified than their competition. Some locations may even require an associate degree or a bachelor's degree in criminal justice.
In some areas, bailiffs need to hold law enforcement certification. Becoming certified as a law enforcement officer typically requires graduating from a state police academy. Certificates from schools can also help equip new bailiffs with the education they need.
Depending on where they live, bailiffs may choose how they earn their credentials. For example, in Dallas County, Texas bailiffs need Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education certification and 30 college credits, plus one year of law enforcement experience, 15 college credits and two years of experience, or three years of experience.
However they earn their education, bailiffs need training with firearms, non-lethal defense, first-aid, and self-defense techniques.
License and Certification Requirements for Bailiffs
There is no licensure specifically for bailiffs, but some states require bailiffs to hold licensure or certification as police officers. In addition, law enforcement licensure may help bailiffs advance in the field. Consider the following options:
The American Correctional Association offers this certification to professionals who work directly with adult offenders. Earning this credential requires passing scores on an exam.
Offered by Alentado Training Consultants, this three-day course introduces participants to the cultural, behavioral, and linguistic tools they need to work with Spanish-speaking inmates.
Each state offers a basic law enforcement certification through its criminal justice academy. Requirements and certification specialties vary by state.
In cooperation with Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service Corrections Academy, the National Sheriffs' Association's Institute for Court Security provides this training and professional designation. Applicants need one year of court security experience.
Required Experience for Bailiffs
The requirements for becoming a bailiff can vary by state and location. Some states may demand a specific background, but most accept applicants who come from many different backgrounds.
Bailiffs may work in courtrooms while earning certain certifications or gaining skills.
Typically, bailiffs need some sort of field experience. Aspiring bailiffs may attend a police academy, which generally lasts for several months and includes training in security processes, self-protection, and established policies. Others may develop experience as sheriff's deputies or serve in administrative roles for the court. Some bailiffs earn their credentials by working as supervised bailiff trainees.
Bailiffs may work in courtrooms while earning certain certifications or gaining skills. For instance, a bailiff could complete firearms training as part of an educational and field experience while working during the day in a courtroom.
Frequently Asked Questions
Coined in England, the term "bailiff" has existed since approximately 1066. Today, a bailiff is an officer in a court of law charged with keeping order and managing individuals in court.
In some courtrooms, a sheriff's deputy or a local police officer may serve as a bailiff, but a bailiff does not have to be a police officer. In all cases, though, bailiffs are uniformed legal officers.
Bailiffs help maintain the safety and order of a courtroom. Their specific responsibilities may vary based on their location but can include isolating the jury, handling evidence, or interacting with defendants.
Bailiff training requirements vary by location. In general, a bailiff needs to earn a high school diploma, pass a background check, and meet the minimum age threshold. Some states may require additional education or experience.
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