Answer the Call to Public Service, Become an Administrative Law Judge

March 28, 2016 • By

Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Last Updated: August 19, 2021

a picture of glasses on an administrative law legal bookBecoming an Administrative Law Judge gives you the opportunity to improve the lives of others by ensuring everyone is treated fairly, impartially, and compassionately.

An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) serves as an impartial judge at regulatory and benefits-granting agencies. There are approximately 1700 federal ALJs nationwide, and the Social Security Administration (SSA) employs about 1500 of them.

At SSA, we need dedicated individuals looking to make a difference in someone’s life by becoming Administrative Law Judges. It is a family friendly work environment with a flexible schedule.

Our ALJs work with a nationwide support team in over 162 Hearing Offices across the country. We need ALJs in many states, including rural locations. We also need ALJs, bilingual in Spanish, in New York and Puerto Rico.

To become an Administrative Law Judge:

  • You must be licensed and authorized to practice law;
  • You must have seven years of experience in litigation or administrative law as a licensed attorney; and
  • You must apply directly to a posting on the Office of Personnel Management’s USAJOBS website once available.

Sound interesting? If so, make sure you create your USAJOBS account and set notifications to alert you when OPM announces new Administrative Law Judge vacancies. You will also need to create a Federal Resume.

IMPORTANTthe announcement opened on March 29, 2016 and you must submit an application package by April 8, 2016. Apply directly to this posting on the Office of Personnel Management’s USAJOBS website.

Click here for ALJ Examination notification: ALJ Announcement on USA JOBS

By becoming an Administrative Law Judge, you serve the public by ruling on cases that have a profound impact on people’s lives. Join our group of dedicated and committed professionals. Visit OPM’s Qualification Standards for Administrative Law Judge Positions or our SSA ALJ Recruitment Site for more information today!

Did you find this Information helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!
See Comments

About the Author

Doug Walker, Deputy Commissioner, Communications

Deputy Commissioner, Office of Communications


  1. tony

    An ALJ gets about $600 per case averaging 2 case per day. A SSDI attorney can get up to $6000 per case. The SSDI attorney can get up to 10 times what an ALJ makes.

    The national average of cases approved is 44% and 33% for denials. The SSDI attorneys are guaranteed to win more that 50% of their cases. Their salary is more than double of the ALJ.

    The SSA quality review of the DDS shows an accuracy rate of 97% or better. The error rate is 3% or less. There should be less people approved at the ALJ level.

  2. Rita

    There is so much and too much going on in the Federal Sector. Each day much of the process goes unnoticed. Everyone knows the underlining answer in money. The money has been spent and no one cares to admit where and how it was done…all we get is new applications, claim forms, and boring statistics which is a waste of time. I believe there is an effective system that works. The court system and administrative laws. People need to stop making up their own rules, this is why the deficit ceilings are beyond reaching.

  3. tony

    After I requested a hearing, I got a notice one month later for medical records and work history. I got a notice of hearing the second month. My hearing was the third month after my appeal. The long wait time are for people who can’t get their case expedited.

    The ALJs approving all those cases between 2010 – 2013 didn’t help to reduce the backlog. It increased the backlog because people were telling their family and friends how easy it was to get approved and now everyone of them is on it. The news reporting how easy it was to collect disability didn’t help with the backlog because now everyone knows about it.

    The SSA quality review published that the DDS has a 97% accuracy rate or better. The ALJs total approvals should only be around 3% of the total DDS approvals.

    Making it harder to get approve will deter those who are looking for a free hand out.

  4. C W.

    The only thing I can say is I could, under the lenient requirements to apply for disability, get it. I believe if you can do anything at all you should be made to work. If you can only do a 4 hour day, I believe it should be supplemented. In my little town there are so many younger people that are on disability for their “bad backs, wrists, knees” that ride 4 wheelers, cut wood, mow lawns etc. that when I see them I wonder why I keep doing what I do when in pain. PRIDE! If they would be more clear and less generous with the terms of what is a disability and have it for the truly disabled we would not be in the shape we are in. People will take if it is offered, but if having a problem being around people is one of the criteria for disability then it is too dang easy to get on it. I have found that having to get off the couch and into something besides pajamas or sweatpants every day not only keeps me healthier but sane!

    • Patricia N.

      I do agree for years that disability was given to people with any mental condition at all and half of them needed to work. I have filed for disability, am single and have no one to help support me, so I know I will have to work whether able to or not. before a decision is made.

  5. cindy

    My late husband worked with disability law for several years, and really wanted to by an ALJ in the 1990s. He found the system to be totally politically based. He had an inherited neuropathy, and was told that he was too disabled to be an ALJ. No wonder the system is so slow and inefficient.

  6. DON M.


    • DON M.

      WAY TO GO, DONNYBOY, AGE 72 & 1/2!
      😉 😉

      • Kalyn

        Thanks for writing such an eatnyso-understa-d article on this topic.

  7. CW

    It took me 5 years to get my SSD. Mine too went all the way to a ALJ. Like another poster said it wasted a lot of time and effort on everyone’s part. The system has many problems.

    • bettyg

      cw, it took me 5 yrs. of hell to be approved on the 2nd ssdi claim also!

      i recently wrote about this on their last article here so i won’t repeat it now.

      kay, i agree with you too.

      “Becoming an Administrative Law Judge gives you the opportunity to improve the lives of others by ensuring everyone is treated fairly, impartially, and compassionately.”

      my 1st ALJ in des moines, iowa was NOT fair, impartial, and showed NO compassion whatsoever.

      when his question to me upset me to the point of my crying; i’m a STRONG woman who rarely cries; he hurried me along to his next question vs. waiting for me to compose myself to answer this touchy subject.

      my 2nd alj, was the head alj; he was fair, impartial, and showed compassion.

      he told me it would be months before a decision since i represented myself since my lawyer quit me 4 yrs. into this.

      2nd alj approved me within 2 weeks!!

      1st claim was sent to appeals council where it sat for 2.5 yrs. in storage building with so many others.

      1st alj’s office was asked for a copy of the taped alj hearing; they REFUSED to provide it to my lawyer back then.

      so he didn’t send a BRIEF to appeals council as required.

      since lawyer quit me and i could not get des moines to provide me with the alj hearing tape, appeals council did NOT have to go thru my 2″ medical file to make their determination.

      they just read alj’s 3-4 page letter denying me and denied me WITHOUT READING ANY OF MY FILE!! grrrr. there was nothing fair about that.

      bettyg, iowa activist

  8. Kay

    I just wish they’d employ some more educated, courteous, someone who CAN READ the facts as presented in the ‘Claims Review area’, at the forefront on this whole process!!
    It took me over 3 1/2 YEARS from my first submittal of the requested & required information til the ALJ Finally approved my case!!
    The amount of time wasted was truly exorbitant and Stressful, which Does Not Help ANYBODY’s Physical, Mental, Spiritual & all-around disabling condition!
    If the people who read the submitted information provided to them, and the “Dr-type specialists” who are charged with the responsibility to deny or approve the cases submitted ONLY UNDERSTOOD WHAT Impact their decision has on us who’ve applied for Social Security Disability Insurance. only understood
    It’s not easy to have to swallow ones pride, let alone have to go through the grief process of having to give up their career when it’s NOT the choice they want to have to make! It’s instead made by the recommendation of their Dr/Dr’s and their own Inability to Do Their Job any more. Or any other type of job either as was my case.
    Anyways, I truly hope and pray THIS PART of the Disability-filing process gets fixed, in the MO Region in particular!

    • Patricia R.

      I agree! I went through the whole process only to go in front of a young ALJ who not only questioned my integrity but that of my husband who is a 30 year law enforcement officer. I walked away feeling humiliated and very sad. And after all of that he denied my claim. To this day I suffer from great pain, anxiety and depression. This is in CA.

      • K

        I’d encourage you to re-apply if you can. IF you didn’t use a Lawyer who specializes in Disability claims, I’ll encourage you again to do so.. Especially in light of 1) the recent ICD-10 (actual diagnosis code for Fibromyalgia) that was added for FIBRO & not a “junk code” we had to use before last October when it was announced as being added.
        2) I don’t know how long your case took, but it’s never quick, or even ‘decent’ in the Midwest region! –3 1/2 years for me with a SS Disability Specialized Lawyer who’d actually worked for an actual SS Disability Office!! (She’s in KC area, if you are. I’d be more than happy to send you her name & phone # if you live in this area! ???
        I just don’t know how to reach you, besides right here.
        I’m on Facebook, Twitter, & Google+,
        3) wishing you the Very Best in Life – both physically and emotionally. I’d sure like to help someone who could use my assistance! ?
        Good luck – please reach out to me if you can figure out how to. ?,?
        I live in Raymore, MO 64083 if that tidbit helps..

        • Kevin S.

          Hello, my name is Kevin and I live in the suburbs of Dallas TX. I know the laws are different in different states but thought I would reach out to you some suggestions and/or advice. I’m going on my 4th year and finally had my hearing roughly 4-5 months ago and after 15 surgeries and many professionals stating I was disabled except one doctor the hearing Judge didn’t rule on the actual criteria/formula that one would have to meet before being eligible but made the comment that because that one Doctor that I would not be “considered” disabled I was denied and will be homeless within 4-6 weeks after going through every dime I had trying to make it financially until I received my retroactive disability benefits??

      • K

        Darn it!! Midwest is bad too, if you just read the Comment I just posted in reply to you…

  9. G M.

    Thank you for the post. I have found that with hard work, networking and through volunteer work, I have found jobs in about six cities in the US, Spain, and Switzerland.

  10. Wesley S.

    I applied last year or so to be an AlJ but never heard a thing. I suspect that as a sole practitioner for about 40 years, only government employees or persons connected to the government e.g. former judges or military ever get the job. Let’s face it, only government types obtain government jobs. Oh, I once had a six year government job as a ground pounder for six years in U.S. Army.

Comments are closed.